Posts Tagged ‘avatar

05
Dec
08

day 5 of becoming dragon

It is the morning of day 5. I’m glad I’ve gotten this far, 5 seems like a good number of days, a friend said its almost a week, the way we think of a week as monday to friday.

Day 4 was ao amazing. I can only hope for more days like yesterday. I have a constrant stream of visitors in rl and sl which is great.

Yesterday Cauleen and Ricardo visited, which was very nice. I showed Cauleen around SL, we hung out for a while in the space park, with me floating in space and her controlling the stereo projection’s character. Ricardo said he feels that all the technical difficulties are a strong part of the project, it’s a complicated process becoming dragon.

In the evening I tried to be on the panel at the rubber rose, but their audio setup was really bad, just a macbook with the impossible builtin mic next to the speakers, so we started an hour late. I only got to make a few comments, and when we finally got it working, I said a few sentences and then my wireless mic battery died, so we ended it there. Still, it was nice to hear the parts of the panel I could hear, about being trans and struggling to be visible, or strugling to explain yourself to people, and feeling like people think that a trans person is all of who you are, even when there’s so much more to a person. There was a lot of discussion of being trans in relationships and the difficult dynamics of seeming straight, being misperceived, or of dealing with your partner transitioning. This was all in the context of a photo exhibit at the Rubber Rose gallery with nudes of trans people, as well as some discussion of this project.

Interesting dynamics continue to emerge, like the feeling of having all of this life support apparatus, all of these applications and computers and cables enabling my living, and dealing with their failures and keeping going. This morning the head tracking and the motion capture are both working, which is great, and I hope they keep working for the performance at 5.

At night were some of the most profound moments I’ve had here yet. I talked for a while to a furry little fox with a wrist computer, who told me that she lives in the south in the US and that she doesn’t have access to hormones or know any other trans people in real life. She says that second life and on the internet are the only places she can talk to other trans people.

Later at night, some people from the Space Studies Institute came by and gave me some amazing objects. First we rode some rockets, which they gave me a copy of. Then they gave me a 3d model of all the stars local to earth at a distance of 10 parsecs or less, which you can pull out of your pocket, unfold and fly around in.

One of them had a avatar of a little girl. I asked her later, while we were walking through the chakryn forest, if she is really a little girl. She told me no, she’s an adult woman, but that people treat her better in SL as a child, that she likes that people take her less seriously with this avatar. She told me that she has another avatar that looks just like her real self, and sometimes she interacts with the same people with different avatars, and people treat her much better as a little girl. It struck me as one of the most profound moments of avatar exploration that I had heard of yet. After that she invited me to go talk to ALICE the AI in a city that looks much like blade runner, and we went there, but then it was time for me to sleep. She said that she thought I was staying up the whole 365 hours! I told her no. Though she was still very excited when I showed her a sign that said “hi name” with her name over the video stream. This morning I went back and talked to ALICE, but she’s not a very good conversationalist.

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14
Jul
08

My First Synthetic Porn Shoot

See the pics here! Photos by Bunny Brickworks.

Ok, I think that the term virtual doesn’t apply to Second Life, and I’d like to stop using it. Virtual, as I understand it in the way that Deleuze and Guattari use it, would mean not actual, existing as only potential. Manuel Delanda explains Deleuze’s definition of the virtual as follows:

“Deleuze speaks not of ‘realization’ but of actualization, and introduces a novel ontological category to refer to the status of multiplicities themselves: virtuality. This term does not refer, of course, to the virtual reality which digital simulations have made so familiar, but to a real virtuality forming a vital component of the objective world. As he writes [in Difference and Repetition]:

The virtual is not opposed to the real but to the actual. The virtual is fully real in so far as it is virtual… Indeed, the virtual must be defined as strictly part of the real object– as though the object has one part of itself in the virtual into which it plunged as through into an objective dimension… The reality of the virtual consists of the differential elements and relations along with the singular points which correspond to them. The reality of the virtual is structure.” (Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy, p.30)

The term Synthetic Worlds, as opposed to Virtual Worlds, that Augmentology uses, seems a lot more accurate to me. So, the title for this post was going to be “My First Virtual Porn Shoot”, but its not. Perhaps synthetic is useful also in its relation to synthetic biology, if we think about synthetic worlds and synthetic limbs as both forms of augmentation. The world of Second Life is actualized in many forms: as bits on hard drives, as visually rendered images, as our experiences of it. It is not virtual, just synthetic or digital.

I got the message from Bunny, the photographer, yesterday in a notecard saying that Post 6 is not just about pretty pixels, that models have to have brains too, and that I should submit my written application as a notecard back to her. I immediately opened a new notecard and started writing.

I love the Post 6 series. Yes, its porn, and yes, it doesn’t really arouse me often, but I really love the wide variety of avatars. Its so interesting to me to see so many different expressions of sexuality, from transformer cyborg girl, to futanari, to neo-goth Tokyo Amazon.The comments, while mostly just flames and insults, also often include discussion about gender that I actually find interesting. Such as on the futanari post where there is an argument as to whether the post should be called grrrl or guy. Or on the robot post where one commenter thanks the photographer for nonhuman models! Post 6 does a good job of actually capturing the wide diversity of sexual expression that there is in SL.

I wanted to be a Post 6 Grrrl. I think I have some interesting outfits and looks, and that I can tell some good tough grrrl stories from my time in Midian City, which I think people should read more of. So, I emailed the herald. And heard nothing. And emailed again, and heard nothing. Finally, this week, I commented on a post basically saying “What does a girl have to do to get naked on this blog?! I’ll show you more than my tits, thats for sure…” Which was true. Then I kept reading other recent Post 6 posts, including one saying that you won’t get into Post 6 by asking “what does a girl have to do to get naked here?!” Hah. I was sure, then, that I wouldn’t hear back. Well, I guess they read comments more than email, because I actually got a reply. I was so happy this morning to see that they had already read my story and wanted to do a shoot this weekend!

I jumped in world and started working on a script I’ve been tinkering with and some building. After a while, I got a message from Bunny asking when I’m free. I told her that I was free then, so we both teleported over to Midian City to do the shoot there.

Really, kind of strangely, it was so much fun. As we began, I was a little bit nervous. I could feel my heart beating a little stronger, but I wasn’t full on nervous. I walked around Midian with Bunny, showing her some of my favorite spots. She gave me some poses to use with my gun, as I wanted to do a few gun photos. Posing in Second Life is still very rudimentary. While some people are working on new interfaces for movement, now all you can do is have a library of animations and play them back on command. You can map animations to keys and Heads Up Displays (HUD’s) are used to make particular gestures like walking and sitting and tail movement easier to get access to. When you buy a complex avatar, like a neko or a dragon, you get a HUD to control the additional movements.

So I posed by the casino with my gun. Then we moved to another scene and did some shots with graffiti in the background. I didn’t walk around with my gun so as not to attract attention from the MPD. When we were walking around in the alleys, I was actually a bit nervous. Here are two beautiful women, one very wearing very little clothing, walking around in the darkest alleys of Midian. I was concerned that someone might attack us, and interrupt the shoot. We walked past some poseballs. Poseballs are another common way that people in Second Life access gestures. Whenever you go to a dance club, there’s a poseball that you can touch to get a dancing animation. When people have sex in SL, they usually use a poseball with animations in it, although beds come with sex animations too. Walking around the alleys we passed a poseball called “forced her” and “forced him”, as well as ones for “Wall M” and “Wall F”. I tried these, but neither looked good for photos. Definitely one of the more disturbing things about Midian, but interesting, are these kinds of poseballs where people can consensually roleplay being assaulted. In the stores here, you can also buy a “mug me” bag, that includes mugging animations. This Second Life Herald story explores this kind of roleplay in much more detail.

As I stood in front of some graffiti, looking at Bunny so that my face would be towards the camera, I thought I should buy a better gun, since we were across the street from the gun shop, Twisted Desires. I told her this and she laughed. A male neko walked past and stopped to look for a minute, but he continued on down the street.

I changed clothes and hair a few times so we could get a number of different shots. When I showed her my boots that have glowing red parts that match my vision enhancement visor she laughed again.

For the last few shots, which in Post 6 are usually nudes, we went into the Peep Show. The Peep Show is an elaborate scene, with photos on the walls, a bar, places to sit and a stage. There are also small booths with curtains, one of which we used. The booths have a small stage and once you sit on the chair on the stage, you are immediately animated into an elaborate erotic dance. This was perfect, so I changed out of my clothes, into just boots, stockings and a garter belt. “Avies in SL have weird looking feet”, Bunny reminded me, so it was good that I wanted to keep the boots on. I can’t wait to see the pictures. I had thought about doing some shots iwth my dragon avie too, but I was satisfied with the ones we shot. I can’t wait to see the pictures.

Second Life is seducing me. I’m really enjoying my exploration there. This morning I started my first building project, and it was really interesting. Then, this photo shoot was so much fun. It took around 2 hours. The shots took a while because Bunny had to wait for everything to rez. Rezzing is Second Life slang for a few things: dropping an object from your inventory and seeing it, downloading textures and waiting for them to draw. So, if you want to get really good snapshots, you often have to stand around and wait for things to rez completely. My synthetic latex stockings and my detailed Sour Grapes hair from Deviant Kitties took a some time to rez, and I kept switching things to try to get the best looks. Linden Labs has a lot of work to do to improve the speed of their resource servers, or better yet, we’ve all got a lot of work to do setting up our own distributed virtual worlds servers… Bunny told me that since it was a busy Saturday, the rezzing was taking extra long. My sense hair wouldn’t rez properly for her at all, so I couldn’t use it. Which reminds me that I want ot thank Hern Worsley of AVZ for his amazing clothes! They were a big part of this shoot. And of course thanks to everyone in Midian for creating an amazing, inspiring environment…

Again, this was one of the most interesting and fun things I’ve done in SL yet. Actually, I’m looking forward to doing this again some time.

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:

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

Welcome to Second Loop

“We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.” – Marshall McLuhan

“[T]he mirror stage is a phenomenon to which I assign a twofold value. In the first place, it has historical value as it marks a decisive turning-point in the mental development of the child. In the second place, it typifies an essential libidinal relationship with the body-image” – Jacques Lacan

Hi. I’m Azdel Slade. I wanted to call this blog dreams of life, but it was taken. In a way, Second Life is a lot like a dream, an expression of desires and fears, of the unconscious. It is also in a lot of ways like a nightmare. And, the way we see ourselves in our dreams, in both senses of sleeptime dreams and hopes and dreams, effects how we shape ourselves. I’ll be writing here about my explorations in Second Life. There will be writing on lots of different topics such as identity, avatars, economics, politics, gender, sex. Why here? When I started thinking about blogging about SL, I quickly realized that I don’t necessarily want my avatar tied to my RL identity, at least not yet. I still want to be able to play “in world” and write about it here without everyone knowing all about my RL. You might have figured out who I am, but maybe you can keep it to yourself for a bit while I use this space for writing and experimenting.

What happens after Macluhan’s quote, where our tools shape us? What happens in the feedback loop where we shape our tools and our tools shape us and then we shape our tools again? Or when we shape our avatars and our avatars shape us and we keep shaping our avatars? What does Second Life do to us? Lacan wrote about the Mirror Stage, which he claimed was an important part of subjectivity itself. Basically the idea is that a baby sees itself in a mirror, being held up by its parents, and imagines that it knows how to walk. Then, when it tries to walk, it fails, but it continues to hold that image of itself in its head and work towards it. Can avatars work like that? Can constructions of imagined social structures work like that?

Is SL merely escapism? Or is it an experiment that might lead to more freedom? Is it just a bad copy of the worst parts of the “real” world, sexism, western beauty standards, racism, exclusion? Or is it a possible place to work out how we might envision the world we want to see? To practice constructing utopias? How can we understand identity as a feedback loop, as a social process of an individual act, a response from the other and reflection on that response which gets incorporated into the next act.

I’ll be writing more on this blog as I go. I’ve only been “in world” for a few months and have only really begun to learn how to use it well enough to enjoy it for a few weeks. But here are some initial notes I jotted down recently:

When I first told my housemates, and activist friends, about my idea to use SL to make art, they said “why in SL?”, and went on to say how SL is just for rich white yuppies. which made me wonder, who really is using second life? Now i think its more a mix of people who are looking for social stimulation but find it hard to get in real life, young people, geeks, queer people, disabled people. I’m sure there are others there, but i suspect that a lot of the people in sl are people who are targetsof some kind off discrimination in rl (real life). i surely fit into that category. in a metafilter post, a lot of the othered social categories and the animosity towards them was summed up in this comment:

People still use Second Life?

Serveral hundred overcredulous tech journalists, Warren Ellis, assorted furries, trannies, and S&M enthusiasts and him off of Boing Boing. ” http://www.metafilter.com/71318/Second-Life-Twitter-Typewriter

Also, the stats that Linden Labs publish show that US users are only about 25% of people on SL and there are people from many, many other countries outside of the US.

When I first bought a furry avatar, i still had to choose male or female, they are still totally gendered… This brought me to thinking about the limits of gender. Does gender have to contain some reference to male and female? Or just to characteristics that people usually consider male or female? How can we imagine new genders?

My first time having sex in sl involved me flirting with a woman av who seemed to imply that she was no expert at sex in sl, but when we went to her place, she owned a bed, tons of poseballs (none for sex, actually, most for cuddling and kissing) and after hanging out for a bit she “discovered” that she had an s&m cross and a whip. a few days later when i learned to look at profiles, i found that she’s part of about 10 s&m groups and has places like lesbian sex clubs in her list of favorite places in her profile.

Politics in SL are bubbling about prim limits, which may infringe on number of prims in your avatar, licensing and land usage. one article said something like “you can take my land before you take my [designer name here] shoes!” SL dissention and the SL liberation army are very active right now. also, someone supposedly hacked the SL atm system, but i’m not sure what the ramifications were.




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