I wonder…

experimentationEvery so often i get the itch to get my teeth into a project, something that will engage me, challenge and – hopefully – will ultimately result in something tangible that i can enjoy with a certain sense of fulfilment. Unfortunately, often i get the itch but can’t figure out any way to scratch it – all too often, i find myself embarking on projects that are never quite the antidote and which have turned out to be both ill-advised and short-lived, many of which have never actually come to anywhere near a satisfactory conclusion.

Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with that – one of the great things about sl is the ease with which we can experiment, without necessarily having to finish what we start. Unlike rl, the cost associated with undertaking any sort of project in sl tends to be relatively small: often the only real expenditure is in terms of our time and effort – materials, equipment and labour costs can often be minimal, even free, and any activity will mostly be very low risk.

Cost and risk can stop any project dead in its tracks in rl – few of us have the resilience or resources to pursue open-ended, blue-skies’ thinking type endeavours, and practicality will almost always win over aesthetics and artistic impression. Few of us have the opportunity to experiment; to explore possible blind alleys and flights of fancy in the real world, where time, cost, materials, space and capability all conspire against us, with little tolerance for error, let alone total failure. In any rl project – whatever it might be, even down to the smallest of hobbyist art and pursuits – design, prior planning and rigorous attention to the essential underpinning details are all crucial elements of our activity… The higher the stakes and the greater the risk, the greater the investment in the design and planning stage. There is, of course, nothing wrong with this approach – it’s a necessity, for obvious reasons – however i can’t help thinking that it can stifle creativity, and deny us the opportunity to explore our ideas to their full potential. If we lived in a world where money was no object, for example, what wonders would we see taking shape around us?

le cactus5_001In sl, the constraints we are so used to working under elsewhere are largely immaterial, and the results are immediately obvious. Released from the limitations of budget and building regulations, the weather and seasonal impositions – not to mention the freedom to largely ignore the laws of nature, gravity and physics, if we so choose – our virtual world has become remarkably diverse in form and function. We can try out ideas and experiment to our hearts’ content, knowing that if we fail, mess up or simply run out of steam, we can just call it a day and start again from scratch, go off on a completely different tangent, or in the alternative, consign our great – but unworkable – idea into the dustbin of experience.

It’s a process that many of us have been through time and time again: a process that often starts with the words, “i wonder…” – words that all too often turn rapidly into, “i can’t”, within the context of the practicalities of the real world. Even when our virtual ideas do go horribly wrong, it’s not necessarily the end of the road – we can deconstruct almost as easily as we can create; we can re-texture; alter scripts; expand, shrink and resize; we can move trees, mountains and molehills to accommodate change and purpose… Our world, and the materials from which it is formed, are as malleable and flexible as our imaginations and, unlike real life, it is our imaginations that are the limiting factor, not the environment in which we employ it.

islands1_001With virtual reality achieving ever-greater success at modelling and shaping the real world around us, it’s interesting to speculate what role virtual worlds may one day play in architecture, environmental planning and even art. We already live in a world where surgeons can undertake complex medical procedures remotely… using VR, it’s inevitable that we’ll also consider a variety of other avenues to explore. Obviously, there are things impossible in rl that can easily be achieved in sl, and it would be wrong to suggest that we would ever have a real-life environment that could authentically mirror the virtual, however virtual worlds like sl do offer the one opportunity that is rapidly becoming an expensive luxury when it comes to real world design and innovation: the chance to experiment, hypothesise and play with ideas and flights of fancy… all relatively risk and cost free.

And who knows where that might eventually lead us?

s. x

Blue skies
Smiling at me
Nothing but blue skies
Do I see
Frank Sinatra – Blue Skies

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