Friday, July 16, 2010

The Virtual Wave Particle Duality of Second Life

“To live in the world of creation – to get into it and stay in it – to frequent it and haunt it – to think intensely and fruitfully – to woo combinations and inspirations into being by a depth and continuity of attention and meditation – this is the only thing.”  - att. Henry James (via Jyri Engeström)

When I was in school, one of my secrets was to read one chapter ahead of the lectures. I'm not crazy about surprises and this gave me the advantage of knowing when to listen more closely and what questions to ask when hearing something for a second time in class. Somehow it also made class more interesting. Normally my read-ahead was a bit like an Evelyn Wood inspired exercise. That is, until that night.

... so matter exhibits both wave-like and particle-like properties.

My swift reading slowed to a crawl. I didn't sleep all that night. I doodled diffraction patterns. I practiced Plank's constant. I scribbled wave forms. I was, in a chapter, completely enchanted with this notion of duality.

Virtual world or platform?

One thing that was resoundingly obviously from the reaction, commentary and on-going discussion about whether there was "a Second Life® culture" is that there was a distinct cleave in the way people expressed their concept of Second Life itself. At the risk of over-generalizing, the expressed ideologies fall into two camps:

Second Life is a world
Second Life is a platform.
The first embraces the complexities of human behavior and experience - including culture - implicitly; the second focuses on human considerations only as prescribed by law or business/technical advantage.

These ideologies seem widely divergent, often presented as diametrically opposing forces. They lend themselves to interesting legal questions and long winded exposé. They are our own Scylla and Charybdis, challenging the way forward and stopping growth at the headwaters.

But what if neither of these perspectives were strictly or uniquely true? How would we see things if we considered not one, but both?

A beautiful duality

I was trying to find my way into Holly Golightly's Cafe when I got a message from my friend Radio Signals telling me that her new art installation was done. She offered an early look if I was interested but at the time I only had access via the iPad. I am a huge fan of Radio's work and I was anxious to see what she'd come up with this time so I logged in early this morning and found my way to "It was a blur" on Mirror.

I'm becoming more agitated by the "stand around and wait for rez" part of the Second Life experience. As you wait expectantly, the platform resolves itself from vague outlines of gray shadows until finally you are greeted by a world of distinct colors and shapes - except on Mirror.

Here the world resolves into shades of gray bathed in buckets of bright white. I actually felt myself squint a bit as delightful patterns started to emerge. Walking around is at first disorienting, but soon you find your way by navigating little bits of story intermingled with intriguing works of art and ... clothing, tattoos, skins, and masks.

Wait, is this an art installation or a store?

It was a blur is a unique immersive narrative of art and commerce demonstrating both the vision of a world and the power of a platform.

The blur is a collaboration of several creators, each lending their distinct voice to this choral installation. It's intriguing and unassuming. It is what I imagine we might see if we crammed all the best parts of Second Life into a plastic container and asked "Will it blend?".

It is a limited run from July 16th until August 16th.

Go there. Be inspired. Buy something. Let me know what you think.

End note: You can find more art by Radio Signals on Etsy.
Share Some Grace:

blog comments powered by Disqus