[iDC] An Inconvenient Youth and Second Life

giselle beiguelman desvirtual at gmail.com
Sat Feb 24 15:50:30 EST 2007

<<But not for a second do I buy the argument that synchronous virtual worlds
like Second Life are the future of the net.>>

I agree. Nevertheless is a very interesting art space. SL has a curious
cybrid format. I mean a space between on and off line networks that can be
used as new layer of our territorial experience. I'm working now on a new
project conceived for SL, exploring its potential as a cinematic space and
the resources its inhabitants can use in order to get different points of
view (flying, zooming etc).
It seems to me that the cinematic experience you have there announces in
some ways what can be the the migration from machines of motion to machines
of vision, or the new cinema. Peter Weibel wrote some years ago a long essay
on digital images that could be a point of departure for that discussion:

"The nineteenth century was obsessed with motion - with illusions of motion,
and with machines of motion. There were two kinds of machines of motion: the
first tried to analyze motion, the second to synthesize motion. The analysis
of motion was the task of the camera; the synthesis of motion was the task
of the projector. The evolution of cinema in the nineteenth century can be
attributed to two major trends: firstly, to the progress in experimental
physiology and psychology leading to the Gestalt psychology, and secondly,
to the advances in machines attempting to adapt and transfer the
physiological mechanism of perception into machines capable of the visual
simulation of motion and - herein lies the problem - not into machines of

Therefore, what we know as cinema today is in fact already a reduction of
the nineteenth-century principle that began to investigate machines of
vision, but finally reduced them to machines of motion. There is the
moving-image industry with its motion pictures, that is to say: the
Hollywood system. Its code is a legacy of the nineteenth century, and
reduces the ­initial exploration of machines of vision to machines of
motion. Only the avant-garde cinema of the 1920s, 1950s and 1960s maintained
the original intention of creating machines of vision. Classical cinema,
therefore, already diminished the initial enterprise, which was about
perception. Perception was reduced to the perception of motion, ­and
remained on the retinal level because there was no pursuit of the question
of how our brain perceives the world. People constructed machines with a
kind of graphic notation - "la methode graphique" (Etienne-Jules
- of motion. This method can be said to be still valid, tragically enough,

What Marey did was to analyze, and deconstruct, motion with his ­famous
graphical method. It made no difference whether a drawing machine was used
or, as in the case of Eadweard
a photographic machine. Both Muybridge and Marey soon realized that ­it is
not enough to analyze motion, but many other machines had to be used in
order to project, to synthesize, motion. We may conclude this interpretation
with the fact that cinema was invented in the nineteenth century. The
twentieth century merely turned the nineteenth-century inventions into
standardized mass media - including television, which ­became a consumer
apparatus. As a side-effect, we simultaneously turned this machinery not
only into mass media, but also into art, an individual ­approach.

Cinema is a writing of motion (cinematography); it is just a machine that
simulates motion for the eye. The avant-garde, from Dziga
and Woody Vasulka <http://www.vasulka.org/> , kept to the initial idea:
machine ­vision - not machine motion. Vertov gave us the term *Kinoglaz *,
the camera eye. With the advent of video (Latin: I see), it was clear that
we had to make a paradigmatic shift from imitating and simulating motion to
imitating and simulating vision with the help of ­machines. We had to change
from cinematography (the writing of motion) to what I would call the writing
of seeing: opsigraphy, from the Greek word *opsis * (as in "optics"). Or
even to opsiscopy, the seeing of seeing - in other words, the observing of
observing mechanisms. In cyberspace, for example, when you see yourself and
your actions as an image, you are already in opsiscopic space. You are
observing yourself in a ­picture that you observe; it is an observation of
the second order. In fact, cyberspace is the beginning of opsiscopy: of
machines that see how we see."

In short, I think SL can be considered an opsiscopic space that allows to
transcend sometimes the basic descriptive movements we do in our FL (First
Life) and because of this points to new directions in the digital arts field
in general and digital images in particular.


2007/2/25, Trebor Scholz <trebor at thing.net>:
> The Second Life (SL) buzz sounds just like the tech-salvation propaganda
> that surrounded the telegraph, the BBS, and later mailing lists. Rheingold
> and Lessig gave lectures in SL,
> 70 universities built a "campus" on the island, non-profits are storming
> in, businesses are opening up, avatars are exchanging "real life books" in
> SL, people set up galleries (but
> where is the audience?), performance groups do their thing, and avatars
> demonstrate against the war. It's a stunning social experiment.
> But not for a second do I buy the argument that synchronous virtual worlds
> like Second Life are the future of the net. Nevertheless, I'm quite
> interested in SL as a model for civic
> participation and cultural production. Environments like Second Life are
> one emerging aspect of networked sociality and I am curious to hear more
> about the amateurs who, on the
> proprietary grounds of SecondLife, are willing to give their immaterial
> labor away for free. We discussed that before with Amazon.com.
> The always amazing Henry Jenkins writes: "I take my good news where I can
> find it and for the moment, the coverage of SL, bad though it often is, is
> helping Americans in general
> adjust to the idea that there may be something positive to be gained by
> having an active fantasy life on line." But SL is not just an all-American
> phenomenon. Just look at attempts
> of re-branding Africa, for example. There are, of course, obvious limits
> to the use of such environments in developing countries as it takes
> high-powered computers and a whole lot
> of bandwidth to have a decent experience in SL.
> Particular examples of participatory culture may fade but networked
> participation will not go away.
> Jenkins: "And for the moment, the debate about and the hype surrounding SL
> is keeping alive the idea that we might design and inhabit our own worlds
> and construct our own
> culture. That's something worth defending."
> My main question to Jenkins and all of you concerns the relationship
> between this virtual world and "first life." Do these virtual worlds merely
> provide an inconvenient youth with a
> valve to live their fantasies of social change (elsewhere), or do they, in
> some measurable way, fertilize politics in the world beyond the screen?
> Trebor
> Second Life
> http://secondlife.com/
> Get A First Life
> http://www.getafirstlife.com/
> Teaching experiments in SL
> http://www.cnn.com/2006/TECH/11/13/second.life.university/index.html
> A Western shot in SL
> http://bellsandspurs.com/_video/
> "More than 70 universities have built island campuses in Second Life"
> http://news.com.com/2100-1032_3-6157088.html
> Lynn Hershman screens new film in SL
> http://lynnhershman.com/newprojects.htm
> Avatars Against the War
> http://lotusmedia.org/post-protest-processing
> Re-branding Africa in SL
> http://annansi.com/blog/2007/01/africas-second-life/
> Images of Activism in SL
> http://www.flickr.com/photos/venicevandal/sets/72157594474252794/
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