[iDC] Virtual Worlds, Education, & Labor

Simon Biggs s.biggs at eca.ac.uk
Mon Mar 5 08:21:17 EST 2007

One model of how space and its uses can be modelled in 3D virtual spaces was
provided in the PhD work of Melinda Rackham (www.subtle.net). This envisaged
something not constrained by up or down, not even cartesian space...but
something altogether more fluid and user configurable.

Just as artists who worked with early computer graphics chose not to adopt
the prevalent cartesian world view presented in conventional computer
graphics systems but instead opted for all sorts of intriguing approaches as
to how space could be modelled and used so should the generation of
creatives cutting their teeth on things like SL be decontstructing the
implicit idealogies within a representational system such as SL.

I think it is important to remember here that SL is, above all, a
representational system. Baudrillard's writings on this, in a work such as
Towards a Political Critque of the Economy of the Sign, would seem very



On 5/3/07 04:12, "patrick lichty" <voyd at voyd.com> wrote:

> As mentioned before, I'm not totally convinced about the whole L thing,
> but it seems to be my area of research, and where I seem to be located.
> And as new Columbia College island admin, I made a few decisions.
> First, admissions asked if we could do a reconstruction of the campus.
> Personally, I don't understand this.  It's very odd that human
> architecture remains in a space where you can fly, etc.
> My vision for the Columbia site is a place for experimentation, live
> media streaming, and for information dissemination to prospective
> students and existing ones. My department teaches 3D modelin and game
> design, and it makes sense for us to use Sl at this time, and better to
> put the fine artists in charge ;)
> Therefore, no virtual representation of the physical campus.  Period.
> However, I intend to have galleries for our annual festival, links to
> departments and information, virtual t-shirts, departmental sandboxes,
> and media servers.  Hopefully, our architecture will depend more on
> small textures than geometry, like Emily Carr.  That way, we can look at
> basics of form, and concentrate on function.
> Makes no sense to duplicate the physical in the virtual, although a lot
> of the rules are similar, many others are totally different.
> Patrick Lichty
> - Interactive Arts & Media
>   Columbia College, Chicago
> - Editor-In-Chief
>   Intelligent Agent Magazine
> http://www.intelligentagent.com
> 225 288 5813
> voyd at voyd.com
> "It is better to die on your feet
> than to live on your knees."
> -----Original Message-----
> From: idc-bounces at mailman.thing.net
> [mailto:idc-bounces at mailman.thing.net] On Behalf Of Trebor Scholz
> Sent: Saturday, March 03, 2007 10:28 PM
> To: IDC list
> Subject: [iDC] Virtual Worlds, Education, & Labor
> After the OurFloatingPoint event at Emerson College, over some green
> string beans and tofu, I talked with the organizers about the value of
> Emerson buying an island in SecondLife
> (SL) for a thousand dollars in order to build a representation of their
> First Life campus. (Monthly service costs are about $250.) I still don't
> quite get it.  
> Emerson and Harvard replicated their First World architecture in SL. [1]
> SecondLife simply becomes a novel Public Relations interface. By
> re-creating our existing institutions in the
> virtual world, we loose a chance to re-think these knowledge factories
> untied from the restrictions of economical restrictions. Nevertheless,
> Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet &
> Society uses their SL campus to offer courses open to the "public" and
> Emerson even experiments with 3D modeling classes and authors artworks.
> Berkman's use of its campus for long-distance learning ("courses open to
> the 'public'") is not interesting for me as there are only few examples
> of this kind of "e.learning" that made
> sense to me. Years ago, I used to take classes into Habbo Hotel in order
> for the students to get to know each other in this environment. That
> worked well, but why do we need to buy
> our own turf? Why do we need a replication of our own campus? Why not
> rather build a Black Mountain College with a Bauhaus Annex? Why teach in
> this virtual environment? Will
> SecondLife become a 3D version of Wikipedia, a virtual knowledge bank
> that offers a playful and fun interface to participant-generated
> content? Will students simply demand such
> playful access to knowledge?
> Josephine Dorado's Kids Connect project nicely illustrates some
> affordances of SL. [2] Avatars add a bit of social bandwidth and I
> respect Josephine's argument that SL offers a sense
> of connectedness that is hard to measure. Brian Holmes warns us that
> many fantasy scenarios are "deeply instrumentalized, and most often in
> the service of powerful agendas, put
> into effect by groups which have the ability to manipulate the basic
> parameters of our environments, be they 'virtual' or 'actual.'" I agree;
> the biggest problem with SL is that it is a
> proprietary space.
> The creative *labor* of the very very many financially benefits the very
> few. Monetary value is created in many ways (mere presence à la
> attention economy, creation of profiles,
> production of 3D objects, import of media content). Labor, with the
> Italian philosopher Paolo Virno, has become performance, the act of
> being a speaker. Labor is tied to speech acts
> and communication systems. [3] To paraphrase the old saying: The
> greatest trick that capital ever pulled was convincing the world that
> labor didn't exist. Labor, with most physical
> production work (except service, of course) now moved to the global
> south, becomes a "casualized," often distributed, immaterial activity
> that is even mistaken as leisure or plain
> "fun." It took peoplea while to realize that online architectures
> reflect the political post-Fordist structures of First Life. In 1992,
> for example, Digitale Stad was set up with the idea to
> "design a complex, multi-layered system that operates largely on the
> basis of the city metaphor." The experiment did not work out.
> Today, online architectures do not just simply mirror "First Life
> Capitalism," but the absence of awareness of servitude* is radically
> new. The Frankfurt School philosopher Herbert
> Marcuse put it well: "All liberation depends on the consciousness of
> servitude." This holds more true today than ever; many people in the US
> actually think that they are "happy" and
> perceive this distributed labor of the sociable web as a fun leisure
> activity. "We would do it anyway." The community becomes the product. I
> opened up these questions at Emerson--
> "(Un)ethical Capitalism and Sociable Web Media" (video cast, download
> m4b file, 11.4mb-- open in Quicktime, resize, duration: 40 minutes)
> http://www.molodiez.org/podcasts/episode_20070301_203115-0500.m4b
> What do YOU think about the exploitation of labor in sociable web media
> and virtual worlds in particular? Are there alternatives? Already after
> a short look at the demo of Solipsis, "the
> pure peer-to-peer system for a massively shared virtual world" (and
> potential alternative to SL), it seemed rather disturbing in terms of
> its US-centrism. [4]
> I imagine SecondLife, currently in its early stages, as a useful place
> for a kind of rapid prototyping also in activist contexts. On the other
> hand, there is the danger that Second Life
> could just become a valve for social tension that should rather be
> played out in First Life, I partially agree with Charlie Gere. (A
> virtual speakers corner.) SL is ecologically harmful, I
> welcomed Julian Bleeker's reminder that there is no SecondLife without
> the materiality/resources of First Life. Giselle Beiguelman points to
> the cinematic "observation of the second
> order,² with the avatar a step removed from us. This site could be a
> liberating place for experimentation with identity. What SL will be,
> remains to be seen; for now it requires the
> same kind of skill set that other participatory cultures call for; a
> toolbox that allows us to handle these environments in a way that serves
> our best interests and is aligned with our
> values and aspirations.
> TS    
> [1] Harvard's Berkman Center in SL
> http://www.flickr.com/photos/tonz/238309925/
> [2] Kids Connect Project
> http://flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=198239256&context=set-72157594204191
> 164&size=l
> [3]
> http://www.generation-online.org/p/pvirno.htm
> [4] Solipsis
> http://solipsis.netofpeers.net/wiki2/index.php/Main_Page
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Simon Biggs
simon at littlepig.org.uk
AIM: simonbiggsuk
Research Professor in Art, Edinburgh College of Art
s.biggs at eca.ac.uk

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