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Jun 22, 2010



Actually, don't be *too* quick to assert that "logic and reason" *can't* be a source of judgment here. Some of these virtual worlds will exist for practical reasons, with an effectiveness that can be measured in light of those reasons. For example, some day, you're going to be able to study the digestive system by actually turning into a sandwich and being eaten, or study an oil slick by turning into a whale underneath it and breaching in the middle of it.


It'll be awhile until we figure out how to aesthetically judge VR apart from using the tools we have in place for other media. We have the problem -- in spades, with VR -- that we do with all other media, in that we tend to analyze it in terms of how we understand preceding forms.

For example, we mostly judge the art of television as a small-screen version of movies; which it isn't. In my opinion, "Mad Men" is the first television series that is "ars gratia artis" specific to that medium. Yes, "All in the Family" was art; but it was, essentially, the art of live theater, captured for TV. "Battlestar Gallactica" is art, but it is the art of film, in TV-length chunks. "Mad Men," to me, is truly art that is not possible in another medium, relying on the "language" of TV in order to make most of its impressions.

How much more will this tendency hold true in VR realms? If I'm experiencing a perfect VR experience of a sculpture... shouldn't I be judging the art of the sculpture? It's when the form diverges from others that we get into the interesting stuff.

I suspect that early VR will suffer (in both directions) from many of the issues that plague new art forms; attempts to mimic and attempts to diverge for the sake of divergence.

I am reminded, though, of the words of my best writing professor, Dan McCall, who said, "Great writing is always about two things. It's about what it's about, and it's about writing." Great VR art will be, I suspect, similarly judged: what is it saying, and how is it saying it.


I just wanted to say that I find this to be a beautiful thought provoking post.

I'm currently in the process of figuring out how to discuss some of the normalizing features of synthetic worlds on the organizations that inhabit them in my dissertation work, but this post brings to light a whole other side of the conversation that is worthy of increased attention.

Also, @Andy I personally have to disagree with you regarding Mad Men as the first show that crossed that line in the medium of TV. The Wire really put a stake in the ground on that one. While I can make an argument for individuals episodes of other shows prior to it (Hush from BtVS for instance), The Wire definitely exploited the particular format of television (and procedural police drama no less) to create a powerful artistic experience that was by and large received that way.


I live in southern California; it's pure imagination. Consider the culture and economy of theme parks: imagined realties. On Hollywood Blvd recently, a superhero was arrested for faking a superhero, so the newspaper reported. Soon after, I watched "Confessions of a Superhero." a documentary about some of those same superhero fakes...I mean fake superheroes. In the film, we got to know their birth-names, and if you listen closely you'll hear them (and the cops on the beat) calling each other Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman, not Rob Dennis, the guy who plays Superman. The Eiffel Tower in Vegas is the Eiffel Tower, certainly when you’re in Vegas, but also when your referential context doesn’t include Paris, France. You follow my drift.

I think we're way beyond realities discourses.

Choose your muse: The Matrix, Borges or Baudrillard. I happen to find the notion of simulacra illuminating, and the experience of it freeing. It makes discoveries like this a little less shocking and visits to the mall way more fascinating.


Suzanne, I find the discovery you link to shocking and it disturbing to think how easily it occurs that we accept without questioning certain realities (again, they may be imagined, virtual, real, synthetic, etc.).

It is about choice, participation, values and ethics as well as aesthetics.

How about we try to create worlds we want to live in- be they imagined, virtual, "real?"


Every time I see "VR" I think, "Ah when the Messiah comes..." which leads me to this...

"Dear God, you made many, many real people.
I realize, of course, that it's no shame to be real.
But it's no great honor either!
So what would have been so terrible if I had a small virtual world?"

"If I were an avatar,
Ya ha deelde deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
All day long I'd biddy biddy bum.
If I were a virtual man."

"I'd rez a big tall house with polys by the dozen,
Floating over the middle of town.
An animated roof with transparent floors below.
There would be one fast teleporter just going up,
And one even faster going down,
And one more leading nowhere, just for show."

(and so on)

Suzanne, I appreciate your perspective which somewhat brings it back down to earth for me and also reminds us we're already there (for better or worse).

I also appreciate you including the link by the way. What that shows is that whatever your idealistic dream is, it's going to be co-opted for money and things you don't agree with. Harsh, but that's reality for ya.


Suzanne's link is most disturbing if we assume that the activities of the US military are always and everywhere evil. I do not make this assumption. Rather, we must be mentally prepared for an environment in which others do not share our world view and the world view that these others put forward is, by any reasonable standard, inappropriate, false, wrong. In this situation, which is unfortunately too common, those who stand on the side of right must be not only confident but aggressive in their assertions of power.

Despite the many difficulties in which different military forces have found themselves over the years, I remain willing to support the use of force against religious violence. That the US military trains itself against the most difficult of emotional circumstances is, to me, a feather in its cap.

Virtual environments used to defend the Good are to be lauded.


@Moses. Will have to disagree about "The Wire." It is beautiful, dramatic, excellently well written, disturbing and wonderful. But I think it is still, essentially, film on the small screen. Many of the story lines "arc" on paths that aren't particularly related to a specific episode; that is, a particular element of the drama unfolds over several hours, and the fact that it does so in Episode 7 as opposed to Episode 5 isn't so much due to the specific requirements of Episode 7, as it is to the overall drama.

It is great TV, yes. But it is (IMHO), "film as art." Much of what happens on HBO is that way. "The Sopranos" is fantastic art. But, again, it's "The Godfather" (kinda) for the small screen.

"Mad Men" is the closest thing I've found to televisual poetry; each episode having a specific, artistic reason-for-being, and with thematic elements that hold each episode together as, "Yes... *this* thing," as opposed to a longer venue, chopped up for TV.

The videography is also TV-specific, as opposed to many great film-on-TV pieces, which are shot much more like movies -- and I'd put "The Wire" in that category; it's shot like a great film. Much of "Mad Men" takes place indoors, or in very tight shots outdoors. It's all hyper-specifically and obviously "lit" to give an almost intentionally artsy or noir or unrealistically-sunny sheen. Not that you can't do that with film... but it gets old over the course of two hours. In 50 minutes, you can be all "ennui drenched" with vague, yellow light and not make people want to get up and get popcorn out of a kind of miasmatic sense of creeping malaise.

It feels, to me, like TV. Great, interesting, weird TV. Not something else, great, yes... but ported over.


mad men... ok... not sure whats so new...

ernie kovacs show,. now that was new.:)


Pure Imagination..
where is it? the brain? ur heart?


Interesting article. You make some good points. Thank you again.

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