Art and Exploration, Collaboration, Identity and Expression, Second Life

Art and Virtual Worlds: The Pop Explosion


Second Life plays host to 12 hours of machinima, music and art at PopArt Lab starting today at 12:00 p.m. SLT/PST. I was asked to open the event with a few brief remarks:

Art and Our Humanity in Virtuality
Thanks for inviting me. Exciting to be here.

I’ll start by saying that for me, Second Life changed everything. How I thought about business, art, community, creation and consumption. I arrived in Second Life expecting a game, and instead I came to a new understanding of how the future might look.

By now we all know that digital media has turned us all into producers of content, and has made the consumption of media nearly instantaneous. This typically means that there are two things we do: we create. Which means we blog, we make a video and post it to youTube, we design a magazine, we take photos and post them on Flickr. Or we consume. Which means watching all of that content. Catching a funny cat video on youTube or watching a band on mySpace or wherever.

But what’s equally important is the lack of distance between the creator and the consumer. And nowhere is this more visible than in Second Life. Geographic distances have no meaning, and the person consuming media or art comes face-to-face with the person creating it.

I’ve been thinking, lately about social media. And I’d make two observations:

1. Social media has turned each of us into a broadcast network. Facebook isn’t just about connecting us to friends so we can poke them and send status update. What it gives us is a broadcast platform. We each have our own little cable network on Twitter or Facebook or in Second Life.

2. Social media still rests on CONTENT in order to be relevant. As other people chase the gold at the end of the social media rainbow, remember that without something to TALK about, social media is like a bunch of avatars in an empty sim.

And so we come at the question of media as a consumer with knowledge of creation, as a user with his or her own broadcast network, and as a creator with a knowledge that the proximity to their audience creates a heightened need for artistic integrity.

And in Second Life, we find the perfect joining of these three things. And oddly enough, we find in virtuality a greater humanity and truth than we often do in other media.

In a virtual world, you can pretend to be someone you aren’t and yet you can never run far from yourself. You can explore a new way of presenting your identity by being male when you’re female, by being a furry when you’re human…and yet even when we stray far from our physical selves, we still return to who we are.

We are not just broadcasters of content, we are broadcasters of our individual truths. We don’t just create machinima or music, we create images of the future and of our own humanity.

The unique thing about Second Life is that it reminds us that the impact of our virtuality is a deeper understanding of how media and content is created, how powerful the experience of creation and content can be, and that we each have a responsibility to tell our own stories, to resist corporations or platform owners laying claim to our personal narratives.

While we live or work alone in our quiet corners of the Grid, we share a culture which understands that our shared future, even though it may be virtual, is still entirely human.

And so I applaud the courage of those working artistically in virtual spaces and, indeed, the courage of those living, playing or exploring them. Because you’re demonstrating that although technology may include ubiquity, social networks, algorithms and instant connectivity, you are at the forefront of remembering that our future can also emerge in full recognition of our fundamental humanity.

Congratulations to today’s opening and I hope you all enjoy a tremendous experience.


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