Birthday Bits #3

stationLast post for now on SL12B, since the entertainment schedules have come to an end, the great stages have fallen silent and all those who made it through the after-party are now making their way homeward, bleary-eyed and somewhat the worse for wear.

It was fab… but it’s not over yet!

Even though the entertainment is over, the builds will stay up and open until 4th July and, in many ways, the next few days are the ideal opportunity to go exploring, particularly if you’ve not had the time yet, or the demands of full sims and crowded regions have scuppered your computer up until now. The second week is much less demanding in every way – lag peters off, things rez so much more quickly, the queues for the toilets have gone, and you have the chance to grab some great pictures too – especially on the vacant stages, where you can pretend to be a superstar DJ when nobody’s looking!

There’s still an awful lot to see too – all those builds you missed out on the first few times around; there’s the Time Capsules too, (oh how I wish I could get my grubby hands on the contents of those babies… I’d be in SL historic bliss!). Maybe you’ll want to check out the various art installations commissioned for the celebration, or have another bash at the SLBig Hunt, or perhaps you fancy taking it easy and jumping on one of the pod tours and take a look around from the comfort of a plushly upholstered personal conveyance? There are still lots of things you may have missed, small details such as the SL12B roads… each named after master science fiction writers.

Then again, you may not be interested in the small details and instead want to think BIG, in which case, you might just want to make your way along to my absolute favourite bit of this year’s celebration which I’ve purposely left until the end, even though it’s really the start…

station5_001Hat’s off to Faust Steamer, who came up with the awesome Welcome Area: A deceptively simple leafy clearing that cleverly contrives to hide both the wider vista of SL12B from the arriving guest’s inquisitive eyes, and the magnificent creation that lies just beyond, down a long, dimly lit stone stairway, culminating in the dramatic and eerie Railway Station.

There is something synonymous with trains and SL for me – I’ve spent many happy hours trundling the tracks of the SLRR, and several of my own builds have incorporated railways or trains in some form or other, I even run my own little branch line around Nowhere Land, with its own station. Trains have also regularly featured, in various incarnations, as part of the birthday celebrations too and I’ve always been impressed by the quality of workmanship that goes into them. This year, however, has blown my virtual socks off!

station19_001You descend the stairs to enter into a dark and brooding world; you can feel the impatience in the air – but it’s not the interminable wait of anxious passengers, as they hope for the arrival of their long-delayed train… rather, it is the dreadful and and unwholesome impatience of an express that longs to tear free of its constraining tracks and burst into the night, dragging its carriages protesting behind it. Come close to the engine and, amongst the hiss of steam and throb of pistons, you’ll hear it muttering and grumbling in agitation at the delay. For this is no ordinary locomotive: This is a beast… just daring you to book a reservation!

station26_001It is builds like this that inspire me and confirm, without a shadow of doubt, that SL designers are capable of truly amazing creations, and that – in a nutshell – is what SLB is all about: This amazing virtual world, and the people who’ve made it what it is over the course of these last 12 years.

So, if you’ve still not paid a birthday visit, now’s your chance – the clock is ticking, and soon it will all be packed away and it’ll be time to start planning the next one.

I can’t wait!

station25_001

s. x

Ninety tons of thunder
Lighting up the sky
Steaming red hot pistons
See the wheels flash by
Saxon – Princess Of The Night

 

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Birthday Bits #2

0ff9e17758a63d1a91276243ca6583d6If ever there was a blog post that was past its ‘best before’ date, this is it; but, as you know, I’ve been away, life has been busy and time short, blah, blah, blah.

However, all is not lost – there is still time, and nothing to stop you making the most of it. I’m talking about getting on down and experiencing some of the entertainment being laid on at the SL12B stages, which still gives you something like three to four day’s worth of music, mayhem and discussion to immerse yourself in before the scheduled birthday events come to a close on Sunday.

dazzle1_001Whilst the exhibits are a showcase for the creators, artists and organisations of SL, there’s more to both our virtual world and its birthday celebration than just these. I tend to think of SLB in terms of a big festival – minus the mud, tents and terrible toilets – and the main stages are the places to go to catch that festival atmosphere. The range of entertainment is astonishing: In just under an hour yesterday, I visited all the stages, where live performances, thumping beats, Italian opera, some sort of tribal gathering, a discussion on building and bizzarely, a gospel dance troupe dressed in feathers and sequins were all represented, (never had I imagined I’d ever hear the phrase “Why not TP your friends to receive God’s blessing”… but this is SL!).

DJ stage5_001Dropping in to the stages is a great way to expose yourself to something new – you may think you know every genre of music there is, but I’ve been surprised more than a few times by things I’ve heard played at SL birthdays. There are some great live SL artists too, whom you might never come across in the normal course of your inworld travels, and if music and dancing isn’t your thing, you can always drop in to the auditorium – or rather, The Dreamitariam, where you have the opportunity to meet the Lindens, enjoy a spot of poetry, laugh along at stand-up comedy, appreciate drama and ballet and get behind the skin of designers and artists… the programme of events is huge!

livestage1_001The stages at SLB are a treat in themselves – like the iconic Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury – they are far more than just a platform for the artists: They are, in themselves, works of art and there’s no doubt that they lend an enormous sense of occasion and a unique feeling to any performance. Toady Nakamura, of Grendel’s Children, has a distinctive style that is instantly recognisable the moment you set eyes upon his design for the Live Stage, and it’s a real joy to explore, as well as being an amazing venue to see an artist perform. Toady’s Ad Astra Stage from two years ago remains possibly my favourite build ever in SL, and this year’s is pretty damn good too!

DJ stage8_001If techno/rave is more your style, you really do need to head over to the DJ Stage. Kazuhiro Aridian’s design is a futuristic, organic, Giger-esque, ‘something’ – what exactly, I’m not entirely sure, but it provides a perfect environment for high-octane, industrial, cyber-punk rhythms and sounds, and there’s something quite other-worldly about it, especially when the dancefloor is crowded with a host of avatars that wouldn’t look out of place at Mos Eisley Spaceport!

Dazzlestage1_001If the feeling of being trapped inside an alien being, whilst having your eardrums assaulted from all sides, is a bit too much for you why not head off to the more tranquil surroundings of Cube Republic’s Ixtlan Stage? Here you can relax and unwind in a beautiful, earthy hollow, comfortably seated on an old fallen log around a crackling camp fire, and if you fancy stretching your legs there are – quite literally – some hidden gems to be found in the caves and passageways underlying the stage. Well worth the exploring.

Finally, you can’t fail to miss the enormous, and completely stunning Cake Stage, created by Mikati Slade, whom I had the pleasure of speaking to a couple of years back, when her cake stage for SL9B blew me away. This year it’s bigger, better and pinker than ever, utterly crazy in fact, but I love it. It quite literally is the centre-piece to the whole birthday celebration, and you’re going to want to ramp your draw distance as high as you dare in order to drink in all its sugary goodness!

cakestage21_001

So, music, dance, fun and frolics, as well as eye-popping surroundings – if you haven’t yet made it to SL12B, then now’s the time to head off and sample the delights of the stages before it’s too late and they fall silent for another year.

Go on… you know you want to!

s. x

It’s in the world I become
Content in the hum
Between voice and drum
Faithless – God Is A DJ

 

Posted in Musicality, SL, SL12B, Tour Guide | Leave a comment

Birthday Bits #1

christopher-bailey-quote-its-a-big-celebration-but-i-wanted-to-workFresh from my sojourn in the wilds of the countryside, I’ve returned to plunge headfirst into the unreality of SL – specifically, the birthday celebrations at SL12B.

In previous years I’ve tried to give you a flavour of the event in various ways, most of which involved an inordinate amount of trekking around the sims, and taking countless screen shots, whilst waiting an age at each exhibit for all the textures to rez. Not so this year… Experience has taught me that there is only one way to truly grasp an event of this scale: Like Woodstock, Live Aid and ‘Nam, you had to be there!

And you should go, really.

electrify31_001Having said all that, I’m going to dip in and out of what’s happening, give you a few teasers, and generally share my own overview of what’s going down at the party.

To begin with, I may be imagining it, but SL12B seems to me to be better attended than in previous years. Whether this is indeed true, or is simply a result of squeezing the usual amount of people into a slightly more compact group of regions makes little odds, the end result is the same… In crowded areas you will experience lag, and lots of it. That’s not to say you won’t be able to get around, but at times it can be somewhat frustrating. Careful navigation, utilising your map to the full can help you avoid the lag blackspots and make things a lot more tolerable. You can always go back later – the second week is generally a lot quieter and easier to navigate.

impressive116_001The best philosophy is to take your time – it quite definitely is going to take a lot longer to explore than you think – and that’s nothing to do with the lag. You will want to explore a large number of the exhibits you see, simply walking past them isn’t going to satisfy. Many are intricate, with hidden secrets, multiple levels and have a host of things to fiddle with. Enjoy taking the time to look around and don’t try to see everything in one go.

wonderous31_001As for the exhibits themselves, there’s going to be something to appeal to everyone, from arty farty to downright prosaic and utilitarian. The builds are as diverse as SL itself, representing everything from real world interest groups to individual flights of fancy and fantasy; some will blow your mind whilst others will have you scratching your head. What you won’t find however is outright commercialism or in-your-face marketing, which can be rather refreshing. If it’s freebies you’re after, then you’re going to be spoiled for choice. There’s plenty of exhibits giving them away, dedicated freebie areas, gift vendors and the massive SL12Big Hunt, which I won’t be indulging in this year, since it took me a good six months to wade through my haul of goodies from last time!

officialWith so much going on and such a massive space to explore it can feel a little overwhelming and impersonal at times, however it’s perfectly possible to find a quiet retreat in an otherwise chaotic and crowded sim where you can relax and escape the crush and spend time just absorbing the atmosphere. You can always invite a few friends round too: On opening day, it was lovely to have a whole bunch of friends descend upon my exhibit, where we had a lovely time just chatting and soaking up the atmosphere. You – of course – are also more than welcome to call and say ‘hello’, I’d love to see you there. It seems the build even made the official blog earlier this week… Fame at last!

whatdreams11_001

All in all, if you’ve never been before, why not put an hour or two aside, even if it means tying the kids/husband up in the corner whilst you take the time to enjoy yourself, and have a tramp around SL12B – it’s a whole load of fun, a great source of inspiration and, if music and dancing are your thing, there’s plenty of that going on too… but that’s a subject for another post.

Hope to see you there!

s. x

Sometimes living out your dreams
Ain’t as easy as it seems
You wanna fly around the world
In a beautiful balloon
Des’ree – Life

 

Posted in SL, SL12B, Tour Guide | Leave a comment

Exordium

freakSorting through some images recently I came across some screen grabs I’d made a few years back, mainly because at the time I thought they were interesting, although I subsequently filed and forgot them. This was in the days when Philip Linden was at the helm, long before he left the virtual world he’d created to forge ahead with the next generation world of High Fidelity. Back then, if you’d looked him up, you might have spotted something a little different and unique about his profile.

There are a variety of account types that can appear in a profile, from the plain and banal ‘Resident’, through ‘Linden Lab Employee’, to the elusive and extremely rare ‘Lifetime’ account, but there was only one profile that ever bore the mystifying and exclusive descriptor: ‘Exordium’. I’ll let you look up the meaning for yourselves – personally I think it’s rather clever, if a bit esoteric.

exordiumYou might think it’s a little pretentious and unsporting to use a hack like that to distinguish yourself from every other resident in a manner that is utterly exclusive, but I’m pretty sure that if any one of us had the chance, not one of us would turn down the opportunity to own our own particular and unique designation in a world that is chock full of common ‘Residents’, and that’s without the pretty convincing justification that we created the world we choose to inhabit. SL was Philip’s baby, and if anyone had the right to be different to everyone else, it was he.

But, isn’t that essentially what we all strive for anyway, inworld?

If there is one word that quintessentially underpins SL, it is ‘customisation': Right from day one in SL, we are in the business of customising our avatar. Skins, shapes, hairstyles, clothing, AO, gestures – each alteration, a concerted and deliberate attempt by ourselves to be different to those around us. Who doesn’t find themselves suppressing an inward shudder when confronted by a day-old noob, still wearing their stripey-shirted system avatar, as every aspect of our virtual being shrieks soundlessly: “Be different; be yourself; be unique!”, a mantra that we’ve adopted for ourselves beyond all others?

That same desire not to conform expands outwards from our avatars to our environment. We decorate our homes and our land to reflect our personality and our character, we purposely avoid doing what our neighbours are doing, asserting our right to impose our will upon our virtual surroundings, and if anyone should tell us it doesn’t look right, woe betide them! We are fortunate indeed, that SL provides us with such rich scope for diversity and the opportunity to modify, change and alter to our heart’s content. Without it, I don’t think we’d enjoy the place half as much.

Perhaps SL permits us something that is much harder to find in the real world – RL is, after all, a place where – on the whole – we tend to follow convention and conformity. We mostly live in communities of our peers, our homes and workplaces follow a common pattern and rationale; our clothing, even make-up and hairstyle, can be dictated by our profession and our circumstances. We speak, act and behave much as those around us do, and in the broadest sense, there is little really to distinguish us from anybody else.

No wonder that when we find a place where we can break those bonds and free ourselves from the constraints on our character and imagination that we face daily, we embrace it wholeheartedly… it’s a form of release that we might rarely have the means or the opportunity to experience in the real world!

pink8_001In SL, we are all little demigods – creating, forming and transforming both ourselves and the world around us. We have both the power, and the right, to impose our will in a way that changes how the world works and how others perceive us, and that’s an extremely potent combination. And so we wield that power – we create avatars that are uniquely different to any other; we build landscapes that reflect our character and, just like Philip, we craft profiles that belong uniquely – and only – to us.

s. x

Say, we can go where we want to
A place where they will never find
And we can act like we come from out of this world
Leave the real one far behind
Men Without Hats – The Safety Dance

Posted in Linden Love, Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL, SLarcheology | Leave a comment

Dreams & reality

dreamIt’s a Saturday post from me, which usually means there’s something just around the corner sufficiently noteworthy to persuade me to rouse myself from my weekend stupor and hammer out a few words on the trusty keyboard. Several somethings, in fact – the most important of which as far as you guys are concerned, is that tomorrow – Sunday 21st June, from noon SLT (20:00 BST… other timezones are available!) – the SL12B birthday celebration kicks off.

A week of live performances, music, discussion and talks, and two whole weeks to absorb the community vibe, explore the sims and marvel at the creativity of SL artists, builders and creators of all sorts, as well as discovering some of the many surprising things that SL people get up to. In my opinion, the quality of the exhibits this year has stepped up a gear, maybe because the building guidelines were a little more stringent than in previous years, and there’s certainly been more of a focus on creators using their own talents to produce their builds: I think the results are great. As for the event stages, once again the creators have made some mind blowing venues on a scale that takes your breath away… simply amazing.

The theme this year, ‘What Dreams May Come’,  is derived from Hamlet’s soliloquy – the famous “To be or not to be” speech, which of course later found itself featured in the visually stunning Robin Williams film of the same name. In my exhibit, my own take on the theme is expressed through the device of the dreamcatcher… in many ways this is the essence of SL: It captures our thoughts, ideas and dreams, distilling and channelling them, to come to eventual fruition in our imaginary, half-real; half-imagined virtual world.

full build2_001You’re invited along, not only to share in my virtual imaginings – ‘It is but a dream…’ – but also to explore the dreams of so many other creative souls to be found across the celebration regions.

As for me, ever the master of bad timing, I’ll be around for the opening ceremony but then I’m disappearing for three days, disconnecting from the Grid, the .net and from civilisation in general, as I slip off for a much-needed break far from the madding crowd, I’ll be staying in a yurt, in a forest and cooking over an open fire – no internet, no mobile phone, no electricity – and after a manic few months, I think I deserve a break. Consequently, I won’t be blogging for much of this coming week – although I may schedule a post at some point, so don’t think I’ve run away permanently, I will be back!

Actually, although it’s a bit annoying that this clashes with the start of SL12B, it comes at an extremely opportune time. Not only am I completely worn out and feeling a desperate need to recharge my batteries, but yesterday I was told I’d been successful for that j0b I mentioned a while back! So, when I return to work at the end of next week, it’ll be to a promotion, a whole new post and completely new territory – what the future holds, I don’t know, but in the meantime I’m just going to relax and ponder about what dreams may come…

It is but a dream...

It is but a dream…

s. x

To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run whew the brave dare not go
Carter U.S.M. – The Impossible Dream

Posted in Builder's bum, Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL, SL12B | 2 Comments

I have seen the future (and it’s 3D!)

flux2015 is rather an important year for time travel: it is the year that Marty McFly went back to the future – on 21st October to be precise – however, that’s still some time away. So why am I bringing it up now, you may be wondering?

As is the case with so many of the posts that appear on this blog, my inspiration partly springs from an inworld conversation – in this case, one which took the technology of Back to the Future II as its starting point.

What struck us most was the way in which the movie completely failed to predict so much of the technology that we take completely for granted these days: mobile phones, the proliferation of personal computers, the internet, and – of course – SL, whilst at the same time predicting a whole load of things that we still don’t have. Flying cars, hoverboards, self-drying self-adjusting clothing, erm… Jaws 19: these are all still far from everyday items, although we’re slowly starting to get there, (and it’s not October yet!).

btf2_001It just goes to show how difficult predicting the future can be – technological advances, fashion and cultural changes are notoriously fickle, and any attempt to accurately guess what the passage of time may reveal is going to be a bit hit and miss, at best. Even the most educated guesswork is likely to draw some conclusions that are wildly inaccurate, whilst missing other milestones completely. Yesterday’s science fiction always will be rooted in yesterday’s science, meaning that much will indeed remain fiction.

However, we do occasionally catch a glimpse of tomorrow and the possibilities that the future promises. Take a look at the video below – yes, I know it’s about Minecraft, and I know the shouty, over-enthusiastic ‘Brand Director’ is a bit freaky, but stick with it – I’m pretty sure your jaw will be dropping at the possibilities by the time you’ve watched the whole thing…

 

Cool huh?

Actually, very cool indeed – this is a significant step beyond the possible futures that we’ve considered with SL, Oculus Rift and LeapMotion, it’s a future that goes well beyond the expectations we’ve looked at so far, and – more to the point – if Minecraft can do it already as a fully functional demo, then SL should certainly be capable of doing it too, with greater resolution, higher definition and even greater realism. Just imagine your favourite sim, or store, or club laid out in glorious interactive 3D, right there on your living room table, and with none of the drawbacks of wearing a headset that filters out the real world around you – you can still munch on your favourite snacks, quaff your glass of plonk or pop to the loo, and all without having to unhook or disconnect yourself from the virtual view. Potentially this really could be a game changer, and even someone like myself who has remained rather sceptical about the 3D potential of SL, is more than willing to now be convinced otherwise.

bunker5_001I’ll admit that when Micro$oft announced Hololens, I wasn’t hugely impressed – it seemed to me that they were latecomers to a party where Google Glass and Oculus Rift were already finishing up the buffet, albeit with patchy success, and given the Lab’s investment in Oculus support, I couldn’t see that the new kid on the block would make much of an impact… I may well have been wrong. In fact, I hope I am!

Sometimes the surprises the future throws up really are the stuff of science fiction made science fact and I, for one, can’t wait to see what happens next!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve some work to do on my design for a flux capacitor…

s. x

Please turn on your magic beam
Mr. Sandman, bring me
Please please bring me a dream
The Four Aces – Mr Sandman

Posted in RL, SL, Techietalk | Leave a comment

Blogging Bytes: 17th June 2015

fearThere are times – quite frequently, in fact – when I’ll begin writing a piece without knowing where I’m going. Small details, such as subject matter, content and conclusion may be entirely missing when I start, only becoming known to me as I’m writing. It’s a weird way of doing things, but occasionally it seems to work.

Structured writing is of course important, particularly to the reader. There are few things more irritating when reading a blog piece than to have little idea of what the writer’s intent is – hopefully, that doesn’t happen too often in these pages! However, because it can be in my nature to be awkward and obstructive, there will be times when I’m deliberately annoying, simply because it’s fun. It’s the same sort of writer’s mentality that leaves a cliffhanger at the end of a novel, forcing the reader to wait months – maybe longer – before the conclusion is revealed in the next one, (supposing the author doesn’t die first!). It’s that latent evil streak, usually hidden away, forcing itself to the surface… the earworm that you can’t shift from your head… that nagging feeling there’s something important you’ve forgotten to do… the kid kicking the back of your seat on the bus.

On this occasion, both came together – I had no idea what to write, but as it unfolded, I just knew it was going to be intensely annoying to some people.

You might be those people.

Alt. life: Hargrove

Sorry :)

s. x

While all the windows stare ahead
And the streets are filled with dread
Every nation in the world
Slinks through the alley after girls
The Clash – City Of The Dead

Posted in Alt. life:, Unlikely stories | Leave a comment

Imperfect, but good

gamerA comment, somewhere out in the blogosphere, recently caught my eye, deriding those who pursue activities like motorsports in SL. The argument posited was that such things are a complete waste of time: SL is too slow, laggy and ill-suited to this kind of activity and people with those sorts of interests would be better off playing on dedicated gaming platforms.

To me, that entirely misses the point.

SL is chock-full of activities and pursuits that could be done so much better on alternative platforms… racing, sailing, roller derby, biking, and a whole host of other diversions that can not only be done better elsewhere, but are in many cases severely hampered by being tied to SL. Even so, they all have a loyal and enthusiastic following, who often have little interest in leaving the confines of SL to enjoy the possibilities and improved performance that is readily available elsewhere, and that’s very much an illustration of what makes our virtual world so unique and different to games and the more mainstream types of platform.

pink1_001I’m guessing here, but I reckon that the primary reason anyone would consider playing GTA, WoW, LoZ or any other GFWAAAWS (Game For Which An Acronym Alone Will Suffice), is that they want to enjoy the particular scenario that the game is geared towards, be it racing, questing, or building cities. That isn’t why most people sign up for SL. Reasons for joining our virtual community are many and varied and I wouldn’t be surprised if most of them fit into the category of ‘just curious’ or ‘a friend told me to try it’. What happens next is different for all of us, but it’s quite likely that at some point we’ll find a niche that we find appealing or a group of people that we connect with. It’s at this point that many will settle down, whilst others will start to explore that niche further, developing skills and building on interests that complement it – often it will become a significant part of their virtual lives, be it DJ-ing, motorsport, commerce or art.

Even so, for all but the most committed to their cause, this niche remains just a part of the bigger picture. Virtual biking might well become the big draw for you inworld, but around this there will still be shopping, socialising, exploring and a thousand and one other activities to indulge in. Compare that with an MMO or game and you’ll see a big difference in more ways than one: Certainly the game will be the bee’s knees when it comes to pursuing your given activity; faster, superior content and a broader following, but it’ll have little else ancillary to that central concept. Maybe there’ll be a virtual market place, mods and options, but they will all be focussed on one thing – enhancing gameplay, and other than message boards and similar communities outside the platform, social interaction is also pretty limited. I can be a biker in SL as much as I want, but I can also do pretty much anything else I want too, at my leisure, and all within the same virtual environment.

Then there’s the flexibility that SL offers. A dedicated game is just that – dedicated – and if you don’t particularly fancy slaying orcs because today you feel like having a picnic instead, there’s nothing stopping you from doing just that; few other platforms allow you the freedom to break the rules in the way SL does. In the same way, few other platforms give their users the freedom and the tools to adapt the world around them in the way that SL does. Whilst a gaming platform might be capable of modding, SL does it par excellence – and again, we don’t have to follow the rules, just our own imaginations and purpose.

anarchy15_001Above all, it’s SL’s propensity for building communities that makes it so different from other platforms – communities of everything from tinies to vampires, steampunks to cyberpunks and builders to buyers… we come into the virtual world looking for something that will catch our imagination, we find like-minded people, and together we build our clubs, our games and our exploits. In a game, it’s already there for us – polished and perfect, maybe but it takes nothing on our part to make it happen. In SL, we create our amusements and indulge ourselves – it’s a very different picture.

And it’s why we stay put, braving glitchy graphics and living with lag – because it’s ours – the rest of the world can have their shiny, superfast games, but we’re quite happy where we are, thank you very much.

s. x

I had a vision I could turn you right
a stupid mission and a lethal fight
I should have seen it when my hope was new
my heart is black and my body is blue
The Cardigans – My Favourite Game

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | 1 Comment

Real or replicant?

600full-blade-runner-posterAsk me to make a list of my all time favourite films, and you’ll find Bladerunner right up there at the top. It has all the classic essential ingredients that are guaranteed to catch my imagination… A dystopian glimpse of a dark future, suspense, mystery, raw violence and an underlying theme that is deeply unsettling, yet commands empathy; all wrapped up in a haunting film noir style.

And it’s definitely a film that causes you to question… There are moral and ethical considerations with which the viewer has to contend, riddles to be solved, and a lot of unanswered ‘whys?’ Then there’s the big question that looms throughout the whole film – Deckard: human, or replicant?

Ridley Scott says he’s a rep, Harrison Ford says human. Philip K. Dick in the original story says he’s quite definitely human. It’s something we need to know if we are to be at peace with the film’s storyline, because – unlike other movies with unanswered questions – this one really does matter. I won’t tell you what I think, you can make you’re own mind up, but it does cause me to wonder just how ‘real’ something needs to be, or appear to be, before it becomes problematic for us – as real humans – to deal with.

bladerunner3_001Most of us have heard of the Uncanny Valley – that disquieting territory between the real and that which strives to imitate reality. We experience it with those avatars that are just that tiny bit too realistic, with CG movies that feel a little too believable, and with robots that display behaviours far too human for us to feel comfortable with them. It’s a line that VR developers steer close to, but cross at their peril. But just how far is too far?

The latest High Fidelity releases feature facial expression and head movement technology that works with standard 2D webcams – use it with a camera capable of depth perception, or a head mounted display, and your avatar becomes even more weirdly human-like. Shortly we’ll see gaze tracking and improved support for hand gestures, (ie. body language), being built in and, beyond that, Philip & Co are talking about avatars with soft bodies capable of physical interaction. That to me puts them squarely into Uncanny Valley territory – clearly virtual, but oddly realistic… It can be somewhat creepy.

If there’s one thing I really don’t want from a virtual world, it’s being in the presence of avatars that exhibit characteristics that are far more human than digital. I don’t want to feel beady eyes boring into me in a crowd, or see heads swivel in my direction when I make an entrance; I’d rather not have a stranger talk to me in companionable terms, whilst their avatar’s body language is clearly making sleazy moves on me; and I don’t want to see somebody’s pixellated form squish across my windscreen, when I’ve accidentally mowed them down in my badly-driven hippy van. Those – as far as I’m concerned – lie firmly within the remit of real life, they don’t belong in a virtual world, and just the thought of it makes me feel a little queasy.

Quite apart from that, I can’t help feeling that a highly expressive, human-like avatar is going to sap some of the fun and spontaneity from SL. All those misunderstandings that arise so frequently out of the limited methods of communication we currently have at our disposal will no longer be there to prompt our laughter, mockery and endlessly ridiculous conversations. Neither will the ambiguities, misconceptions and downright skullduggery that typifies so many of the exchanges that occur in SL constantly. And what about the inevitable stiff necks, headaches and nausea that are bound to occur as our attention flits involuntarily around the virtual room, trying never to linger on a pair of boobs any longer than is absolutely necessary? It’s an altogether nightmarish scenario.

replicantIs this the future of virtual worlds? Are they to become places where imitations are indistinguishable from real people, and – if so – what effect will that have on us? Personally, I’d rather stick with something that is clearly virtual that something that could all too easily be real.

And how on earth would we tell the difference?

bladerunner6_001

 

s. x

I’ve… seen things you people wouldn’t believe… Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those… moments… will be lost in time, like… tears… in… rain. Time… to die…
Roy Batty (Bladerunner)

Posted in HiFi, Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | 2 Comments

Twaddle

twatI have a Twitter account!

There, I’ve said it: The world’s most anti-social, social media-shy, non-networker has admitted publicly to possessing something that I’d rather never be associated with. However, before you start combing Twitter for the elusive #Haven, I should warn you that I’m as tweet free as a lark with laryngitis, I have fewer followers than a ferret with fetid feet, and my feed is about as interesting as beige paint drying slowly. Frankly, the only reason I have the account in the first place is to keep a weather eye on the back stories of some of the movers and shakers of SL – I’m not talking bloggists and commentators, it’s the tech-heads and business brains of Linden Lab whose feeds I tend to frequent. You learn far more about what’s happening straight from the horse’s mouth, than you ever will from the sanitised and dumbed-down dialogue that the Lab pumps out in the official blogs.

Although – I’m almost, but not quite, ashamed to admit – I don’t actually have a clue how any of it works. I know that those cleverly crafted missives that populate my page are called tweets, but beyond that they’re a complete mystery to me. I’ve heard of hashtags, but I don’t know what they do or how they work, and to be completely honest, I really don’t care – I’ve tried to get to grips with it, but failed completely, and my complete and utter lack of interest in making friends, recruiting followers and generally getting into the Twitter vibe, means that I can’t be bothered to put that to rights. For me, Twitter is a source of information, that is all – and since most of the people I originally signed up to it to eavesdrop upon have now moved on to greener pastures than those at Battery Street, it’s a rare occasion I even have cause to drop by.

The Twitterbot however has other ideas, spamming my mailbox with a weekly digest of drivel that goes straight into the junk folder, together with a woefully ill-conceived, and eternally hopeful, invitation to follow ‘People you may know’. They are, without exception, people that I do not know, and given the opportunity, they’d almost certainly remain people that I’d be perfectly happy not to know until the end of time, and a good way beyond that. Apart from the freaks, goons and nutters, they are – almost without exception – a ramshackle, disjointed assemblage of lost souls from the nether reaches of the interweb, whose paths I’d never cross in a month of Sundays, (or any other day of the week, including Sleeday, for that matter), under normal circumstances.

However, we must remember that the internet is not ‘normal’ circumstances – rather, it is a loosely thrown together, wholly contrived, insincere, arm’s length collection of make-believe circumstances, where ‘friends’ are people you’ve never met and with whom your only interaction is to give a thumbs-up to the occasional blurry picture of them falling over drunkenly on a night out on the town. Circumstances in which, to be a ‘follower’, merely requires a click of a button, followed by our passive subsumption into a neverending stream of rancid and febrile chatterings lacking any kind substance or real meaning. In an exhaustive and wide-ranging study* of social media traffic, experts** deduced that 99.75%*** was complete dross and a total waste of bandwidth and effort. Yet somehow a huge number of us are completely assimilated into the lie that this is ‘communicating’.

[*I guessed; **me; ***figure plucked from thin air]

These strange and somewhat frightening concepts follow us into SL too. I’m being forever bombarded by offers, invitations and ‘information’ about designers’ new releases, latest offers and clever ideas… none of which I could give a monkey’s about. Let’s face it, the only reason anyone joins a store group is for the freebies: You know that, I know that, the designers know that, and to punish us for that act of selfish greed they inflict this neverending tide of uninformation upon us. If I want to buy a new dress, I’ll go shopping and buy something I want, not your latest monstrosity, just because it’s L$60 Buyday and I’m amongst the privileged few who once made the mistake of grabbing a pair of boots from the ‘members only’ section!

pub2_001As for friends… Bit of a difficult one this: I don’t have many people on my friends’ list – and, with maybe 3 or so exceptions, I never talk to anyone on that list in IM – indeed, many of them I’ve never spoken to in IM since the fateful day they became my friend. I have friends that I might see once or twice a year, and in the interim, I never bother them; they never bother me. I take no notice when they login or log off, and I hope they do the same for me. Almost all of my friends whom I see regularly and spend the majority of my time with have never made it onto that list, and it seems to work just fine.

I always feel terribly awkward when someone asks me for friendship inworld, especially when I know that I’ll never talk to them and I’d rather they didn’t bother me either. However, most of the time – because I’m nice, (no, I really am!) – I’ll say yes, with an almost overwhelming sense of impending doom and fatality, and wish that I hadn’t, almost immediately.

So, if you happen to be a Twitterer and you one day get an email suggesting you might know me, please do me a favour and chuck it in the bin?

s. x

But now another stranger seems
to want you to ignore his dreams
as though they were the burden of some other
Leonard Cohen – Stranger Song

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, Rants, RL, SL | 4 Comments