Monday, January 31, 2011


I was thinking about art in SL, specifically sculpture/installation art, and wondering why it works. This came up when I sent somebody a snapshot of Bryn Oh's lovely and poignant Rabbicorn; we started talking about what it was that our typists were looking at.

That it does work is pretty obvious, the success of Burning Life* and many inworld galleries and artists make that clear. A significant minority of SL residents regularly travels to remote sims to experience these works for themselves; as a percentage I'd guess that it is far higher than the prevalence of habitual gallery-goers in most of our RL cities.

But why do we do this? When our typists view 2d art in SL, or a snapshot from SL in Flickr, they look at a pixelly 2d representation of a 3d place. When we (avatars) travel to that sim and stand in the sculpture and look around us, our typists look at: a pixelly 2d representation of a 3d place. There are lovely machinima of all these pieces online; we could see the piece in comfort, without lag or other people standing in our way, with a soundtrack and sometimes commentary, without leaving our digital homes.

The reason is the immersive experience of being somewhere, the experience of moving and seeing in a 3d volume in real time; at least for those of us who do live in SL. Our typists are looking at a monitor, but we are living in a world. The monitor is just a tool in that process, in the way that somebody walking the fells would probably not describe their activity as "reading maps while wearing boots and a raincoat."

It would be instructive to find out how many of the regular visitors to SL art would self-describe as immersivists; I'd guess we are by far the majority.

* yes, I know the Lindens dropped out and forced a name-change. I can't remember the new name. Shoot me.