Building reality, but which one?

2006.07.13 (Thursday, July 13)

“Broadly, SL is an attempt to reproduce the real world, basically… it’s physical aspects, its social and economic aspects as well… making that simulation, that replica, better and more capable… making the graphics look literally like your walking through the screen into a movie.” [Philip Rosedale, Founder and CEO, Linden Lab, quoted from an interview]Isn’t this confusing reproduction and representation?

Is a film a reproduction of real life (RL), or is it a representation of a specific reality? The two are fundamentally different. Is a film, a poem, or any other expression using a representational medium, necessarily striving for realism, as Philip Rosedale implies? Or, is it trying to create its own real-ity? Perhaps Rosedale was describing what the underlying technology of SL was attempting to do. But is it possible, or even wise, to even consider SL, the technology, void of its social, economic and expressive capacities? It would be like trying to sell an iPod by tauting it as a hard drive. Sure, there is storage media in there somewhere, cloaked beneath layers of social and marketing acumen.

But SL, while supported and structured by an underlying technology to which it is very dependent, is something quite different than just its technological infrastructure. SL very well might be described at times as a parallel reality, at times an abstract reality, at times a realistic one, a fictive one, a replacement for someone’s reality… but it is not a replica of RL.

As Lev Manovich summarizes in The Language of New Media,

“…computer generated imagery
is not an inferior representation of our reality,
but a realistic representation of a different reality.”


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