Archive for June, 2008

26
Jun
08

Virtual and Actual Politics in Second Life and out

Update: The folks at Second Life Left Unity also dropped us a line, they describe their project as “The SLLU seeks creative, non violent means to foster revolutionary social dialogue via the virtual world platform of Second Life.”

This video shows a really interesting phenomenon, virtual political tactics, specifically griefing from SL, being reproduced in real life against real political figures.

http://secondlife.reuters.com/stories/2008/05/20/garry-kasparov-targeted-in-real-life-repeat-of-the-anshe-chung-incident/

there are lots of political issues in SL:

– land ownership, linden labs recently stopped selling land to try to control the prices of land in SL, which have dropped dramatically

– RL mega events like the world economic forum

– RL entities like the border patrol training in SL

– SL people sufering political repression in RL, like Eshi being deported from the US after her husband died

– Prim limits, limiting the complexity of avatars (i wish i could find the link for the page that said “you can take my land but you can’t take my designer shoes!”)

– the huge debate about PG restrictions around the linden’s official 5 year birthday celebration

– Enforcing copyright on virtual objects, enforcing the DMCA

– RL corporations like Coke’s happiness island (somehow, killing colombians doesn’t make me happy). This video is hilariously disturbing, it says “the essence of cocacola: refreshment, joy, unity and experience”

Here’s a slightly different view:

Which of these are most interesting and relevant to you? Are there common threads or factors here or points of intersection? It seems like the overriding question is: will SL be a space for residents to create the utopias they can imagine, or will it be just another corporate advertising venue? Although dichotomies like that always already fail in their construction. Maybe open source efforts like OpenSim and realXtend are the biggest political question, will SL be corporate owned, or will the metaverse open up to be a real outgrowth of community efforts? Although, it seems like Opensim is M$ friendly at least, being written in C# and thus requiring windows, or heavily influenced by M$ at worst, while realXtend is at least gpl licensed. What do you think?

23
Jun
08

I Am A Dragon, Summer Solstice Weekend Celebration

I am a Dragon!

The excitement of becoming a dragon on the Isle of Wyrms has been one of the most interesting and fun things I have done yet in Second Life. Click the link above or click here to see my flickr set of the whole process, which describes how it went.

There is so much craft and love and energy that obviously goes into this process, from the HUD Token which you use to register for the drawing for the adult dragon eggs, which update your registration and winner status, to the avatars themselves, to the large community of dragons who were so helpful and joyful throughout the entire process.

Its interesting, while the dragon avatar doesn’t seem to have that aspect of allowing you to look like the sexy person you might want to be in real life, it does have its own particular appeal in imagining yourself as a massive, majestic, magical creature. The community on the Isle of Wyrms is obviously very serious about allowing people to have this experience and to enjoy imagining this fantastic world. It demonstrates, for me, a very different kind of SL experience. Also, much of the Isle of Wyrm is PG, although there are areas that are mature. When I went to a sandbox to hatch my egg over in Limbo, there were some humans nearby in fancy chain outfits engaging in some submission while lots of eager humans transformed into their new adult dragon forms around them.

Go to the gallery and see the wonders from yourself, and don’t miss the amazing hydra photos. I wish I could’ve captured video of the hydra, hovering before me with its moving molten fire skin and its three heads swinging back and forth, it was one of the most impressive moments I’ve ever had in this world of Second Life. Even the silly dance party seemed such an outpouring of joy and nervous excitement, its own impressive experience, if a really silly one.

The dragon HUD is also very interesting, allowing you to customize the colors and textures of every aspect of your avatar: scales, belly, horns, spines, wings, nails. It also allows gestures like aura, roar, breath, wing and tail movement.

Its definitely going to take some time to get used to this new form however, as it is so massive, and I’m sure I’ll have to shapeshift back to other avatars, as many places don’t allow dragons, such as Midian. I realized today that being a dragon just make so much sense in SL, as dragons are magical creatures known to shapeshift and teleport.

Check out the Isle of Wyrm soon, while there are still lots of new, excited dragons around stretching their wings. There are also lots of other interesting people around, as I saw a drow the other day, and there are always cute hatchlings zipping around happy to answer questions, or offer you a cookie.

Oh, I imagine that a lot of you steampunk fans out there will appreciate the Steam Dragon too, so here’s a pic:

21
Jun
08

Summer Solstice at the Isle of Wyrms

It’s Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, and you can celebrate by visiting the Isle of Wyrms and buying yourself a dragon egg. Tomorrow, at noon, there will be a drawing to see who gets to become an adult dragon. Adult dragons are only selected two days a year.

Today I’m a wyrmling.

There are a lot of varieties of fantastical avatars in SL. Even in places like Midian, you can still find Shadows with glowing eyes and bizarre bionics on the boardwalk and Nekos watching you from the catwalks. Yet most of these avatars are still anthropomorphic. Why are our fantasies limited like this? Is it jus because of the difficulty of imagining yourself as a cloud of fire? Is it because people want to participate in the sexual economies of SL?

I’m so excited about my new form. I’ve already been enjoying breathing stars and roaring. Here’s a snapshot of me just after coming out of my egg in the temple of hatching. My kind and generous dragon mentors are nearby, and are very helpful. In the cathedral, you can see all the different dragon species in the hologram circle, which is very easy to use. Just select an egg and a size and you can see what they look like. For the Tiamat, Nimbus changed into one right beore my eyes because it was too big for the hologram, and began breathing in fury from all of its heads at once! It was a sight to behold.

16
Jun
08

Two new looks for today, in Midian City

…dreaming of wong kar wai’s scifi films and donna haraway’s companion species manifesto, here are a few shots from Midian City…

Check these out at http://www.flickr.com/photos/azdelslade/

I hope the local nekos will play nice…

I couldn’t decide which post I liked better, but I wish I had some more gun pointing poses.

The boardwalk is always busy and you can usually find people here who are bruised and cut up from battles in these streets. I took a moment to dream about wong kar wai films. The hair is Sense Hair from AVZ. I also got a new skin because the old one was a bit too grey for me.

09
Jun
08

The Body is Given

I recently wrote this in a comment and liked it enough to repost it here…

…I also wonder, though, how much of these negative feelings about yourself are related to your weight? It’s is so awful how women are so often forced to evaluate themselves according to the ridiculous beauty standards that the media presents, and you talk about weight as a significant indicator of your improved mental state.

I do think there is something deeper at play that really deserves attention, in the fact that our bodies are given, in the way Heidegger says that being es gibt, is given, or even with the idea of the body as Gestell, as a framework we’re forced to work with. It seems like a major issue in people’s attraction to Second Life, to be able to inhabit a different form. I wonder how much of our self is biologically determined, as much as I don’t want to think that it is, modern technology is still very limited in what can be done to change the body.

Your discussion of magick and alchemy is so exciting to me. I’ve found myself a lot more interested in these things at the same time as I’m gaining interest in Second Life, while at the same time remaining critical of both. I’d love to hear more about Jung though, because I feel like a lot of contemporary thinkers who are still willing to engage with Freud are not willing to cite Jung. I find things like Tarot to be useful ways of thinking about things in the way that a dog walks towards another dog in an arc, as a way of trying to stir up my unconscious thoughts and feelings about a question I may have…

02
Jun
08

Identifying with, avatars, pets, lovers

“The partners do not precede their relating; all that is, is the fruit of becoming with: those are the mantras of companion species.”

“I am not posthumanist; I am who I become with companion species, who and which make a mess out of categories in the making of kin and kind. Queer messmates in mortal play, indeed.”

– Donna Haraway, When Species Meet

There seems to be something similar in the experience of avatars, pets and lovers. I see people with beautiful dogs, with beautiful flowing hair, standing with grace, and I would not necessarily give those characteristics to their owners. It makes me think of the many sets of companion photos of people and their avatars. Surely, with avatars, there’s a clear idea of what people want to look like. But in creating my avatar, I find that the constraints are such that it is too hard to model what I would ideally want to look like, or actually, I don’t even think about what I would want to look like, so much as I think of creating an interesting looking avatar. Still, when people see my avatar, I cringe a bit, because I know there’s some assumption that what Azdel Slade looks like “reflects” on the me in RL.

In thinking about this, I think similarly about couples I’ve seen where I think that one person is very beautiful and the other person isn’t. I guess that these aren’t very nice things to say, but I’m being honest here and trying to think about this phenomena of “identifying with”. I guess what I mean to say is that I often see couples where one person is beautiful according to popular western beauty standards, but really, there’s always a difference in how attractive I think one person is to any other person, and rarely with any two people is that attractiveness exactly the same. Ok. Do people base some of their self worth on their lovers? Surely, as someone who considers themselves radically queer and polyamorous and independent, I would on the surface reject such a claim, but I think that in reality, having someone close to you who loves you has some positive effect on your conception of yourself. For queer people there is an added layer of complexity here, because relationships are not based in difference, necessarily. For trans people, like Kate Bornstein, she talks about becoming the person you are attracted to. Not becoming your lover necessarily, but becoming the thing you are attracted to, shaping yourself into what you love. Barbara Hammer says, in her film Tender Fictions, “I is a lesbian couple,” and that’s not a grammar error. [1]

So what does it mean to “identify with” someone or something? What about being “proud dog owner”? Is that being proud of the work you’ve put into taking care of your dog, in a way, “creating” it? Is identifying with your dog related to being proud of it? Do people identify with their pets? I know that when someone says my dog is overweight, I immediately feel a bit defensive.

This seems like a really complicated concept, to identify with. I know that queer people and people who think about gender talk a lot about how they “identify” or how they “self-identify”, describing the notion of a conscious act of choice in their identity construction and presentation. With transgender people, this becomes very important because how they “identify” is often at odds with how they are perceived. But it seems that the act of saying “I identify as…” implies a kind of separation, a reification or an active forming of a self that can be conceptualized as a solid entity. To say “I identify as a woman” creates a relationship, an identity relationship between the I and the category of woman. And isn’t Aristotle’s law of identity that A = A, so that one is saying I = woman. If we are always already multiple, as Deleuze and Guattari claim, then is this multiplicity embodied in the act in which we imagine who we are in order to define ourselves? Thus stepping outside of ourselves for that act of thought, only to solidify who we are?

But to say one identifies with, instead of as, seems to assume a distinct, objective separation that is maintained, not just imagined. As I began, there seems to be something similar in our feelings towards avatars, pets and lovers, because we choose them and they say something about who we are. Of course there is a lot which is different in our relationship to these people and things, they are radically different, but there is some element which seems to be similar.

Donna Haraway argues in When Species Meet that our becomings are inseparable, that we “become with” each other, always, and that to realize this should change our conceptions of ethics and morality in how we deal with the world.

Is “identifying with” a constitutive part of being? Do we ever not “identify with”? If so, are we always “becoming with” someone or something else? Jean-Luc Nancy says in the early pages of Being Singular Plural, “Being cannot be anything else but being-with-one-another, circulating in the with and as the with of this singularly plural coexistence”. [2] Haraway’s challenge to that seems to be to open up this field of who we are being with to interspecies companionship, and possibly, since she authored the Cyborg Manifesto, even to entirely articifial or virtual entities, such as cyborgs, as in the television show Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles, or virtual beings such as avatars.

[1] http://books.google.com/books?id=TIj12IGUmkYC&pg=PA115&lpg=PA115&dq=barbara+hammer+lesbian+couple&source=web&ots=9tfgPmBBJg&sig=P4hbwULfN6AqY2s3S_cy5DYiU9k&hl=en

[2] Nancy, Jean-Luc, Bing Singular Plural, p. 3

http://books.google.com/books?id=1ZzpePFQ_AEC&printsec=frontcover&dq=nancy+being+singular+plural#PPA3,M1

01
Jun
08

Some recent pics of me, Azdel Slade

Here are two snapshots I took today inside the awesome sculpture outside of Deviant Kitties. I think it’s a String Theory sculpture. I couldn’t decide which pose was better so I included both.





links

Visit the performance space in SL

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