Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Deep slo-mo goodness: Bounce

None of these videographers/animators were known to me until now, but hats off to JovialProductions and Joga Kidd, Surrealia Anatine and Faith Rosenberg. Fantastic work.

Brooklyn is Watching reaches a demi-milestone

It hardly seems possible that more than six months have elapsed since Pavig Lok clued me in to a new development on the grid, which I subsequently shared with you when I announced that Brooklyn is Watching had arrived.

Brooklyn is Watching

It was back in March when a blurry-looking viking dood, Jay Newt (aka Jay Van Buren), showed up with his strange green screen flooring - Second Life's equivalent to the bad shag rug - and an annoying eyeball follower, to openly question and discuss, without any reverence whatsover, the "art" that was plunked there.

Jay and his jolly troop of merrymakers (art historians, critics and assorted other experts) - I'm sure there's a lot of beer involved somehow - have taken the whispered veneration out of art in this new medium and put it on the block for a real review. The consequences of these critiques began as a tiny ripple and are now being felt throughout the grid.

Art in virtual worlds is coming of age. Carry on...

"Brooklyn is Watching" is a project sponsored by Popcha, a New York based media technology company, and taking place simultaneously at the art gallery Jack the Pelican Presents in Brooklyn, New York and in Second Life. Artists are invited to place their work here). An avatar, in the shape of an eyeball and under the name Monet Destiny follows the goings-on there at all times and projects what he sees onto a large screen monitor at the Real Life gallery. Every Wednesday evening, Jay and several other notables, including Shirley Marquez , Man Machinaga (aka Patrick Lichty) and Max Newbold (aka Beth Harris of the FIT) gather to discuss what is rezzed at BiW.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ravenelle and Torley sound out on maintaining balance between both lives

Ravenelle Zugzwang began Second Life® in December 2002 as Ravenelle Feaver, which makes her almost 6 years old, while Torley has been around forever, first as Torley Torgeson and later as a Linden employee.

"The photobooth" taken by Ravenelle

Not long ago, Ravenelle shared a bit of wisdom with me when I complained of being overwhelmed by my Second Life, saying "Keeping a good life balance is a never ending challenge. When I get word that someone is off balance with their life I share my meat story... and thankfully Torley has documented it for me and others here." This really struck a chord and I have taken it to heart. To me, it speaks to priorities and staying true to your ultimate goals.

Morning coffee by Ravenelle

Still, I wondered about their secrets for longevity and how they manage to keep it fun and productive.

Torley, I am under the impression that you keep a healthy balance of interests that are grounded in both real and virtual worlds. How intentional is this, and do you sometimes find yourself leaning more in one direction than the other and having to take steps to rectify things so that the balance is restored?

This scale was created by Madcow Cosmos

Torley Linden: It's absolutely intentional. My Second Life is built upon my first life and they cycle into each other. Rewards in one life inform and better the other. It's a cross-reality ecosystem, I tell ya! In the very beginning of my Second Life, my First Life was frail. I was in this very depressed, sad state, and finding friends and adventuring inworld helped boost my confidence.

It's a dynamic balance, for sure, which changes day by day. But all things said, my "lives system" is blessed with equilibrium.

Torley and Rav keep it playful

What advice do you have for the passionate Second Life user (like myself) who is often challenged by issues of balance?

Torley Linden: Learn to recognize - and only you can tell - the difference between unhealthy obsession and what we call "gladdiction," a glad, or healthy, addiction. Regularly check to make sure parts of your life that need attention to are being paid that tribute. Otherwise, it's like a weed infestation starting at one corner and killing your whole garden. Always look for lessons from First Life you can apply to Second Life, and vice-versa — whether it's artistic ideas, inspirational self-help (of the practical, not the kooky quack kind), and fellowship with other like-minds.

Take breathers, but don't be overly dramatic. Don't say "I'M LEAVING SECOND LIFE!" because of drama that's understandably hurt you when, in fact, your emotions are just a transient phase of maybe a few days, or weeks at most. Follow-up your words with profound actions, for there are many great ideas but few awesome executions (in comparison). GIVE YOURSELF SPACE when you need it, but don't stay there forever — socializing and learning from others is good!

And if it works for you (as it did for us), grow bolder about what you share. Some Resis are quite anonymous and keep their lives separate. Of course, there are contexts when this is appropriate, but we've often observed it has to do with something damaged (e.g., baggage, broken trust ) in First Life that hasn't "leaked through" to Second Life.

To wit, we're advocates for using Second Life as a tool to deal with your bagagge, as opposed to dumping it (and inflicting suffering) on others. Unite yourself.

And always: "CHOP THE SLOP!" It means, hunt down what's NOT contributing to either of your lives and kill it. For instance, say you have a friend who's always harping on about how jealous they are of other content creators, and basically spews bile and venom in your conversations. If you've deeply encouraged them and guided them to help resources to get better — and yet, they still drag on you — then it's time to remove them from your lives.

That gives you more time to spend with people who contribute to, not drain, your well-being.

See also: Celebrating Second Life's power couple

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Gary Hazlitt asks, are games overtaking films?

I'd like to call your attention to Gary Hazlitt's brilliant post and video analysis/compilation featuring films and games that asks if story-rich games are becoming more culturally relevant than films. Gary is becoming my go-to-guy when it comes to virtual world overviews.

On this occasion, it seems he was preparing some curriculum for Cinematic Games and Virtual Worlds courses at AFTRS, Australia's premier film school and, as he put it, "I was staggered to see the number of major feature films in production based on new and existing game universes - suggesting to me a tipping point."

Gary (aka Gary Hayes) is a Sydney-based Brit, the director of the Australian Laboratory for Advanced Media Production (LAMP), the head of Virtual Worlds for the UK-based The Project Factory, as well as a musician, composer, videographer, builder, and blogger.

At the root of the matter...

In every culture around the globe, the tree is weighted with heavy symbolism. For some, it is the synthesis of heaven, earth and water. For others, it can symbolize life, the feminine principle, the matrix and knowledge.

AM Radio continues to confound us with his radio-driven mysteries, but the centerpiece this time is yet another tree, albeit a dead one. His "Beneath the tree that died" installation was created using traditional prims (teleport directly from here).

This photo of the telegram than can be found on the table, by AM Radio. Please click to see large

Thanks to sculpties and megaprims, trees and most botanicals in Second Life® resemble their Real Life counterparts more while costing just a few prims.

Cel Edelman's 48 prim trees (each) are still very much alive (teleport directly from here)

Strawberry Holiday's trees that use particle systems for leaves have been delighting us for several months now, but none has come closer to the organic beauty of her new 26 prim Oakey Tree, available here.

Says Strawberry, "Trees and other natural objects offer a portal from the place in your brain that requires the concrete, reality of every day life to a virtual reality where anything can happen. Words can fall like leaves and headlines can wave in the wind like grass."

Celebrating Second Life's power couple

Quick! Tell me the first three words that come to mind when you think of Torley. Really, please tell me.

Over the next few days, I hope you will accept my invitation to celebrate two people who make a difference in most everyone's Second Life®, for who among us has not learned in some small or large way from Torley Linden and Ravenelle Zugzwang? He is synonymous with mentorship, having taken that time-honored activity to a new and effervescent zenith, and she is often the first friend a Second Lifer has on Flickr. They are both builders, scripters, photographers, videographers, writers, and... a couple: Second Life's best known and best loved couple. Even if they disappeared from virtual worlds today, their legacy of creative empowerment - and smiles - would endure.

I've just completed an interview with this duo, and there is so much to share with you that I'm going to give it to you in bite-sized fun pieces. Because they are so well known, we can begin most anywhere, so I thought we might look at how they are both bursting with creativity in unexpected and delightful ways.

Making the most of Google Lively is what Ravenelle Zugzwang did within hours of creating her account there. A little fire, a lava lamp, and a plant, together with several of Lively's believable and cute animations and her warm, smiling voice resulted in this, "Journey to a New World, Pt 1."

Meanwhile, I will never, ever forget this video. I watched it the other night sitting on a comfy, shocking pink bench on their new island, Here. While Torley has created more videos than there are days in the year, and nearly all of them are tutorials to help you "amplify your awesome" within Second Life, he does branch out eclectically to share just about anything he is passionate about, and that is a lot.

If you have already seen it, then watch it again! I guarantee you will smile from ear to ear.

Now then, what three words come to mind immediately when you think of Torley? And yes, you can duplicate other's suggestions.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Eshi Otawara reinvents romance

Photography by Stephen Venkman

Eshi Otawara took a photograph/texture of a Real Life flower by Douglas Story, and used it in an entirely new way to produce a gown that is as dazzling and NPIRL as couture can get. The Hibiscus Dream Gown is theatrical, very pink, and all woman. Teleport directly from here.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

yu can haz teh POWAH!!! - Creative combustion and a gift economy in the desert

Beginning this Saturday and for one week, scorched earth awaits you. Burning Man, the annual event that Burning Life is modelled after, is about dreaming your dream in a radically awake and alive state.

I scowled and shook my fist at the heavens yesterday because 22 sims brimming with the creative art and builds produced by hundreds of talented minds is too much to absorb in just one week, but now I am going to put all that behind me and immerse myself in the joy.

The temperatures at Burning Man are brutally hot. And cold. The dust storms whip the camps for hours at 50mph. Lag is Second Life®'s weather. Be brave, be courageous... it will all be worth it.

A core element of the Burner's culture is gifting, with no strings attached. It is not about trading or barter. Just a way to say hello, or thank you, or hey you!

One such gift will be from artist Truthseeker Young.

His vase of flowers contains a single stem flower staff and an animation with particles. Put them together and "yu can haz teh POWAH!!!"

Chakryn Forest presents... new works by Glyph Graves

Australian artist Glyph Graves' show, featuring his newest kinetic sculptures throughout Chakryn Forest, will continue to run through October 6. He describes his work as an interplay between structure and texture, as well as the normal digital tools of graphic and 3D modeling programs.

Music: Narayanam, performed by Suchita Parte
Video: Bettina Tizzy

Start at the Stone heads (teleport directly from here). Turn your stream off and your sound up. As you walk along the path, elements of rock greet you... first with trepidation, then with the joy of having you in their midst and finally, sorrow as you depart.

Listen to a song of cello and kalimba. It is for you that they make the song.

Each head has a set of different notes. Each head will play a different note depending on its distance from you. Together they make a song celebrating your proximity.

Now... turn your stream back on and wander the sim for many discoveries.

Chakryn Forest is the creation of Andrek Lowell.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

STEALTH BLOGPOST #1: Battle of the Ironclads

Unless you are a member of their group, the EXCLUSIONARY ELITISTS at the Playa have made it impossible this year for you to enjoy the Battle of the Ironclads or any other fantastic build on the 22 sims worth of extreme NPIRL goodness by hundreds of extraordinary artists and builders until they open their LAGFEST IN THE DESERT 2008 for just one week. Furthermore, it seems that I am not even ALLOWED to blog about any of the creations at LAGFEST 2008 until it officially opens for just seven miserly, tight-fisted days - despite the fact that I am literally drooling... so I must resort to stealth blogposts and stealing other people's materials. Even though I respectfully requested - as instructed - press materials from Linden Lab's press office over a week ago, I am still waiting, and the organizers have made it clear that they want me to STAY AWAY.

I can't help wondering how this all fits with the Ten Principles of Burning Man which they claim to be living by... especially this one:

Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.

One more thing... When we organized the Garden of NPIRL Delights, we restricted access and the publication of photographs, because we wanted to keep it a surprise... but that was just four sims worth of work and the exhibit was open well over a month. Even so, so much of the work went unnoticed because people simply didn't have the bandwidth. This event covers 22 sims and it is only open one week. So what does that mean for coverage? I bet if you polled the participants, they would almost unanimously say yes to early coverage. Wouldn't you?



Hotspur O'Toole describes himself as "An Irish would-be gentleman of indeterminate age, of a somewhat military bearing..." but any amount of text written by or about about this man cannot begin to convey the character he keeps, or the world that he and his cohorts live in.

Hotspur is always up to something... and more often than not it has something to do with a battle, but don't assume that guns and swords are always involved. For example, in July 2007 he invited me to attend the Duel of Compliments for the benefit of the Caledon Library, which he presided over. Here's but a snippet of text that I managed to keep from that event, just as it was getting underway:

Hotspur Otoole: We have surveyed the ground, sirs, and can attest that there are no stray compliments laying about, and we will take your words you have no extras hidden up your sleeves.
Bryndal Ellison hopes that she's not naked...as SL is not working
Terry Lightfoot giggles
Eva Bellambi: You do appear to have clothes on, Ms Ellison
Bryndal Ellison: Your Grace, good to see you
Hotspur Otoole: um, yes..... you're totally clothed... yesssssss
JJ Drinkwater sighs in disappointment, as she is quite clothed

Oh, I know... most of that text has nothing to do with the actual duel of compliments, which was uproariously funny and entirely and spontaneously ad libbed, but that level of sophistication in their text chat is standard fare with his crowd, where "LOLs" and "ROFLs" are quite, quite absent.

At any rate, he and his clan have been spending a good deal of their time in the desert lately - The Playa, to be more specific - and what they have concocted is a great deal of fun!

It isn't hugely complicated to play this radio-controlled game. First, take a copy of the free HUD that is offered there and wear it. Next, take one of the four available seats on the sides of the pool/ocean. Then, find the ironclad that corresponds to the color of your flagged seat and apply all your dexterity and skills with the goal of being the last one standing! Um... floating!

Because I am unwelcome on the 22 sims of the coming LAGFEST 2008, I've snuck over to Hotspur's delightful blog and swiped his video of the build.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Reacting to Rosedale on LL press strategies and more

Thank you, Robert Bloomfield (aka Beyers Sellers) of Metanomics for creating an opportunity for me and my fellow bloggers Wagner James Au, Christian Renaud, Tish Shute, Ben Duranske, Nic Mitham and Dusan Writer to address key points made by Philip Rosedale, Linden Lab’s founder, former CEO and current Chairman of the Board, during your recent interview with him.

I’ve never met or spoken with Philip, but I look at photographs of his luminous face, radiant with an almost transcendent beatitude, and think about the immersive world he championed - and that I have such an insatiable appetite for - and I just want to thank him from the bottom of my pixilated heart. Moving forward though, I have a personal stake in Second Life®’s success, so I’m not going to pull any punches.

At Robert’s suggestion, I will speak to Philip’s responses regarding Linden Lab’s strategy for balancing the needs of all its communities and how it deals with the press, which you can read in context here.

Philip, I know that you were caught up in the conversation about security features and controls that folks from enterprise and education are asking of Linden Lab, and I realize that you had no way of knowing that your words would be scrutinized under the lens of public and community relations.

A little about myself: I’ve held senior positions in domestic and global marketing, public relations and community relations on both the agency side and in-house, representing companies and organizations in many different fields, including but not limited to high tech and entertainment. I’ve also managed accounts that became media darlings for whatever reason, to the extent that the coverage and the demand for information and interviews far exceeded our ability to manage it all, so I can well understand what it must have been like during that period between spring 2006 and summer of 2007. It’s a little like trying to stay dry when it’s raining sideways.

I’ve been vocal about my criticisms of some of Linden Lab’s marketing, media relations and community outreach tactics in the past and my feelings remain unchanged in some areas but are happily much improved in others.

* My biggest beef with Linden Lab is the way it lets loose some eye-brow-raising dictums to the community and then acts like it didn’t. Case in point:

ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: But you do have some control over the perception. I know, for example, there were controversies over the Second Life fifth birthday celebration where certain groups were in, and then they were out, and then they were in, and they were out. It appeared at least to be Linden Lab attempting to manage then and reduce the perception of not safe for work behavior.
PHILIP ROSEDALE: Inevitably, this is such an exciting new space that there is a lot of media hype, so I think we do sometimes try to tone things down a little bit. I think we need to do more of that as time goes by, to just say, “Hey. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.” Reasonably speaking, here’s what the picture looks like. It’s not all one type of content. It’s not all business use. It’s not all marketing. It’s not all any one particular type of thing. It’s funny, mostly our PR strategy has simply been to help connect and embellish the stories that kind of come from the community anyway. I mean, for every stressed-out story about people’s love lives or infidelities or whatever in Second Life, there’s a story that’s equally good about people meeting in Second Life, or some people learning in Second Life, or whatever.

I am pretty unclear on what you just said here. Do you mean to say that Linden Lab needs to restrict participation from events like SLB5 more or that you need to tell the media that it’s a diverse community and to get over it?

Many Resident groups labored an entire year to make SLB5 the best that it could be only to be informed that their participation was not welcome, and then that it was, and then that it was but only in certain ways… Again, Second Life is as diverse as the Real World. How hard is it to make both PG and mature sims available for an event of this nature? Linden Lab’s management and communications in this regard were disappointing, polarizing, and unnecessarily hurtful. As Chairman of the Board, I would have liked to see you step up to the plate here and address this situation more fully. An apology would have been in order, too.

We're different, diverse and we like it that way.

You say:

PHILIP ROSEDALE: I think that you’ve got to let people broadly create content in as open a way as possible. There’s a meeting in the middle. I think enterprises will recognize that the utility gains that they can get from taking advantage of virtual worlds are very high, and they’ll be willing to tolerate the fact that, yeah, if they wanted to kind of brand approve their neighborhood, the fact that they’re in a virtual world, and, yeah, there’s content they don’t like in a virtual world, they’re just going to have to live with that.

What are you doing to communicate this? Taking a pro-active stance would save you a lot of trouble, time and money.

* Since you are making a big push to attract corporate participation and monies, I think it would be beneficial to develop ways to better inform incoming companies and organizations that are just getting started in Second Life about best practices.

For example, you might show them the difference between an in-world facility that has ongoing avatar representation and events, and one that simply builds out a sim and then expects people to come running. Tateru Nino over at Massively just wrote a good blog post on the topic of unstaffed versus staffed virtual presences. Two excellent examples of companies that are succeeding in this regard are Warner Brothers’ Gossip Girl and Languagelab.com. In fact, why not build out a tutorial for companies and educational orgs to show them what works?

Must your website depict everything in such a bland state? Why not occasionally offer corporations some alternatives and ways to rethink their virtual environments, like images of Syncretia by Alpha Auer? Or meeting areas like Sugar Seville’s incredible auditorium seating at the Odyssey? Help prospective clients to see what the future of education, architecture and business looks like. Ravenelle Zugzwang just addressed one aspect of this in an excellent blog post about alternative seating.

* Regarding press management, Rob asked and you replied…

ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: [T]he Wall Street Journal had that big article about the guy cheating on his wife in Second …. Is that something you guys are trying to manage so that it doesn’t stigmatize Second Life for the enterprise community?
PHILIP ROSEDALE: Well, again, I mean I think the answer there is yes. Certainly, when I talked about security being a requirement for the enterprise community. And I think that content restriction and separation and insulation is a part of, is kind of a close cousin to that part of the problem. So I think that we’re doing the right things, thinking about how to better support the enterprise in looking at how to move Second Life more behind the firewall if we can, add security features, add controls for those users. That said, http, the web protocol, moves around a lot of different types of data, some of it certainly objectionable to enterprise users, and enterprises still use it. So I think that there is a future where, again, there’s a single standard; maybe the branding is a little different, but there’s still a single standard for how you use virtual worlds and how you interconnect them. I think that’s going to work out because, again, I remember the early days of the web. There was, of course, a real concern that corporations were being stigmatized by building websites because there were so many other websites that they thought were objectionable or adult content or whatever. So I guess I’m not kind of giving you a clear answer because I don’t think there is one.

People take up new technologies as a means to a way that will stimulate and nurture their own varied interests. You stand to benefit if you pro-actively demonstrate and pitch stories to the media to show them what’s cool in the way of user and 3rd party content and concept development. In this regard, your media relations strategy appears to be reactive in the extreme. There is no way you will be able to stifle all the empty sim and sex stories, and yet an ongoing proactive campaign about cool content and in-world initiatives will make the bad press much less visible and important. It isn’t hard to identify great content and stories if you just follow the blogs, and I know your staff does monitor them. Maybe your new PR person will be able to help with that.

* Please don’t limit yourselves to just pitching the business press! Diversify and share the cool and positive stories more!

Why isn’t this dress by Eshi Otawara being written up in W magazine or Vogue or Elle? It is certainly oozing in style and it is definitely newsworthy enough.

Or how about this hairstyle by Sinnocent Mirabeau?

Look at how AM Radio is using Second Life to restore Real Life photography… and while we are on the topic of AM, his wheat fields have raised enough money for a herd of Real Life cows to benefit third world communities.

I think many publications would be fascinated to learn that they have not one but two choices if they wish to visit and experience Escher’s Relativity House in-world.

In fact, why not aggressively look for ways to encourage crossover and show them how Second Life is beginning to have a genuine impact on the way people live their Real Lives? Other virtual worlds and digerati are often sailing past Second Life in this regard nowadays.

* What is Second Life? I was shocked to read the boilerplate (descriptor) in your press release dated September 3, 2008. So this is what Second Life is to you now? I wonder, fellow residents (corporate, educational or otherwise)… does this description mirror your experience in Second Life and express the advantages and opportunities you see in it?:

About The Second Life Grid and Linden Lab
Consisting of a series of sophisticated content creation, land management and transactional tools, the Second Life Grid is the technology platform used to power the Second Life virtual world. Provided by Linden Lab, the Second Life Grid platform enables businesses of all sizes to develop their own virtual world environments. Whether connected to the Second Life mainland or secured and blocked off from public access, custom virtual environments increase internal collaboration, enhance customer engagement and reduce overall business costs.

Linden Lab is the company that created The Second Life Grid platform and hosts the Second Life virtual world. Founded in 1999 and headquartered in San Francisco, Linden Lab was created by former CEO and current Chairman of the Board Philip Rosedale. The company is led by CEO Mark Kingdon, former CEO of Organic, Inc. and counts noted software pioneer Mitch Kapor, founder of Lotus Development Corporation, among its board members.

* It’s clear that you already think of your Residents as stakeholders, and Torley does, indeed, amplify our awesome, but so much of the intense goodness in Second Life never sees the Real light of day because Residents don’t know how or when to promote themselves to Real Life media. Linden Lab might be the greatest beneficiary of all if it empowered Resident groups with the tools and basic know-how to do their own pitching. Your PR agency might conduct regular seminars with and for in-world groups to help them implement their own media outreach to the Real World rather than keeping all this positive news inside the garden walls.

* Hype is overrated and trust and credibility are paramount. How can the media – and the Residents! - trust you if you make this claim?

“Second Life® is …inhabited by millions of Residents from around the globe.”

Not only is this published in numerous places on your website, but your press office has been quoted as saying as much. Your Residents know the truth. Daniel Tierdeman over at CNET knows the truth. Tateru Nino at Massively has published the truth. Anyone who spends a little time in-world can easily see that the vast majority of the registered members never made it in-world (probably held back by technical difficulties as I was initially), and several millions more simply never came back. So why oh why do you persist with this fallacy? How or why should we ever believe another word from Linden Lab again?

* I don’t see enough messaging about the fact that it is a fantastic platform to unite and help educate people all over the globe in an economically sustainable and an environmentally friendly space with distance learning, cross-cultural programs, collaborative experimenting and communicating prototypes for nearly every field including agriculture, space and medicine research. Please stimulate research and showcase your own and third-party stories about the cost differences of having a brick and mortar storefront or school, or the savings in time and money (and to the environment!) when it comes to using Second Life as a meeting ground. This press release by IBM about its Virtual Green Data Center tells a timely and positive story.

* Not long ago and on Metanomics, I mentioned that I’d reached out to your press office on behalf of Burning Life 2007, seeking assistance with Real Life media outreach and in-world promotion. That help never came. I’m glad to see that this year you’ve promised to make an effort to secure Real Life media coverage for the juried artists. Still, one week is not enough time for all that other quality content (twenty two sims brimming with creative goodness! Thank you for that) to be celebrated and reported on. Let bloggers in early and encourage their writing this up to maximize exposure.

Philip, all my thanks to you for shepherding this brave new world into existence, and thanks, too, to the many incredibly talented people at Linden Lab. Together, you've dramatically changed my life and made it infinitely better and more interesting. I look forward to the coming years and to looking for ways to spread the word about its transformative powers.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Believe what you see

Via Molly Montale, we learned of Patch Lamington's in-world 3D prim-based optical illusion at The Port. Patch was inspired by the work of Prof. Akiyoshi Kitaoka . The slurl to this one is tricky. If you land below water, just fly up and look for the flying hoops. There is a stand on the little platform that centers your avatar for the full effect.

Patch's optical illusion as photographed by Molly Montale

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Educators are looking into art and design in virtual worlds

Just happened upon this video of a presentation that the Dallas Museum of Art hosted for the University of Texas' as part of their Dallas Virtual Worlds event last spring.

One of the speakers stresses the importance of design around participatory experiences, saying that structures by themselves are not sufficient. I think this is a problem most virtual creators have to learn to cope with... but would suggest that keeping relevant in-world groups informed and blogging are two good ways to ensure that a work gets seen. The video was an eye-opener for me and a window on the process that artists and educators go through as they discover the possibilities in virtual spaces... but I kept wanting to shout out, "But wait! Have you considered X?"

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bryn Oh chronicles the fall of the angels: A story in prims

It is hardly surprising that Toronto artist and painter Bryn Oh’s installation at Second Life®'s answer to Burning Man, Burning Life 2008 which opens on September 27, has many steampunk features, or that it includes dozens of humming robotic insects, for these are acknowledged and signature elements that we have come to expect in her work.

What I hadn’t anticipated were the delicate, intricate details… the lightness that she has given steampunk overall, and I certainly had not expected a story, or one as sad as this artwork conveys.

Better quality viewing is available here

Art: Bryn Oh
Music: Arcadia and Tiny Fuge by Kevin MacLeod
Machinima: Bettina Tizzy

Bryn’s most recent installation at arcspace, the Gashlycrumb Tinies, has already appeared in the hardcover book Bryn Oh and the Tinies by Aiko Aichi and Ritva Nybacka.

What follows are excerpts of a conversation I had with Bryn a couple of days ago.

How long did it take you to create this, and how is it different from previous works?
Bryn Oh: I have been here for about a month. Kind of lonely really, but for me the main difference is the finished piece. I am really happy with it.

Are you going blind? All this tiny prim work! How many prims is this all told and how tired have you been?
Bryn Oh: Very. It’s been a nightmare. This is about 2,000 prims. No rotating textures, just tiny rotating prims. It is shown for one week only :) I hope the music plays okay.

Condos in Heaven is based on a poem she authored for this project. Before she got started, Bryn researched real angels from the Bible. Apocalyptic writings have explored the concept of fallen angels who succumbed to temptation or rebelled against God, and have therefore been exiled or banished from Heaven, but in Bryn’s scenario…

The bee at the heart of the captured angel

This has a new feel about it... more delicate, but also looks more real. It is the closest to real I've seen virtual steampunk get.
Bryn Oh: I was contemplating how angels would appear to us (in the future). Mystical gods… but would that change and would they become less mystical as we became more advanced technologically? They would (ultimately) allow us to conquer them. What would happen if mankind discovered a way to heaven; what would we do? For resources, we will destroy habitats, etc., and drive species to near extinction, but what would stop us? What are our boundaries? So I thought, perhaps, finding heaven would be. I am becoming more and more interested in the narrative, immersing one into a story in Second Life.

Bryn Oh: This is a store that sells accessories taken from the angels.

In fact, the store's “accessories” include the wings taken from Hadraniel, the guardian of the gates of heaven who is five stories tall and Cassiel, the angel of solitude and tears that appears in post-biblical Judeo-Christian mythology, and presides over the death of kings.

Gabriel's wings

Why ice? (Referring to the texturing of the building) Did the Playa have anything to do with your decision to use ice as well?
Bryn Oh: It is what mankind would build in heaven… their idea of what a structure should look like. It is faux ice. It is a way to glamorize the selling of chopped up angels and make it so people are not horrified.

Bryn Oh: I think of the angels as a kind of beekeeper with the human race as the bees but with the ability to sting. I am hoping that people will come in and sense that there is a story to figure out and piece things together. See the little boy and his father who are shopping? The angels have been defeated and their wings are removed and sold as accessories.

The shopkeeper's face... is that rust or blood stains or both? He also looks like a drone.
Bryn Oh: It is rust. I don’t like overt imagery like blood. They are all meant to be advanced but flawed. There is a secret room, of course. (Most of Bryn’s installations include one or more secret rooms). The gramophone plays, too.

There is the notion of artificial replacement... a futuristic selection of the species. You have put the beetles to work.
Bryn Oh: Steampunk insects are not cute, but edgy. The beetles are an idea that I have not put in words yet… a feeling, sort of. So let me try now. I think of them as something made by mankind and brought into heaven, kind of accidentally, much like a foreign bug comes into a country in a crate. They are a replacement to the bug that went extinct, to maintain the food chain. When something becomes extinct, it is replaced with something else to keep things working. The good pyramid. For example, if the fox became extinct, rabbits would overrun the countryside, causing problems for other layers of the food pyramid... so build a robotic fox - a steampunk one :) That is how I see the beetles. They came from earth to heaven accidentally. I think too much.

Do you hope that your virtual work might someday become much more of a full time thing?
Bryn Oh: I see Second Life as a possible new frontier. For example, when I paint in Real Life, I use large canvases to block out the peripheral vision and allow the viewer to come into the painting and become more immersed, but Second Life is absolutely immersive. It is being inside a painting.

Has your Second Life art influenced your Real Life work?
Bryn Oh: Originally, I brought Real Life ideas that didn’t work into Second Life. I guess that right now I have stopped bringing in Real Life ideas and am now exporting Second Life ideas to Real Life. It is reversing. This build, for example… could it be as effective as a painting in Real Life?

Love notes

The baby carriage: The baby’s eyes are watery earth orbs, and the infant holds a praying mantis - The Violinist, a tiny (and musical) robobug – as its toy. Gently floating just beyond the baby’s reach, is a robotic june bug

How does the baby tie into the story?
Bryn Oh: It is the wonderment that he has. Unaffected and still pure, but a product of an advancing human race.

The surgical procedure

The slurl for this installation will be posted on opening day of Burning Life 2008: September 27.

See also:
* Crap Mariner's marathon video session
* Edward Gorey's alphabet gets steampunk'd
* Self-hypnosis and Bryn Oh's "Steamgarden"

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Storytelling with the help of Second Life

Quebecoise Axelia Meili built a story about a little witch around twenty photographs she took in Second Life®, and then post-processed. Axelia wrote the story in French and then translated it to English for the benefit of those who don't parle francais.

"Luna came in my mind just for fun. I was shopping and found her avatar which was not expensive," said Axelia. "Recently I bought this nice elf and I decided to build a story around the pictures. It comes in my head spontanously. The same thing happened when I started to take pictures with Luna."


"Luna's father was a sorcerer and her mother a human. When she was born, her father asked many fairies to come to protect Luna from bad evils she could get in her."

Luna's story

"He wanted her to avoid the destiny of bad witches. 13 fairies accepted the invitation and gave Luna all nice qualities."

Pirella, la tante de Luna

You can follow Luna's entire story in the correct order by referring to Axelia's slide show here.

Luna's look is accomplished via the "Decent Dolly" avatar, available at Brunehaut's Faeries Shops.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

It's a Pillflower World, after all

Douglas Story likes flowers. A lot. He photographs real flowers and then manipulates those images in striking ways to come up with memorable art installations such as the acclaimed FlowerBall and DynaFleur. In fact, I've learned that when he gets a bee in his bonnet about flowers, we are - inevitably - going to get the full story. That said, I was not in the least bit surprised when he alerted me to an upcoming show he was especially fascinated with. "What is it called, Douglas?," I asked. "Pillflower World," came the answer. Yep.

Douglas is a regular contributor to this blog.

by Douglas Story

Back in December of 2007, I saw a group notice for a gallery show in Second Life® that had the Real Life component of the image from SL being projected onto a screen in the gallery. Me being the show-off that I am, I donned a bizarre avatar and went by the gallery, and made the acquaintance of the artist, Nar Duell.

It turns out that Nar’s Real Life operator is an artist working out of Toronto named Lynne Heller. She sent me to her website and I was Pretty Effing Impressed. Among other things, I loved the sensuality of the scans of the dying blossoms, not to mention the wit and of her colorful pillflowers.

A couple weeks later, Nar was talking to me about bringing the Pillflower concept in-world, and how she could do that. I gave her a few comments, but mostly....I pointed Nar to my friend and partner-in-crime, Desdemona Enfield for her scripting expertise.

Together they have created something remarkable: a world of seemingly happy, jolly flowers and snow play, all encased in a sim-spanning, dynamic, swirling snow globe. I very much like the fun, whimsical sense of it all - especially so because there's a dark undercurrent in that the pretty flowers are made of pills - and that imagery conjures up so many associations with unhappiness and illness. Nar says it better than I do in her artist’s statement. On the pillflowers themselves:

“Soothing pastel shades of the medicinals belie their power and effect on the human body and our drug dependant culture. Alluring and candy-like, the pillflowers visually signify that ‘all is right’ with the world, or at the very least, can be made so instantaneously.”

On the subject of snow globes, she says:

“Snow globes, universal signifiers of all things kitsch, are trusty souvenirs of travel and exotica. In Pillflower World the snow globe becomes a metaphor for the conflation of locale, space, culture and even time. Snow globes are ubiquitous and generic. Tropical scenes share cold weather precipitation right along with the North Pole.”

Lynne had been asked to show her work in a Real Life gallery in Australia (details below.) She approached them about including a Second Life element, and they got very excited --- so Nar put together this installation in-world. There’s a great deal for the curious and/or playful avatar to do once there: you can take a 'toboggan' tour of the world, observe the breathing flowers that creepily turn to track you as you pass, experience psychedelic effects on your avatar and view when touching the flowers, take a bath, play a pillflower guessing game, watch dandelions grow, jump on a trampoline, roll around in the snow, sled down a hill, and fly up through the snowflakes. The snowflakes are scanned from actual images of snow crystals, and are scripted to swirl in a wide vortex.

I was especially tickled that the intro to the piece is a toboggan ride.

Here, Desdemona gives me the tour

The toboggan ride is fast, and is scripted with changes in speed and acceleration, complete with swooshing sound effects. What a good idea! (Okay okay, if you must know, I suggested the sound effects.)

For those of you down under who might like to attend in meatspace, the piece will be shown at the Australian National University, Canberra, September 22 – October 3, 2008, where the images from Second Life will be projected on a big screen in the gallery.

For those wishing to attend the show with real snow outside, it will be in a more frigid venue at the Red Head Gallery, Toronto, Canada, December 3 - 20, 2008.

To add to the gallery displays, Lynne has made a mural of Nar’s adventures in comic book form, which she has had printed very big: 4 feet by 40 feet. A few excerpts follow:

I never did talk her into getting an AO, as you can see.

You’ll note in the dialog in the above image that Des gets a teeny bit obtuse. Desdemona is a literate, articulate, and witty conversationalist normally, but when she gets on a technical tear, as above, well… hang on to your synapses. I asked her to briefly describe her contributions to this project, and she replied as follows:

[16:15] Desdemona Enfield: Scripting features include script behavior controlled by the end user using extensive configuration parameters, centralized administration of replicated objects, dynamically scheduled timer event processing to reduce region loads, runtime administrative control using nested dialog interaction, use of particle effects for snow vortex and pillflower meadows, detailed, extensible inter-prim chat protocols for use in administering objects and journaling visitor presence, coordination of multiple avatar sensors by a centralized controller, precision prim rotations based on ....
[16:15] Douglas Story: (laughing) well, I asked!

[16:16] Desdemona Enfield: ... exact solutions to rotational algebra problems, coordinated flexi control with orientation independent cyclic forces.

Did you get all that? Any questions? Well… ask Des! I’m just the reporter.

The opening reception will be held Saturday, September 13th from 10am to 2pm SLT. Teleport directly from here.

The artist would like to express special thanks to Larry Pixel of the New Media Consortium for the generous loan of the sim on which the art is displayed.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

SATAN at Templum ex Obscurum :P

For the Templum ex Obscurum NPIRL photographic challenge, I asked you to show us how you see Templum ex Obscurum, Baron Grayson's magically dark (and light) creation... and Ian Pahute (aka Ian Upton) came back with this. You gotta see it.

Ian says, "So what do you do when you get a new piece of video editing software? You play! I grabbed a favorite CD and took my 'Space Navigator' for a trip through the stunning Templum ex Obscurum. This is the result..."

Ian's new software? Adobe Premiere.

Not Possible IRL + Koinup = Not Possible IRL Safaris: First stop... the world of Tayzia Abattoir

The Not Possible IRL and Impossible IRL groups are partnering with Koinup - an inclusive social networking site for all Virtual Worlds that permits storage and sharing of imagery: photography, Machinima, and "storyboards" - to host a new kind of joint monthly event called the Not Possible IRL Safaris.

Among the Virtual Worlds you'll find images of on Koinup: Second Life®, World of Warcraft, Lively, The Sims, IMVU, vSide, Kaneva, There, and more.

Koinup's CEO Pierluigi Casolari and I agree that the convergence of media from all these worlds will expose Koinup's members to new ideas and stimulate an appreciation for new lands, as well as heavy crossover. Speaking for myself, I hope that crossover will funnel thousands of new members to Second Life, where user content creation and creativity are not only possible, but the future of the 3D web. I also see it as a way to promote and showcase top-notch creators and their quality content.

To that end, the first Not Possible IRL Safari will be hosted by the ultimate aggregator of art in Second Life, Tayzia Abattoir, on Saturday, September 13th at 6pm SLT, starting at the Crescent Moon (teleport directly from here).

The first Safari: The World of Tayzia Abattoir
Tayzia founded the Crescent Moon Museum - the longest continously-running art house in Second Life - back in February 2005 and her inventory (over 70k items and practically all of it art!) is probably the richest in-world repository of one-of-a-kind sculptures, art installations, paintings and photography in all of Second Life. In addition to running the Crescent Moon, Tayzia also curates the New Media Consortium's (NMC) Kirsti Aho Museum , and Ars Simulacra, the NMC's Second Life artist showcase island.

About a year ago, Tayzia took me under her incredible wings and gave me a crash course on art and artists in Second Life, leaving my own life and virtual dreams forever changed. Tayzia rezzes art that no one else possesses, and knows more about how each artist got started, who's work they were influenced by, and what they are up to, than anyone else on the grid. It's simply the best way to kick off the Not Possible IRL Safaris with our new partner, Koinup.

Later and once a month, NPIRL and Koinup will offer Safaris and tours with many of Second Life's best content creators, exposing the participants to new sims, new content, and new ideas that are leaving the old world behind and breaching the future. See you there!

The Not Possible IRL (NPIRL) and Impossible IRL (ImpIRL) groups are dedicated to identifying and sharing well conceived and realized content creation in Virtual Worlds which would not be possible in Real Life: architecture, landscaping, art, animations, fashion, particle effects, building tools and scripts... show me, I'll show you.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Quadropop Tree's artist community

The Quadrapop Tree sim is the tangible expression of a vision that quadrapop Lane and CaptainCrunch Hax had to build an artists' community where "everything an artist/scripter/builder/performer might need (is) in one sim."

The pair are offering rental parcels for builders to have a homebase "but also somewhere to rez their builds in peace if they choose," says quadrapop. Residents will also have access to a private group-only sand box for prim-heavy builds, as well as allocated prims at the community's commercial space, and a Gallery. Regular seminars "on all things to do with building as well as discussions and displays on art/culture within Second Life®" will also be an important part of life on Quadrapop Tree.

"Part of our vision was a more cohesive image on the ground - none of the mish-mash of styles one often sees, even on private estates, but to also avoid the recreation of yet another Real Life space," said quadrapop. "Thus the alien planet feel of the current landscape. If you have read Iain M Bank's Culture novels, you will have some idea of the universe in which this landscape might be found."

Teleport directly from here.

Templum ex Obscurum - a machinima by Osprey Therian

Like many of us, filmmaker, artist and thespian Osprey Therian... hasn't been getting enough sleep. And how does she occupy (some of) her sleepless hours? I'll give you a hint: she has 122 pieces of machinima posted on Youtube, including some of my faves, such as her film of Komuso Tokugawa's and MoShang Zhao's incredible SynaesthAsia show, and clips of the traveling, long-running and often NPIRL variety show, The Show Must Go On.

What better place to meet her insomnia head-on than at Baron Grayson's creation, the dark and dreamy Templum ex Obscurum?

This beautiful piece could not have come at a better time, as we are in the last few days of the Templum ex Obscurum NPIRL photographic challenge, which ends this Sunday.

The prettiest party, evah!

Talk about visually arresting...

The little girl in me did somersaults when I saw siestabril Nitely's pics of the scrumptious birthday party she hosted for her best friend in Real Life, sakufrat2525 Kurka.

siesta shared that these delicious outfits are confections by "wonderful creators" eyeco Noel, and that the festivities unfolded at Agharta, "a beautiful sim," owned by friends of hers (teleport directly from here).

Do you suppose they served pink lemonade?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Real Life inspires: Doll Face

I am quite taken with artist and animator Andrew Huang's Doll Face video. You might also enjoy his Fluxis, and Projections III. Doll Face reminds me a bit of Senuka Harbinger's Senasy Cybernetic Arachnid Avatar. Andrew, if you have a presence in Second Life®, I hope you will introduce yourself.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Light and shadows on an epic scale: Templum ex Obscurum

With one week remaining and 402 participants - many of them considered the best photographers in Second Life® - it is getting harder and harder to select just ten images from the Templum ex Obscurum NPIRL photographic challenge Flickr pool to share with you, but the following photographs were each so striking in their own way that ultimately they claimed their place.

The challenge is a tribute to artist and builder Baron Grayson and his Templum ex Obscurum, a dark and poetic place that would have existed only in his imagination were it not for his ability to weave light and shadows together on an epic scale.

In most instances, you can see a larger version of a photograph if you click on it.

Nirvana Panorama by Gary Hayes

The fragile bridge of the crossed destinies by Esco Axelrad

MoonRiver by DreamsBeneaththeMoon

rain by Kean Kelly

Templum - Ivy by Lash Xevious

Templum ex Obscurum by winter wardhani

Fyrja and Michale by xaos theas

save me by F J Pix

Templum ex Obscurum by 2nd Magazine

And finally, a sumptuous tapestry, unlike any other...

Angel - Templum ex Obscurum by ¥ Çãrmíllä Mírabëaú ¥

Again, we must thank every single participant, and Cuwynne Deerhunter - guardian and owner of Templum - for his kind support and endorsement of this project.