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Below are the 8 most recent journal entries recorded in slowsculpture's LiveJournal:

Saturday, March 1st, 2008
8:19 pm
Show Update
First, thanks to all who came to the gallery opening on Thursday night. A good time was had by all! We had about 50 people come by over the course of two hours.

Second, if you've been having trouble getting to TR Hot Run, make sure you have joined the group "NMC Guests" before teleporting there. You can join a group by pressing the Search button on your toolbar, opening the Groups tab, and searching for "NMC Guests".

Third, "Yes" will be disappearing by the end of the first week in March, so if you want to see it live, hurry on over. I'm not sure about TR Hot Run, but it will be up probably through the middle of March. As I've said, these things are ephemeral and once they're gone, won't be back.

Thanks again for making the show a success.
Monday, February 25th, 2008
8:27 pm
Links to My Exhibition in Second Life
Here are the SLURLs you'll need to find my exhibition in Second Life.
What's a SLURL? It's a hyperlink you can use to teleport your avatar to a given place in the virtual world.
Make sure Second Life is running, and you're signed on.
Click one of the following links, choose Teleport Now, and Poof!, you're there.

This is the SLURL for Yes, one of two enormous environments I've created just for this exhibition:

And this is for the other one, TR Hot Run:

Meditation, a smaller work, is here:
Wednesday, February 6th, 2008
8:34 pm
How to View the Exhibition from Home
To see the work in its native environment, you'll need to create a Second Life account. It's free -- all you need is a broadband Internet connection.

Log on to www.secondlife.com to create a new account.
Choose a name for your avatar.
Enter the other requested information.
All that's needed is a valid email address. You must be 18+ to join, and agree to the conditions of the User Agreement!
Once you've downloaded the client software and logged in, open the Search panel, and search for "Mass Art in SL" in the Groups tab.
Join Mass Art in SL to receive updates about art happenings in Second Life, including invites to the next guided tour of my exhibition.

Then, with the Second Life client still open, come back here and click on the links that will take your avatar directly to the exhibition!
8:22 pm
Directions to the Exhibit
The exhibition is in the Arnheim Gallery, South Hall, at Massachusetts College of Art. The nearest intersection is Longwood Avenue and Huntington Avenue.

By Public Transportation:
Take the Green Line (any "E" train) outbound from Park Street station. Get off at the Longwood Avenue stop. Massachusetts College of Art is directly across the street. The entrance to South Hall is just to the right.

By Car:
Don't come by car. Parking around the Longwood Medical Area is very sparse. There is a garage on Longwood Avenue, but it's expensive. From Cambridge, take Massachusetts Avenue across the river into Boston. When you pass Symphony Hall, take a right onto Huntington Avenue. Massachusetts College of Art will be on your right, after you pass Northeastern University and the Museum of Fine Arts.
8:10 pm
Welcome to My Thesis Exhibition: Basic Information about the Show
This blog is the official site and guestbook for my MSAE Thesis Exhibition:

Arnheim Gallery, South Hall
Massachusetts College of Art
621 Huntington Avenue, Boston MA

The dates are February 25 to March 7, 2008.
Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 10-6.

Please join me at the opening reception, Thursday, February 28, 6-8 pm.

The show consists of high-resolution prints of my virtual environments -- some are stereoscopic views, which present a 3-D image when viewed through glasses I have provided at the show for this purpose. I have also included two actual sculptures, just predating my virtual work, upon related themes. Because this is a new medium, I've also included excerpts from some critical pieces I've written about creating and viewing art in a virtual realm.

Please refer to the appropriate posts regarding directions to the show and instructions for viewing the work from your home computer.

Enjoy the show.
Wednesday, June 27th, 2007
9:21 am
Five Futures for Second Life
So, Second Life's new signup rate has dipped a bit -- we may have seen the wave of media-attention-induced curiosity crest. Still, it's been an amazing year in growth for SL, something on the order of 1000%. I do a lot of brooding over the future of SL, and here are the five most likely scenarios, in order of greatest to least probable:

1. SL is just another MMORPG: Growth in SL levels off at about 2 million regular users -- a respectable amount for an online game, but far less than, say, World of Warcraft. It remains the environment of choice for creatives, geeks, and socializers, but the interface is too clunky and the gameplay is too open-ended to appeal to a mass audience.

2. SL is HyperCard: Remember HyperCard, the Mac-based tool set that allowed you to make mini-applications like address books, cute animations, and games? Neither do I. Seriously, I was once a HyperCard fanatic -- I made click-on-that interactives akin to The Playroom or Cosmic Osmo (this was before Myst); I managed my Dungeons and Dragons games with HyperCard stacks. So what happened, HyperCard? You were too tough for the casual user to grok, but not powerful enough for most professional developers, unless you were as smart as Robyn and Rand Miller (creators of Myst).
SL reminds me uncomfortably of HyperCard in terms of its opacity to casual users and its awkwardness for pros. It sits in a cursed zone between ease of use and flexibility. I've seen some hopeful signs lately on the flexibility end of the scale, with the advent of sculpted prims that allow designers to build stuff outside of SL and then import it, but it remains to be seen whether it will remain a vital medium for design as the months go on.

3. SL is AOL: I still remember my America Online email address, and the AOL logo is burned into my memory because of the hours I spent staring at it waiting for my modem to get a connection. Hard to fathom now, but there was a time when email, message boards, and chat rooms were synonymous with AOL for millions of users. AOL couldn't add service fast enough to keep up with its own growth; people began to feel limited by the proprietary nature of the service; and competitors sprang up to offer the same thing, more cheaply. Today, AOL is still a player, but has lost its position at the center.
SL is also experiencing rapid growth, and its resources are strained to keep up. The time is ripe for competition. Expect to see other virtual world service providers to spring up in the next year or so, using SL's open source client software. They'll let you own a private island more cheaply, with the downside being that it won't be connected to the main SL grid, so it will perhaps be too private.

4. SL is the new WWW: I do believe there's an outside chance that SL could become another place where lots of people go to buy stuff online and do business. The WWW won't go away by any means, but SL may add a new metaphor for interacting with data and with other people online.

5. SL is the Matrix: This future is wayyyyy out there, but in this scenario, incremental improvements in interface, graphics and sound, and the addition of AIs make SL a place where millions of people spend most of their time, becoming their "first life". The Singularity arrives, merging us with our technology, and we migrate to a virtual paradise of our own making.

Current Mood: hot
Thursday, February 22nd, 2007
9:55 am
Wednesday, February 21st, 2007
10:06 am
Notes on Edward Castronova's Synthetic Worlds
Working towards a rationale for my thesis, I'm reading Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games (University of Chicago Press, 2006) by the economist Edward Castronova. The book is an outgrowth of a paper he wrote about the economy of the MMORPG Everquest, in which he proved that virtual worlds possess all the hallmarks of a real-world economy. The book expands his lens from economics to the social and emotional spheres.

His thesis is that worlds such as Second Life are beginning to host many essential human activities, including commerce, personal relationships, and creative work, and are in themselves worthy of serious study. The question of how truly immersive or subtle they are as simulations of reality is beside the point; as "just-good-enough" iterations of reality, they provide humans with enough cues for them to make the three investments a human needs to make in order to make a virtual world seem real:

1. Physical investment: MMORPGs foster a sense that you are inhabiting, in some sense, the body you see on the screen. Almost as soon as you begin to create an avatar, you begin saying things like, "I want to give myself red hair," rather than "I want to give my avatar red hair." It reminded me of Scott McCloud's observation in Understanding Comics that when we drive, we become our cars. When your car gets hit from behind, you tend to say, "He hit me!" not "He hit my car!"

2. Commercial investment: You soon begin to assign value to virtual objects, either for their own usefulness to you (a jetpack that allows you to fly higher and faster) or their value in trade (virtual land that you could sell to buy something you really want). If it seems odd to assign value to virtual objects, to the point at which a magic sword in a game can sell on EBay for $800, this is really no different than the high value we assign in the real world to an essentially useless object like a diamond, while assigning almost no monetary value to a glass of water, even though we need water to live.

3. Emotional investment: As soon as you begin to establish relationships with other players, or respond with exultation or frustration to the happenings in-game, the game world has become the host for at least some of your emotional life. Castronova's research shows that 75% of MMORPG players find this social/emotional component a crucial part of their experience in-game.

All of this serves to frame a standard by which my work created in Second Life can be assessed or appreciated:

Does the work engage you physically, as though it were sharing your physical space, even though it's your avatar rather than you who is in-world, interacting with it?

Does the work have value in the sense that you recognize the labor, craft, and skill that went into producing it? Even if you don't care whether it has monetary value, can you place an aesthetic value on it relative to other objects I encounter in this environment?

Does the work touch you emotionally? Do you find yourself responding to it as you would a sculptural object in the real world, wondering about the intent of its creator, how it resonates with you, how its meaning is revealed as you examine and explore it?

I think that's the seed of my rationale right there, a germ that suggests an approach to assessing or experiencing work in a virtual world.
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