Archive for the 'representation' Category

reblogged: A Reality of Presence States

2007.08.09 (Thursday, August 9)

Re-reading Vernor Vinge’s 2006 novel, Rainbow’s End, plunged me back into an insistent but unclear reverie concerning the What? & Why? & Where? of the convergence between mirror and virtual worlds. In the book’s first scene, four of the book’s protagonists, 3 government agents of the Indo-European commission and ‘Mr. Rabbit,’ a potential contractor, are meeting in avery real Barcelona. Of the scene’s 4 actors, 1 is actually present on the terrace of a busy Barcelona café, while the other 3 are represented by avatars. Mr. Rabbit is a brown haired hare in a top-hat, last seen provocatively hopping away through busy midday tourists, as the other 3 sat around discussing the meeting [Metaverse Territories] Read the rest of this entry »

The map just might be the Territory

2006.08.05 (Saturday, August 5)

The excellent Terre Nova asks a non-rhetorical question, “Where am I?” and gets lots of very geometrical, topological geeky-types of responses. As elegant and as beautiful as some of these representations are, I’m not so sure that they actually help to answer the original question. In other words, I don’t feel any more there by looking at these maps of networks. Granted, the amounts of information required to make a mapping of the metaverse are copious, and the diverse types of data imply from the onset, they will be documents of extreme spatial complexity. Creating a coherent visual representation of different worlds whose scale, protocols and topologies are considerably different, is not a simple matter.

While I’m sure that the solution will somehow be based on a topologically complex structure that is inherently related to the worlds it is trying to represent, I have a hunch that ultimately, it will be a multi-sensory experience that will be closer to art than to cartography.

Although this may, in some way, imply the use of a map as we know it, the end result will hardly be a mere graphic abstraction, but rather an experience where space and mapping will converge. And while we’ve been told that “the map is not the territory,” I think this adage will be reversed in our attempt to be oriented when we jack into a metaverse –the map and the territory will become reversible.

Bending time in virtual space

2006.08.02 (Wednesday, August 2)

“If we are going to build synthetic worlds, it makes some sense to populate them with both live people and simulated characters. The simulated characters can be a sort of automated tour guide… recordable avatars give you a way to capture the interactions in a social setting and play them back for later study.”

Croquet-Bento, from the post “Robots/Animatronic Avatars/NPCs for Croquet,” proposes video capturing an avatar’s POV and playing it back to simulate presence, content and interaction separate and apart from its actual occurrence. Virtual worlds will be able to resonate with both sentient and non-sentient content so as to increase the frequency and density of stimulus and interaction, while not putting too much pressure on server-side load (lag). But, aside from the graphic, artistic and technical requirements to pull this off, the world must also be socially prepared for the active presence of robots and cyborgs.

At issue with the proposed method of video play-back bots, will be the the world’s sense of temporal continuity. In metaverse environments like Second Life (SL), time seems to advance in a linear, progressive and regular manner. This is ostensibly similar to real life (RL) experience, but is not a necessary quality of all media based environments. Cinema, for example, uses devices to either accelerate, slow-down or jump-cut the temporal continuity of a situation. Acceleration is used to augment the amount of information (action, story-line…) contained within a specific duration; slowing-down time is so that a scene can be spatially deconstructed to better visually orient the relationships of objects and context; and, jump-cutting is to juxtapose to seemingly discontinuous scenes (flashbacks, dreams, simultaneous events..) so that the narrative thread of a story can be constructed. While these devices seem obvious to us now, early film going audiences were quite disoriented by these techniques that were first employed early in the last century.

“The architecture of Croquet makes it straightforward to capture all the messages for a given avatar as you drive the avatar around the space, and then later inject those messages into a robot avatar to do the playback of what happened.”

In order to insert a simulated presence based on a specific, past tense event, it will be necessary to incorporate the idea of elastic time as a component of the world’s media. Time will have to be able to move both forward and backward, be paused, accelerated and put in slow motion. And this will have to be seamless, integrated into its very fabric.

The world must also be capable of capturing not just the sensory information, sound, images, but also the parametric data, “…motion and gesture,” that is the language of these transformations. As discussed in my post “Rezzing Procedural Space,” this information can integrate the logical structure of a scene and account for its composition in terms of the objects and their transformations. This becomes another way of recording it, and eventually playing it back.

Mashup: Object & Interface

2006.07.31 (Monday, July 31)

This short video, called Cubic Tragedy by Ming-Yuan Chuan , was shown at the Siggraph conference, and highlights some of the paradoxes and frustrations of building with the Second Life modeller. The most insightful gag shows how the edges can become blurred, through spending too much time in 3-D space, between camera, action, interface and art.

Rezzing Procedural Space

2006.07.27 (Thursday, July 27)

Smart Geometry is a work-group promoting research in advanced 3D CAD applications. Of particular interest is GenerativeComponents from Bentley Systems, which describes a “parametric and associative” system for the development of design projects. Wow. A GenerativeComponents application describes a 3-D dataset (a fancy name for a bunch of objects) by not only its geometry, but also by the “abstract relationships,” the many decisions, large and small, that make-up this particular design. Representing the logical structure of a build, and not just its explicit geometry, is an attempt to describe and explain the builder’s intentions –the how, what and why of its spatial composition.

But what does this have to do with SL?

In Second Life (SL), spatial complexity emerges from the deliberate accumulation and modification of geometric primitives based on an idea or ideas about space. Although there are countless ways to proceed so as to realize a specific building, it is always the result of specific decisions unfolding over a linear or non-linear period of time; this can be thought of as a kind-of recipe. For example, a build (ABC) has three objects (a, b & c) that followed the recipe (a-> b-> c) for its fabrication, the order in which the objects were composed. Using the same three objects (a, b & c), but this time following the recipe (c-> b-> a), we now have constructed a build (CBA). While the two builds might have common attributes (quantities, size, scale, colors, distances etc…), the overall quality of space differs.


GenerativeComponents, taking this into account, integrates the designer’s intentions to the composition of the scene until it becomes both the build AND the tool, the concept and its fabrication. In fact, makes the idea and the object reversible.

Users of 3-D modellers or CAD software work graphically, applying intuition and experience to establish a specific workflow. It is this workflow –the commands, decisions and modifications of objects, that is captured and encoded by a GenerativeComponents program. A recipe is created from this mix of geometry with the decisions that transform it. The proceedure is captured, analyzed and made reusable as the logic, memory, process, context and content of the project.

The idea of an object is reinvented, geometry is fused with the seeds of its generation.
Experimentation, through the development of evolving design scenarios, can proceed without having to manually re-build a detail design model for each alternative.
And finally, since the interface of GenerativeComponents applications is a mixture of graphic manipulation and a dataflow scripting interface, there is a natural convergence of the two generative models. Builds employing SL as a media rely on LSL, the Linden Scripting Language, to complete the deployment of complex space, thus a platform permitting their coming together is a welcome advancement of the buliding/programming environment.

Identity: agent.indvidual.territory

2006.07.25 (Tuesday, July 25)


A) At Paris’ Musée du Quai Branly, a current exposition asks, “What is a body?” The response comes from the world of comparative anthropology, and presumes that :

  1. the body, while perhaps an individual entity, is not, in terms of a society, a private one;
  2. the body is not a finished object, but rather a public fabrication;
  3. one is not alone in his or her body. We are constantly elaborating a relationship with something that is not a part of us and that varies from culture to culture. It is an important differentiating element between cultures and societies, whose differences can be traced to this significant other. [More detail after split]


B) In Second Life (SL), “I” am composed of three distinct mechanisms [taken from the LSLWiki]:

  1. an agent, the “client’s presence within a simulator“;
  2. an avatar, the “visual representation of an agent”; and,
  3. a camera, through which “an agent sees” the world.

These 3 elements permit me to perceive, interact and communicate in the SL spatial, natural and social environments. But taken together, these otherwise local, simple and omni-functioning elements have one essential, global ambition: to represent Me, and to make tangible my POV. It is thanks to the fundemental engagement between agent (individual) and simulator (context), that I exist.


C) In SL, I am not alone inside of my avatar. I share it, like in the anthropological body, with something that is not a part of me. The contemporary body is defined by the tension between its individual limits and its shared, common evolutionary and biological structures (as represented by a strand of DNA). This conflict is played out by man thought the creation of symbolic imagery, projected by his technologies of cultural and communication.
The body in SL is the result of the tension between the individual agent and the world’s simulator; where, if we substitute the term simulator (or sim) with territory, then “I” am defined by the tension between the sensory limits of my SL agent and the territories that I occupy at any given moment. My agent becomes both my reactive and receptive nervous system to capture external stimuli, and my connection to the consensual, communal spaces of this virtual territory. It is this territory (via the simulator) that lets me possess the essential cultural capacities of memory (of ideas and things, shared and individual), media (think, make and do; ideas, material, action) and space (personnel and public). Read the rest of this entry »

Metaverse, the Media

2006.07.21 (Friday, July 21)


Material, spatial and formal structures will evolve that possess qualities unique to metaverse environments. These structures will be employed to fabricate its built environment, its spatial texture and its social potential. Once integrated into the fabric of a specific world, this structure will become the substance of its built environment. From this point on, metaverses’ will no longer have to rely on RL paradigms of representation and fabrication, and can develop a unique visual language, different than, for example, that of video games, cinema, or RL. Even if certain elements in the metaverse resemble RL buildings, cities or suburbs, this will be either a coincidence or a convenience; Metaverse, the media will dominate spatial expression. This emergent structure will become the very substance of its built environment, made possible by a unique creative force, a product of its spatial topology, its physics and its communications. In short, we will see the emergence of the metaverse as a medium of creation, and it will be through this medium that the metaverse will be formed, and will inform.
[click to zoom]

To this end, it is essential to investigate the common, material and (im)material compositional elements employed by all metaverse environments, their global conditions, so that they can be adopted locally, by specific metaverse platforms, so as to apply to their unique physical and social environments. How will we know when this media has evolved and that we are, in fact, using it to build the platforms spaces?

re: Immersion or Augmentation

2006.07.19 (Wednesday, July 19)

The SLCreativity blog frames an important (in)world issue concerning “2 views of Second Life,” immersive vs. augmented. What are the implications for the built environment, as well as for building the environment, in both real life (RL) and Second Life (SL). I’m going to attempt to re-frame the issue by considering it from the perspective of “representing something.”

Augmentation: As far as the augmentation argument is concerned, there are 3 nuances to consider:
a) augmenting RL with SL; and,
b) augmenting SL with RL; but also,
c) enhancing other metaverses with SL.
Maybe this distinction comes from an a priori bias of seeing neither SL or RL in a vacuum, but rather as 2 very intricate pieces of the other’s puzzle. Another bias I have is to consider SL a platform rather than just a game. This somehow necessitates reading usefulness into what we do with it and how we use it. Thus, if we can define SL as an interface, filter or conduit between content & container, between information & its communication, we can begin to understand SL as a part of this framework.

Anyway, deconstructing the plural, reversible nature of the transactions between SL and its’ siblings and cousins, recognizes their common effort to decode and inform the world(s) around them. This being said, the fact remains that metaverses are a specific and unique kind of container because of their dominant expressive material (media) : immersive Space (but I digress, (or do I?)).

Immersion: The idea of immersion in SL being defined as “not be(ing) contaminated by anything from the outside” is misconstrued. As I’m attempting to articulate through my work on this site (a bit laborious, perhaps, but I’ll find a way to be more succinct…) most of SL’s content is conceived by establishing a direct or indirect semantic link between a RL artifact and a SL reference. Thus, in order to access the meaning, atmosphere or usages of a build in SL –its signification, prior knowledge or experience of the RL artifact is necessary. In this scenario, the immersive purity becomes necessarily ruptured by having to access, at the very least, a mental image of the reference, or worse, a Google search, in order to understand what’s going on. In the example below…
can this be an “immersive” or even meaningful experience…

…without this reference?
For total, non “-contaminated” immersion to occur the signification system must turn to SL itself, a self-referential system, and tap into the SL deep structure, to arrive at true immersive expression.

Metaverse Architecture : Intentions

2006.07.18 (Tuesday, July 18)

The blog Metaverse Architecture is where I try to show different builds throughout Second Life (SL) that serve as examples for me to generate, structure and clarify my own thoughts on : a) what it means to have an architectural idea in the metaverse; and, b) how architectural space can be fabricated from (im)materials.

I think that SL is the perfect platform to achieve this. The world’s content is user generated and people take what they do here pretty seriously. Even though most content is built by non –architects, artists, graphist, new-media artists, sculptors, animators etc… there is a substantial and engaged community of people educated and experienced at building; the synergy and interaction between trained-artists-builders and user-builders is fascinating (and merits further study in and of itself). Also, there is a sufficient density and variety of SL built environments to stay busy with this project.

I know from experience that the time, effort and perseverance necessary to build something meaningful is enormous. My intention is not to be critical of the builds, but rather to use them to critically to construct and inspire my proper ideas through their example.

The first project I use is the Hipcast conference and exposition center located on the Shalida sim [direct SL link, or SLurl]. My main goal for this first post is to learn how to show something from Second Life, to someone else in real life (RL). And as I recently found out, this is no small feat. So anyway, I’ll proceed slowly and methodically, and probably come back and do some up-dates until I’m happy with it …

Building in SL, the Polemic

2006.07.14 (Friday, July 14)

There are relatively few builds in SL that “succeed” (in my mind anyway) that aren’t plausible in RL. [Comment by Eloise Pasteur]

…to which I respond –>

I believe the exact opposite: For a build to “succeed” in SL, it is necessarily impossible for it to be plausible in RL.

By asserting a radically opposing view, I was, among other things, using this stance to frame a polemic that calls into question what I perceive to be widely accepted approach to the conception and creation of SL’s built environment through direct real life (RL) reference.

Creating complex spaces in SL by simply establishing a reference between a SL object and a RL semantic code, obfuscates the unique physical, social and (im)material qualities of a 3-dimensional immersive metaverse.
An example of building by semantic reference is using a texture that mimics a brick or stone wall set between wood cross-beams to imply a house from Normandy (or a castle, a chic boutique, a baseball park, a shopping mall, whatever…) By pasting the image of a Norman constructive system to a specific form, size, shape, and proportion, we project a cognitive image of a functional intention… my home, for example. While this may, in fact, say something about the builder’s idea concerning the meaning of a home, it pre-supposes that home in SL is in fact, analogous to home in RL, and that my understanding of the sign, home, is the same as the builder’s. If not, its usage will not be consistent, the message not passed. What I’m advocating is that the meaning of the build, its usage and contextual significance, is induced from formal, atmospheric and socially driven experience with the space, rather than from a semantically referential one.

While reference to RL architecture might work for some people, it begs the question for others : Architecture has always first and foremost offered shelter and security to its human inhabitants by partitioning the exterior, aggressive world by the creation of a safe, interior one, is and always has been, a medium for decoding the world around us. Through its basic, primeval role of defining the world between that which is secure or dangerous, human scale or vast, under control or savage, architecture has been a materialization of the passage from one state to the other, a device from which we could measure the world around us and a filter from which we could safely observe that which lies outside of its material capacity to enclose. Most importantly, this was accomplished using space as its substance. Architecture has always expressed as much about the life of its inhabitants, their ways of life –the interior of the edifice, as it has about their relationship to the world outside those walls –the exterior.

Using semantic references to RL to build in SL does not, by its very essence, allow us to express anything about SL, thus help decode it. What needs to be expressed using the materials at hand, the materials that we invent from being in-world, are its unique physiques, its ability to create community and communication, the forces and the physics of the SL computation engines.

Using a semantic system of historical or RL reference also forces a misreading of the very idea of those references. In the example of the Norman house, the building techniques that were being expressed by the organization of brick and wood cross beams, the unique social and economic situations that inspired the creative or utilitarian forces of a Norman house, its society, culture and the individuals that fabricated it, are perverted. We end up just building more suburbs, with their MacMansions. In short, the idea of context, that which precedes an edifice, is non-existent in this semantic, post-post-modern formula.

While it certainly is possible to use reference systems to convey certain layers of information in SL, I want to exploit a more powerful paradigm of expression in 3-D environments –Space, and, more specifically, the forces, materials and forms that express the location, proportion and usages of complex objects.
Read the rest of this entry »