Not Quite Abandoned Worlds between Chaos and Death

Under the surface there are numbers

Under the surface there are numbers

Is Second Life as dead as disco? what about opera?

After mainstream media has stopped paying attention and after it has become public domain knowledge that real life wealth can be as imaginary as anything, business opportunities seem to be rare the most open of 3D digital worlds: Gambling has been banned a long time ago, sex is about to be banned too and the real estate bubble has burst before it did in american suburbs. Like in other abandoned spaces, interesting things seem to happen after the gold rushers (artists, pimps, wannabe real estate agents, etc.) have left.

A while ago I got to see a 5 minute clip made with Second Life that will be part of Johanna Dombois‘ production of Richard Wagner’s Opera cycle “Der Ring”. It’s the very beginning of the cycle, that starts on the ground of the Rhine river. My expectation was low, but it was well thought through, beautiful and made perfect sense.

Dombois pointed out that the synthetic world of second life represents the idea that Wotan creates a world that develops beyond his control. I liked that the clip contains visualizations of behind the scene statistics of SL and even scrolling code of DOS/Windows startup screen. All of that is well timed with the music, which is extremely pleasurable and amusing at the same time, because one imagines how the audience will be put in a state of uncertainty wether they are seeing the production or wether something went wrong. The clip is a good example of using contemporary imagery and experience for story telling. After all a good part of our daily experience happens inside of synthetic world (sometimes with cool, most of the time with poor graphics). That the ring story is based on old tales that got recycled into high culture and became so loaded with pathos and tons of associations, including the Bayreuth soap opera, that one is almost disgusted picking it up, even adds to it. I want to see the whole thing!

“Stadtplandienst vs. Me” Screening

“Stadtplandienst vs. Me” is a video based on a court trial about a copyright violation that “Stadtplandienst“, an online map service, accused me of. On Wednesday, September 17 (20h / 22h) there will be a screening at the Headquarters, Hannoverscher Str. 3, 10115 Berlin.

After the premiere on Wednesday I will post the video here.

The Living Dead Don’t Shop

At a party this weekend I had a conversation about Second Life. A bit more than a year ago that would not have been worth mentioning, because the media was enthusiastic about SL and I was working on a documentary about SL residents. Meanwhile Second Life has been declared dead by the media inside the traditionally narrow world of advertising. The discussion I had was with two people who had obviously worked for corporate clients on SL projects and were disappointed that things had not been working out the way they had expected. They thought the major problem was that there can only be some 60 visitors on one island simultaniously. “For web application we think in millions” one of them exclaimed. Apparently it had never occurred to him that millions of avatars on a 256×256 metre piece of land would literally step on each others feet and that for reaching large audiences like that the place metaphor was maybe not the right approach anyway.

Mein wunderbares Ich – Screening at Galerie 35

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Last night we organized a screening of “Mein wunderbares Ich”, a documentary about Second Life Residents by Susanne Jäger that initiated and conceived together with the director. The film was aired on Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) at the same time. Parallely there was a screening at Alexanderplatz in New Berlin / Second Life.

For both screenings, the one in RL and the one in SL we came close to the max amount of visitors that the location / server can welcome. In the RL screening we projected the image on the shop window of the galerie space, so it was visible from inside and outside the gallery.

Some of the photos above were taken by Tobias Neisecke of YOUseeMEin3D, the creators of New Berlin.

You can watch / download the whole film in MP4 format here. Unfortunately it is in German and has no English suptitles (yet).

My Marvelous Self

TV-Movie Tagestip On Wednesday, August 29, we will organize a screening of “Mein wunderbares Ich” (My Marvellous Self) at Gallery 35, Simon-Dach-Str. 35, Berlin Friedrichshain.

“My Marvelous Self” is a documentary film about a Second Life residents. I initiated the project and conceived the film together with Susanne Jäger, who is an experienced documentary film maker. By the time we had managed to find a TV station that was interested (October 2006), I had almost given up and thought that Second Life was not even interesting anymore, because there had been much media coverage. I did not expect that the Hype was just about to take off.

Now the hype is over and mainstream media switched to Second Life bashing instead. That’s the way it goes and of course we anticipated that.

Our film does not deal with SL’s potential in advertisement, we never thought that this was the most interesting part or even an interesting part at all. If anything, the interesting part is that it is not at all easy to use Second Life successfully for advertising. In many ways it is almost absurd to use it for advertising unless you want to reach a very specific group and unless you’re prepared to spend a lot of money per contact.

However, we focused on the emotional and psychological side of Second Life. Even though the way Second Life is experienced does probably not differ so much from other (even text based) role playing games, it can be said that it is more accessible and attracts a much wider variety of players. The ability to design your content and environment also adds a new layer of communication and defines a new field of “knowledge production”. This is certainly one reason why Second Life feels so real for many residents. At the same time it is probably also what makes it less attractive for players who want to be entertained or who want to compete with other players in a more defined environment.

I’m very happy that the film is finished and that it will be aired soon. Unfortunately it is not decided yet, if there will be a version with English subtitles. The rules and norms of public TV stations in Germany can be surprising. It looks like not failing with television ratings is more important for them than marketing a film internationally.