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    Sunday, November 25, 2007

    Starry night -- The Magic of Second Life

    There's a misconception in the department where I work that I spend all my time "playing" Second Life and that my PhD is dedicated to SL alone. This is far from the truth, and Second Life is but one instance of how virtuality might have a profound effect on the quality of our lives, which is the subject of my thesis. I tend to especially emphasize this point whenever talking to someone who know very little about what Second Life is and its possibilities and limitations. Second Life has unfortunately gotten the stigma that it's either just another computer game, or that its primarily inhabited to perverts and leaches; verificationist researchers and sensationalist journalists (not sure which one of those is worst). What people tend to overlook - or never allow themselves to discover -- is that Second Life is ultimately about creativity. Those who stay in SL do it because of the creativity, those who make money do it because of creativity -- good researchers and journalists look for the creativity! This tends to drown in all the negative headlines. Just as you are about to give up and let Second Life become a sleazy hobby you don't tell anyone about, along comes the true geniuses of Second Life; those who make it a fantastic place; those who understand what it's all about; those who remind you that it's not about the age play, camping chairs or meatspace opportunism after all. Along come the true SL'ers like Robbie Dingo. Robbie has recreated Vincent van Gogh's masterpiece "Starry night" in Second Life. As if this testament to the creativity of SL wasn't enough, the marvellous feat has been documented in a machinima that left me speechless. If you go to Robbie's blog, you can watch the video. I highly recommend the high-resolution version, but in this virtual age of instant click-satisfaction, the youtube version does some justice to the masterpiece as well:


    Steve said...

    Totally amazing Johnny, thanks.

    Don McCleans music to it also - had to hold back the tears...

    OK, back to this paper otherwise Katinka will be screaming at me down the email channel by tomorrow.

    By the way, I am trying to put together an abstract for the Delft Conference - a chance I might get to Europe again mid next year.

    All the best for xmas and new year Johnny.

    Steve McKinlay

    Johnny Soraker said...

    Thanks Steve. As for the Delft conference, it overlaps with the ECAP conference (respectively June 18-20 and June 16-18) so I'm afraid I'll have to give priority to ECAP... but I might swing by Delft on the 19th and/or 20th.

    Good luck with the paper, and merry Christmas and new year to you as well.

    nullo said...

    speaking of quality of life and new media, i wonder whether you guys link this stuff up to aristotle (you probably do): according to Aristotle, partecipation in public life is essential for the virtous life. But obviously representative democracy gets in the way. But with new media, the aristotelian ideal is no longer unreasonable (or less so anyway...)

    Metus said...

    Thanks for your comment, Nullo. Yes, Aristotle certainly looms large in our project. Unfortunately, Aristotle is often used against new media in the sense that participation in virtual public life is somehow seen as less worthy than real participation. Unfortunately, I think this kind of argument lies behind many claims to the effect that virtual worlds leads to anti-social behaviour. I agree that Aristotle works better without representative democracy and can be better appreciated from the viewpoint of deliberative democracy ... which is also the reason why I'm skeptical of people arguing that new media can be a tool for direct/representative democracy.


    nullo said...

    I wouldn't want to argue that new media can bring about direct democracy; it's too bold a claim, you're right, and probably false too (even though I definitely think it's interesting from the point of view of political participation)

    What I was interested in was the individual level: as in, whatever the effect of new media on society and the political system, it might enable an individual to live up to the high standards set by Aristotle.

    It's true that, generalizing that to humanity (or just to a specific society) then you get something like the bold claim of which above. but the generalization is not necessary and probably not very wise - even though it might not be too bad as a moral principle

    Metus said...


    I absolutely agree. I recently wrote a paper about how virtual frameworks might (finally) bring about the uncensored Interent so many scholars have been talking about. If you're interested, you can find it in the Information Society 24(1).
    I'd love to discuss these things more, either in these comments or feel free to contact me by email.