Thursday, March 4, 2010

Outline of topics

Image: courtesy of Daniel Small

.  Gender
.  Peer-to-peer production
.  Role-play / conflict resolution / grounding the virtual in the local
.  Cities in 3D
.  New exhibition sites: siting cross-cultural art / art prototype and archive / critical landscapes
.  Narrative
.  Language
.  Collaboration

For details on those topics that are only outlined just email me.

Ryan Trecartin's I-BE AREA

Videos at

Check out "Craig-Ricky I-Be the Original I-Be2" whose sound translates well over the net. 'Ryan Trecartin’s videos uncannily reflect his generation, which was raised using the Internet, digital television, and interactive video games. He mixes cheap special effects with absurd narratives in which he and his cast of collaborator-friends act out a sort of Lord of the Flies for the 21st Century. He tells sad love stories and bizarre family dramas utilizing technology to heighten the action and reflect the information overload we all experience today. In his latest work I-BE AREA, 2007, Trecartin weaves together several unruly stories with fast-moving, fast-talking characters that deal with such themes as cloning, adoption, self-mediation, life-style options, virtual identities and larger questions of an existential nature.'

Wafaa Bilal at SFAI on 03.10.10


'Born in Iraq, Wafaa Bilal devises interactive Internet encounters in part to inform audiences around the world about conditions in his native land. In his installation Domestic Tension, he placed himself in front of a paintball gun wired to an interactive Internet platform through which people could shoot at him. His video-game piece Virtual Jihadi was shut down by Renssellaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, less than a day after it opened...' []

Monday, January 19, 2009


The unique way that fiction conflates with reality in SL, due to the choice of many SL designers to mimic FL (this is Philip Rosedale's interest as well [1]),provides opportunities for narratives that comment on FL.

The narratives in SL can be interactive and collaborative: participants in SL are often receptive to being pulled into a discussion or interaction. This opens up the possibility to pull participants into constructed situations, both short ones and longer narratives that involve collaboration or planning. In addition, selected FL narrative forms can be used as starting points for SL narratives and combined with SL medium-specific forms and content. Several of these possibilities are described below.

Video documentary: Daniel Small

Narrative in the form of a video journal or documentary is one of the easiest ways to make SL accessible to FL audiences. A compelling example is Daniel Small's video and photo documentaries. His narratives expose the seamy underbelly of SL, listening in on conversations such as a SL participant saying,"It kind of begs the question in the context of why are there still black people?" (Study of Racialism, context of conversation here)

Image: video still from Anarchist Castle

Surreal narratives emerge when Daniel combines SL's mapping of fictional world onto real world with SL's transgression of real world boundaries. In Opening of World Bank (World Bank in SL) a SL participant spontaneously leapt into the air and executed a prolonged series of graceful arabesques, a trapeze dancer without a trapeze.

Images: video stills from Opening of World Bank

To this surrealistic scenario, Daniel rachets up the degree of wackiness by adding new forms of mischief to already questionable situations in SL, forms that are medium-specific to SL such as flooding the server with requests for objects and slowing it down.

One object is the smiley, turning the ubiquitous internet emoticon on its head into a large, physically-obtrusive 3D object that is used en masse to fill up a SL space and render it temporarily non-functional (see image above). Other objects include bees (see image in the Outline of topics post), explosions (see image above), 2D Richard Simmons (see image on left), a caricature of the flattened, more impoverished vision of reality in SL whose spaces are predominated by suburban sprawl and shopping malls. (Image on left: courtesy of Daniel Small)

Other topics

Topics to be discussed are narratives from constructing metaphorical objects, from situations that engage or provoke, collaborative situations, exquisite corpse games, and narrative installations.

[1] Philip Rosedale. Panel with Chris Bratton and Lynn Hershman on 11.07.08 at SFAI.

David Polonsky on Waltz with Bashir at CCA on 02.25.09

David Polonsky, co-director of Waltz with Bashir: A Lebanon War Story, will talk at CCA on 02.25.09 ( Waltz with Bashir is described as 'an acid trip - an Alice in Wonderlandish dream for a post-9/11 world where war is a constant' (


Joseph DeLappe's dead-in-iraq

Joseph DeLappe will be giving a talk at ATC in UC Berkeley on 02.09.2009.


He created “dead-in-iraq” to 'intervene in the highly popular, taxpayer funded “First Person Shooter” game produced by the Defense Department as a recruiting and marketing tool. DeLappe enters the America’s Army game with the moniker, “dead-in-iraq”, drops his weapon and in the ensuing virtual mayhem, is killed; hovering over his dead avatar he proceeds to type the name, age, service branch and date of death of each American military casualty from the war in Iraq. In this ongoing act of “memorial and protest” he has, to date, logged in over 4,000 names of the 4,221 reported killed.' (

In the documentary Why We Fight, Karen Kwiatkowski, retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, said, "I have two sons and I will allow none of my children to serve in the United States Military. If you join the military now you are not defending the United States of America, you are helping certain policy makers pursue an imperial agenda." (

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Computer game that teaches nonviolent strategy


The Game of Nonviolent Strategy

Can a computer game help people learn how to defeat dictators, military occupiers, and corrupt rulers–not with laser rays and AK47s–but with a non-military strategy and nonviolent weapons?

The Game of Nonviolent Strategy is an interactive teaching tool in the field of nonviolent conflict. Developed by The International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), media firm York Zimmerman Inc. and game designers at BreakAway Ltd., the game is built on nonviolent strategies and tactics used successfully in conflicts around the world.

Featuring ten scenarios inspired by history, A Force More Powerful simulates nonviolent struggles to win freedom and secure human rights against dictators, occupiers, colonizers, and corrupt regimes, as well as campaigns for political and human rights for minorities and women. The game models real-world experience, allowing players to devise strategies, apply tactics and see the results.

Nonviolent conflict is a way for ordinary people to fight for their rights using disruptive actions such as strikes, boycotts and mass protests. As people are mobilized to take action and withdraw their cooperation from the oppressor, the balance of power is shifted democratically to the people. In the last 33 years, nonviolent civic resistance has played a critical role in 50 of 67 transitions from authoritarianism.

AFMP is designed for people who want to use nonviolent action in their own struggles for rights and freedom. The game will also serve as a valuable simulation model for academic studies of nonviolent resistance, as well as an educational tool for civil society groups and anyone who wants to learn more about the power and strategic use of nonviolent action.

AFMP is a single-player, turn-based game in which the player takes on the role of chief strategist in a nonviolent movement against the opponent in one of ten pre-packaged scenarios. As the player takes charge of the movement’s materials and human resources, recruits new members and builds alliances, the player also learns the value of strategic planning, and the careful formulation of goals and tactics. The adversary is controlled by the game’s artificial intelligence.

Complex models of social interaction make up the game engine, incorporating political and economic factors, ethnicity, religion, media and communications, and resource availability, among others. A special game feature allows users to create custom scenarios, using the specific details of their own situations.

Related material:

filmsA Force More Powerful and Bringing Down a Dictator–films
bookA Force More Powerful
resources — on nonviolent strategies and methods

Serious games

Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung writes about "serious games" on

'As the Economist Magazine noted in 2004, the video game industry has surpassed and continues to generate more revenue than Hollywood and the film industry. This shift in cultural lifestyle and entertainment has created an arena and demand for video games not played merely for leisure. Educational, informational, and instructional video games, also called Serious Games, have emerged as tools for the public to understand and learn about important social, political and environmental issues.

Gas Zappers is a series of online games to approach climate change from a video game format available to the general public. Similar games have been very successful in addressing controversial and sensitive subjects such as McDonald’s Video Game, A Force More Powerful, mtvU’s Darfur Is Dying and the UN World Food Program’s Food Force. These Serious Games illustrate the importance of a “new” language which video games are able to communicate on a international level.'

Kenneth has an informative blog on these computer games:

Role-play / Conflict resolution / Grounding the virtual in the local

Images: From

Warren Sack, after his talk at SFAI on 11.19.08, mentioned that in the excitement over the ability to overcome some limitations of space and time on the internet, people tend to overlook the community-building of the local: grounding a virtual space in the local offers many opportunities for people to connect, over stakes in the neighborhood, common interests, transactions. Craig's List is a good example.

The local can apply not only to space, such as the neighborhood or city, but also time, such as an event or workshop.

Here's an idea for an application that is grounded by participation in a workshop.

Problem: Mideast teen peace workshops produce few results

This article from SFGate describes how Mideast teen peace workshops produce fews and gives several possible reasons for its ineffectiveness: Each year Palestinian and Israeli NGOs bring hundreds of Palestinian and Israeli teenagers together to forge personal ties that they hope will lay the groundwork for future peace. Between 1993 and 2000, Western governments and foundations spent $20 - $25 million on dialogue groups. But the programs have failed to produce a single prominent peace activist on either side. And now the first wide-scale survey of Palestinians involved in these peace programs found that over 90 percent said that they were no longer in contact with any Israelis that they had met through the program, nor was there any follow-up to camp activity that they had participated in. (

Use SL and the social media classroom to follow up and maintain contact

The idea is to set up a space in SL for participants who met during the workshop, to continue to engage with each other afterwards. During the school year and during breaks, organize simple projects that involve learning and use the tools of the social media classroom to keep the Palestinian and Israeli teenagers in touch and engaged. Over a longer break, such as summer, organize SL camps situated locally to bring participants back together for more sustained interactions. Both SL and the social media classroom can be used to work around the issues of distance and cost in this particular case — the bigger issue underlying these interventions is political borders.

Related link: Arava Institute for Environmental Studies (recommended by Natasha Loewy)

SL application: role-play and dramatize conflict and peer mediation

Exploring avatar roles in SL is a good fit for teenagers. Teeagers are "actively engaging in identity production as they turn from their parents to their peers as their primary influencers and group dynamics take hold" (Danah Boyd, "Identity Production in a Networked Culture: Why Youth Heart MySpace," Teens, especially minorities, are interested in seeing themselves represented on screen.

An idea for a final project for summer camp: Have the teenagers come up with skits that dramatize the conflict (act 1) and peer mediation (act 2) that they would perform in SL, to be videotaped and shown in a museum setting. Peer mediation is described in the next section. The Palestinian teenagers would role-play a panel of Israeli teenagers in an Israeli neighborhood, and vice versa. Each Palestinian teenager would pair up with several Israeli teenagers to help research and prepare for the role, and vice versa.

There are many other possibilities for SL projects and activities. The key is to engage the teenagers' imagination and interest. Just as art has the ability to infiltrate places not normally open to more explicitly didactic forms by posing as entertainment, activities on SL can maintain and build on the relationships started in the initial workshop, by offering benefits such as conflict resolution and interpersonal skills, and computer skills that could lead to more future jobs. Computer graphics, having both aesthetic and logical dimensions, can appeal to all sexes. Teenagers also take to communicating and socializing on the internet readily.

Peer mediation: what is it?

Peer mediation is taught by organizations such as Community Boards(CB) in San Francisco to both children in schools and adults. Each panel is made up of three people who help to mediate between two parties whose communication has broken down and can no longer work together to resolve their conflict. The idea is that once you can see things from each other's points of view and start to unobjectify each other, it becomes easier and less agitated to talk about the problem. (An analogy for artists: this is the state when you no longer want any positive feedback on your work and want only constructive criticism to take your work to the next level. You are secure and want only suggestions to change.) It is only at this point, after participants feel understood by the other party, that they are ready to brainstorm and collaborate to find a solution that is beneficial to both.

When the Dalai Lama was asked, "What is your outlook on the middle east? Is there some hope for the future there?" he said, "Too much emotions...too much negative emotions. Frustrations...hatred...anger... I think that's the greatest obstacle. So I think as a first step, this should be cooled down...reduced. Forget these things. I think for the time being, more festivals, more picnics -- let them forget these difficult things, these emotions -- and make personal friend. Then start to talk about these serious matters." (10 Questions for the Dalai Lama)

Peer mediation on SL and the net

Warren Sack mentioned (after his talk at SFAI on 11.19.08) that on the net, the Left and the Right only talk amongst themselves and seldom to each other in a productive way. This problem is less severe in newsgroups, as they are more peer-to-peer and less centralized than blogs which are controlled by blog managers. His piece Agonistics (see the entry below) tries to encourage more cooperative, less antagonistic discussions on the net by rewarding people who use keywords that are later taken up by others.

A mediator and software engineer, Ken White, goes one step further to suggest that it would be a good idea to teach people how to do peer mediation on the net. But can a mediation be done online because of the lack of facial expressions and other nonverbal cues? He pointed out that people online get into flame wars and thus it would be helpful for them to learn how to communicate better.

  Image: Community Boards

Article about CB:
CB web site:

Warren Sack's Agonistics: A Language Game

Warren Sack gave a talk at the Design and Technology Salon: Design Strategies and Conflict Resolution at SFAI on 11.19.08. He talked about his project Agonistics: A Language Game.

The image is from Warren's project site:

This page has a link to his article "The Aesthetics of Information Visualization":

Description of Agonistics: A Language Game (from Warren's project site):

'The images and actions used as metaphors by Chantal Mouffe and other theorists of "agonistic democracy" can be instantiated as interactive, graphical objects and dynamics. This "literal" instantiation will then be a computer game that can played by posting messages to a public, online discussion forum.

Argument is war. In their book Metaphors We Live By, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson explain how this is metaphorically true. The language we use to talk about arguments is a language of war. We "attack" our opponents positions and "defend" our own. We "shoot down" opposing arguments. We say that claims are "defensible" or "indefensible." We talk of "winning" and "losing" arguments. In arguing we have "tactics" and "strategies." We are "on target" or "off target" in our criticisms. We "gain ground" or "lose ground." In fact, it is not simply that we talk about arguments like this, this is what we do. Lakoff and Johnson ask us to consider a culture in which arguments are not conceptualized as verbal warfare, but as collaborative dances: participants are not opponents but partners and each counter-move is a balanced, graceful response. That would be a very different world.

Of course the latter is not an alien idea. Philosophers have long distinguished the constructive, cooperative art of conversation (dialectics) from verbal combat (rhetoric). However, the problem has often been that -- when the cool reason of conversation comes in contact with the heated emotion of argumentation -- rhetoric melts dialectic and we get a shouting match rather than a reasoned debate. What can be done?

There is an argument about arguments and it has at least two sides. On one side, the advice given is of a moral quality: To allow reason to prevail over rage, calm everyone down. Make everyone follow the rules of calm and reasonable conversation and disallow the shouts and unruly outbursts of the arguing parties. The other side is neither moral nor immoral but opportunistic. This side is usually the one politicians listen to when they are running for office or ruling a state. The other side starts with the assumption that any verbal interaction will eventually become a shouting match so the best preparation is voice training and acting lessons, so that -- when the transition to shouting is at hand -- one can shout loud enough to make one's emotional appeal. The former is the utopian, Enlightenment ideal of reasoned debate, rational politics, democracy and verbal diplomacy; the latter is our world, the world of image, charisma, negative advertising, power politics, and war.

But, if we want deliberative debate, democracy and diplomacy, how do we get from here to there? Political philosophers have been arguing about arguing for a long time. Even though the most of this territory is occupied by the two sides described above, a third "camp" is emerging. (Hmm. There's that metaphor again!) The third camp tries to break up the fight between the moral conversationalists and the political rhetoricians by attempting to get everyone off the battlefield and to reconsider the shape and forms of the field of engagement. Lakoff and Johnson do this by making us examine the language we use to describe what we are doing when we argue. Political theorists like Chantal Mouffe provide us with alternatives by pointing out that -- even if argument is war -- war is just one form (although a deadly form) of contest between adversaries. Mouffe's alternative to a utopic, moral, deliberative democracy is -- what she calls -- an "agonistic pluralism" where agon is understood as the ancient Greek term denoting "A public celebration of games; a contest for the prize at those games; or, a verbal contest or dispute between two characters in a Greek play" (OED).

Political theorists, like Mouffe, interested in the democratic potential of agonistic contests, oftentimes recast deliberative discussion as a language game -- in the sense invented by Ludwig Wittgenstein. Moreover, this reimagining of politics leans heavily on Friedrich Nietzsche's understanding of agonistics and ancient Greek philosophy. A close look at the writings of this set of political theorists (which must also include Jean-Francois Lyotard, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, and Bruno Latour) rewards one with the following insight: just as Lakoff and Johnson show how everyday thinking about arguments draws on a set of metaphorical images and actions, so do these theorists assume a different set of metaphorical images and actions to describe verbal contests -- specifically, game like images and actions. Neither are these images and actions the moral frameworks of, for example, Jurgen Habermas and other moralists hoping for perfect conditions for communicative interaction. Nor, are these images and actions the violent ones implied by the commonsense metaphor "argument is war."

What then are these images and actions? Two sorts of evidence can be gathered from a close reading of these theorists. One sort of evidence is articulated in the form of broad outlines or "sketches" for envisioning such a game. Chantal Mouffe provides an example of such a "sketch" in her article entitled "Deliberative Democracy or Agonistic Pluralism?": "pluralist politics should be envisaged as a 'mixed-game', i.e., in part collaborative and in part conflictual and not as a wholly co-operative game as most liberal pluralists would have it." More specific, detailed, "diagrammatic" evidence comes from theorists who provide us with, what Gilles Deleuze calls, "thought images." One such influential thought images is that coined by Deleuze and Guattari to describe non-hierarchical forms of knowledge and power; i.e., the rhizome. As demonstrated by online forums, like, such a thought image can influence an extensive information architecture. However, even more substantial than these verbal descriptions are the graphically rendered diagrams that are sometimes ventured by theorists like Bruno Latour in his book Science in Action, a Nietzschean look at the agonistic dynamics of presumably democratic, scientific debate and controversy. Mouffe, Deleuze, Latour and others have provided us with a reimagining of democratic debate as a contest to link, unlink, build and dissolve assemblages of people and things.'

Howard Rheingold's Social Media Classroom

Howard Rheingold, author of Smart Mobs, gave a talk at CCA on 12.02.08 and spoke on his recent project, social media tools for classroom use:

"An early member of the Well (one of the first virtual communities), Rheingold went on in the mid-1990s to cofound the groundbreaking Web communities HotWired and Electric Minds. He served as editor of the Whole Earth Review and editor in chief of the Millennium Whole Earth Catalog. His many books include Virtual Reality, chronicling his odyssey through the world of artificial experience. Now active in Second Life, he teaches (at the University of California at Berkeley, Stanford University, and elsewhere), writes, and consults on social networking." (

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cities in 3D

I am asked to be a spy among the sharks
so I buy a suit and practice in the mirror
I swing my body from side to side 
until my movement becomes streamlined
I learn to breathe in water and live on sardines
Naturally they love me

In time I meet my spouse and have a couple shark-like kids

When finally I am called home again I start my report
"We have much to learn from the sharks"
but by then my words are no longer in any language they can understand
no matter how hard I try to explain

(Adapted from "A Spy" by James Krusoe from Jungle Girl)

Why have roads when you can fly or breathe underwater? Free our cities from 2D flatland. The area where you live may look like this.


That is, if we still live in houses. Underwater is less familiar and offers a bigger space for our imagination.


Shark avatars

A wider range of shark avatars will be available for people to inhabit and role-play. Participants can choose to be a hammerhead, a great white, a blacktip, a whale shark, among others. The role of a shark is to befriend other animals including humans, teach them to swim, and be a guide to the underwater world. In preparing to role-play sharks, participants go through an orientation where they learn to swim proficiently. They also learn the characteristics of the species of shark that they want to role-play. This scenario in SL tries to counter the fear-mongering media portrayal of sharks and teach people that the majority of sharks (356 out of 360 species) are harmless.

Finning of sharks

To counter the media portrayal of sharks and alert people about the finning of sharks, Rob Stewart made the documentary Sharkwater: A large number of sharks are killed for their fins. Many times a shark is dragged onto a boat, its fins cut off as it struggles, then tossed back into the ocean while still alive. Not only is this practice cruel, it is wasteful (over 99 percent of the shark is wasted). Finning of sharks is illegal in most countries, but authorities ignore many illegal shark-finning operations as they bring in millions of dollars. Each year approximately 100 million sharks are killed for their fins. Nearly 90 % of the world's shark populations has been wiped out from finning and our fear of sharks. (

One strategy to counter this is to boycott restaurants that serve shark's fin and to tell them about it. Another strategy is to change the public perception of sharks as man-eating super-predators. (Thanks Jaws... I keep hoping that someone would make a movie similar to Blood Diamonds that would have as big an impact on changing the public perception of sharks as Blood Diamonds had for diamonds.) Sharks do not eat people. People splashing on the surface of the water look like injured animals that some sharks eat, and when the sharks bite the people, they realize their mistake and let go.

Deborah Peterson wrote, "In testament to how friendly some sharks may be to human advance, yours truly actually braved the shallow waters to hug a shark once ... What I found most surprising was the texture of the shark's skin which was rough to the touch, with a very firm body -- not fat, blubbery or slippery as I had imagined. The shark seemed to take my advance to pick it up without a hint of struggle or fear of humankind, in a sense, showing a trust." (


Jordan, blogger at Superforest, wrote "consider it next time you're in the ocean. That shark you so fear... is probably more afraid of you." (


Monday, December 1, 2008

Alex Rivera's The Sleep Dealer

Alex Rivera, digital media artist and filmmaker based in New York, gave a talk at SFAI on 11.18.08. He has just made a science fiction satire on immigration and globalization about a migrant worker telecommuting via virtual reality, to be released in theaters in 2009. Can't wait to see it... It's a concept he started exploring in Why Cybraceros. Also check out his videos Dia De La Independence and The Borders Trilogy. (Thanks Chris, for introducing Alex's works to us.)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Peer-to-peer production

Here are three cancer spots:
You can take your pick, but everyone
Wants skin.
My friend, last night I walked outside
And watched the stars do nothing at all unusual.
Ask anyone:
Describe the stars.
That's exactly how they looked.
And even
If I dressed them up as children,
Gave them wagons, cakes, and birthday boots,
Then broke their fingers one by one until they said
It's only you they shine for,
I know what you'd want:
You'd want more.

(Excerpts from James Krusoe's poem "You Want More" in History of the World)

Type of activities

In SL, you don't need to eat, don't need to sleep. There's nothing you need to do. What type of activities would you engage in?

Currently people use SL mainly to manufacture desires and fulfill them. These desires are, mentioned by Philip Rosedale at his talk at SFAI, a big house, a Ferrari, to look like Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt...

Rather than constructing our identities via commodities and appearance enhancements, why not use SL to explore and model problems in real life to try to solve them? The most fun way to solve problems is collaboratively and SL provides a platform to do so.

Contrary to the belief that if values are left open (undefined) and the architecture and structures are left open (unconstrained), then society (SL) would self-order to be directed towards useful applications, promote innovation, and provide experiences that are exciting, thought-provoking and fulfilling, this is not the case as the main activity in SL is vapid consumerism. If we want certain values, goals, objectives for SL, we have to first define them explicitly, and then build the architecture, structure, and user interfaces to materialize them. (This is an application of Lessig's proposition for cyberspace to SL.

If some of these goals are to encourage widespread participation, to remove language barriers in order to promote communication and understanding in a transnational virtual world, and to explore and understand real world problems rather than consumerist fantasies, then put in the structures to enable them. Currently, these goals have not materialized: only a small portion of people continue to stay in SL after trying it out, providing seamless translations of languages across different countries and cultures is not a priority (even though this is a potential of SL that is stated by Philip Rosedale at his SFAI talk) and translators are not provided by default but need to be purchased. and the main activity in SL is shopping.


In Maneki Neko, a short story by Bruce Sterling, people carry a handheld wireless device similar to the iphone to organize, manage, and communicate work that needs to be done. The network keeps track of the tasks, and the interest and skills of participants, in order to assign the tasks to the appropriate participants. (

This is trivial to do in SL. Instead of assigning tasks as in Maneki Neko, participants pick whatever they want to work on. When a participant enters SL, s/he can open a window to see what tasks need help on, what avatar roles s/he can fill. This solves some of the current problems in SL: feeling purposeless, not having fulfilling experiences, going to a lot of empty places and not finding many people to talk to.

Avatar-roles may include animals, such as sharks, actors in an installation or play (to be described in the Narrative section) or roles that do not need a body (frees up attention to focus on the task, to be described in the Representation section). Trainers are on hand to teach participants who are interested in helping with any avatar role. Afterwards, the participant can herself/himself be a trainer.

The aim of peer production and processes is to encourage the most widespread participation. (Michel Bauwens writes about peer production in "The Political Economy of Peer Production,"

With immaterial production in the information environment, such as SL, Yochai Benkler writes that people will “apply behaviors they practice in their living rooms or in the elevators – ‘Here, let me lend you a hand,’ or ‘What did you think of last night’s speech’ – to production problems that had, throughout the twentieth century, been solved on the model of Ford and General Motors. The rise of peer production … is as rational and efficient given the objectives and material conditions of information production at the turn of the twenty-first century as the assembly line was for the conditions at the turn of the twentieth. The pooling of human creativity and of computation, communication, and storage enables nonmarket motivations and relations to play a much larger role in the production of the information environment than it has been able to for at least decades, perhaps for as long as a century and a half.” (

Appreciation, reward:  Participants send each other thank-you messages which are listed in the profile. Participants also award each other points for useful work, friendly behavior, artistic/original ideas that undermine the status quo. These structures are put in place to encourage and reenforce desired behavior — many online social sites already use this method effectively. They also make the participants feel appreciated for their efforts, an alternative to monetary reward.

A balance has to be struck between showing appreciation and encouraging participants to do a task in order to collect points and build up their status/self image. If this is done successfully, it would build a sense of community and encourage collaboration.

Some services should be paid &mdash services that are in need, that take a lot of effort to accomplish, and require monetary compensation in order to be available. A structure would be set in place to do this. A possible scenario: people who would like monetary payment indicate that in the database, and donations would be directed towards work that have been voted the most useful. People can also donate directly to a particular service, or commission or pay for work, in addition to donating to a general fund.

Research and knowledge production

What better place to collaborate and discuss how to solve FL problems in SL, than the social, collaborative environment of SL? This can be done both in SL, and outside on easily accessible web browsers. Discussions may revolve around:
What type of FL problems can be effectively and creatively addressed in SL? (E.g. gender identity and representation is a good match.)
Defining the FL problem — what aspect can be studied and achieved in SL?
Modeling the problem in SL, including communication structures that would be useful for collaboration.


What is unique to Second Life (SL), compared to other web social and collaborative spaces, is that participants represent themselves in the form of a 3D avatar that they create. This makes SL an ideal social space to explore gender identity and representation -- how changing one's representation in turn changes how one is perceived and treated by other people, and thus one's subjectivity.

The current user interface of SL turns it into a Malibu-land of Kens and Barbies. The first thing I am confronted with is the choice of two gender types, either female or male, and I have to choose one in order to proceed, and a list of starting looks which reenforce the female/male binary. Instead of pushing this binary to its polar extreme, why not build on the progress that has been made in gender studies over the past half century?

Why not have the default starting gender to be intersex, to be both female and male. Afterwards participants can change to one gender or the other, or varying degrees of both, and later, change again. This can be presented as an empowerment. Present a society where to be intersex is normative, and perceived to be positive instead of negative. Reenforce desired behavior. Online social spaces already do this effectively by putting in place structures of reward -- awarding points or listing messages such as compliments in each participant's profile. Make it hip to have looks and behaviors that are creative and original expressions against the binary female/male looks. This is not difficult to do especially if presented well: in FL we already tend to adopt the goals of people around us.

Because intersex is the starting gender, it will predominate, in the way that female and male predominate now. Doing so will not only put the issue of gender on the table, but interestingly, at the same time, explore subjectivity when biological gender is no longer a factor.

Just as in a fiction, SL can put participants into a society and culture where participants have to figure out what is going on and how things work, and in so doing, experience new ways of seeing, understanding, and interacting. "Since all of us as children are in this situation," Ursula Le Guin said, "it is a relatively interesting and relevant one." She explored the idea of an intersex society in The Left Hand of Darkness. The characters are sequentially intersex: for 24 days out of 26 of the lunar cycle, they are sexually latent, and for the remaining 2 days are female or male.

Gender identity would also be a good area for collaborative research and knowledge generation in SL, to have people discuss and share their observations and analysis.

Tony De Lucci's SL project

"Tony De Lucci’s project will explore the roles of gendered identities. The current proposal includes producing an appropriation of Vanessa Beecroft’s performance VB46 in Second Life. The installation, however, would celebrate differences in gendered identities made possible through the use of alternative avatars. The viewer would log on as a ‘gender neutral’ avatar to explore the performance installation on line. Users in Second Life would similarly be able to view and engage with the performance." (Proposal for Diego Gallery compiled by Krista Lynes)


Tony has a blog Third Gender - Second Life describing his experiences in SL creating this performance. Below are several images from his photo-journal.

Images: Links to

Related readings:

Julia Steinmetz et al, "Behind Enemy Lines: Toxic Titties Infiltrate Vanessa Beecroft," Journal of Women in Culture & Society 31:3. University of Chicago Press, 2006.
Therese Gelais, "Vanessa Beecroft: In Search of Lost Bodies, or, On the Mechanics of Bodies" Parachute 112. HighBeam Research, 2003.

Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung's Gas Zappers at BAM (10.22.08-02.08.09)

'Gas Zappers, by artist Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung, is an interactive online art game that tackles global warming. Hung is among the contemporary artists and educators who have adopted video games as a new platform for social debate and aesthetic experience by developing “serious games.” In Gas Zappers, the idiom of the video game is exploited to challenge and illuminate the simplistic notion of quick fixes to environmental issues.

Like much of the artist’s work, Gas Zappers is visually frenetic and colorful, referencing numerous popular and political sources. The animation style of Gas Zappers reinforces and goes beyond the game’s subject of global warming, caricaturing the exasperating and vulgar noise of the political media engine itself.'

(From BAM web site by Richard Rinehart)

Kenneth's Gas Zappers web site includes a video and a blog with many interesting links.

Lynn Hershman Leeson's Life² at SFMOMA (11.08.08-02.08.09)


'Explore Lynn Hershman Leeson’s animated archive of past projects, reworked in the virtual world of Second Life, and interact with other avatars in this dynamic environment. Also available is information on Lifeⁿ, a yearlong Bay Area exhibition series on Hershman Leeson’s work.'

Life², 2006–present (access this address from Second Life application)

Lifeⁿ, 2008–9

(From SFMOMA web site)

Related links:,
More pics at

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Adam Nash, Ways to Wave
Etopia eco-village
Second Front performances

Jonathan Cohen, "Second Life: A Failed Experiment"
Michel Bauwens, "A cultural critique of Second Life"

Jennifer Gonzales, "The Appended Subject: Race and Identity as Digital Assemblage," Race and Cyberspace (recommended by Krista Lynes)
Martti Lahti, "As We Become Machines: Corporealized Pleasures in Video Games," The Video Game Theory Reader (recommended by Chris Bratton)

More links
Leigh Blackall, "Sustainability and Second Life as a Design Tool"
Funny article about cyber-affairs


all around you is construct—
cybernetic animals wearing fashionable genes, and birds
that fly with the gravity and grace of a computer simulation
are turning to flesh that tastes like museli.

—excerpts paraphrased from John Kinsella's poem "The Savagery of Birds"

The Second Life 2.0 blog is for exchanging artistic ideas about Second Life. You are welcome to contribute ideas, critiques, feedback to the blog — just email me for a blog invite.

One of the most exciting potential of Second Life is to imagine how to do things differently or better than First Life, and to set up models or scenarios to try it out. Small experiments rather than a top-down totalistic vision of utopia... Currently most of the worlds created are claustrophobically predictable, and imitate a flattened version of First Life in an unimaginative way.

Think of the possibilities... in Second Life you can: be anything, do anything, create any world, create any type of society. A different type of economy or money-form... non-binary gender types... cities in the sky or underwater. Fiction writers, filmmakers and animators have done much more.

Let's come up with some ideas for what can be done with Second Life. Second Life is a remarkable creation and currently it has not lived up to its potential. Since everything is a social construction why not construct social conventions and structures in Second Life that will result in effects and consequences that we like? By immersing participants in a society and culture in Second Life where we have to figure out what is going on and how things work, we can come up with new ways of seeing, relating, and getting things done that will poeticize and improve First Life.

Philip Rosedale gave a talk at SFAI on 11.07.08 which inspired this blog.