Exploring the notion of 'time' within shared virtual environments.
In shared virtual environments, like Second Life, time operates at variable rates and according to mechanisms vastly different to those of the 'real' world. Time is compressed. The entire day/night cycle of Second Life equates to a period of four hours, and social interactions progress at a quickened pace that is measured in days as opposed to months. The manifestation of time in Second Life is unlike that of physical reality in which our environment is intrinsically bound to time zones and seasons. In Second Life these factors are assigned by ourselves. Although the underlying data streams of the shared virtual world are absolute at any given moment, transcription of this information into tangible experiences is selective and user-generated. Our avatars' eyes are as different as our own, and within the metaverse, the sun others see is not necessarily the sun you see.
(all)Time consists of a scenic view of a virtual landscape rendered into a physical gallery environment as a painterly expanse; in the distance, a shifting sky adjoins a glistening ocean across an unending horizon, whilst in the foreground, a pair of bodies – two Dolls, identical and statuesque – stand upon a virtual shore. This is a living space open to the avatar residents of Second Life.
Although the possibility of human presence exists, the realm is calm and empty, untarnished by the often persistent clutter of the metaverse. Time flows within this land and is measured by subtle modulations of the environment itself, such as clouds drifting by and waves shimmering at the water's surface. A synthetic breeze causes a few small blades of grass to sway upon the beach, and as visitors enter the physical proximity of the installation, the vegetation appears to slowly expand as if the process of observation engenders growth from beneath the lifeless sand.
There is, however, an unreal quality to the presented vista. A vibrant sun shares the heavens with a full moon, and rays of sunlight are interwoven with stars from a night time sky. This seemingly paradoxical blend of opposing times is not a fictitious state. The view is generated from the pair of Dolls, simultaneous visions of the same space, at the same moment, but in different 'times', composited into a single reality. Through their eyes we are able to witness the temporal mix of day and night firsthand, and consider that within the metaverse, perhaps all 'times' exist as one.
Virtual: constructed scenic environment, two (avatar) Dolls and scripted control units.
Physical: two computers with LCD monitors, custom-built motion sensor, stereoscopic HD projection and 5.1 sound system.
Virtual: 5-8 September 2010, Transitional Space, Second Life: A Windows/Mac/Linux computer system running the current Second Life client is required to visit the shared virtual environment. A high-specification CPU/GPU, 5.1 or stereo audio, a colour display with ≥1024x768 resolution and a 1Mbps+ Internet connection are recommended.
Physical: 5-8 September 2010, Brunel University, West London, UK: Visit the shared physical environment as part of DRHA (Digital Resources for the Humanities and Arts) 2010.
Drew Baker (as 'Melancholy Graves') [ Second Life modelling and scripting ] . Hugh Denard [ discourse ]
(all)Time v1.0 was made possible through generous assistance from King's Visualisation Lab, Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London.
Virtual: Windows/Mac/Linux computer system with the current Second Life client and stereo audio. A high-specification CPU/GPU, colour display with ≥1024x768 resolution and high-speed Internet connection are recommended.
Physical: reclaimed and recycled gallery constructions (walls, seating, structures, etc.), HD projector, 3 LCD screens, computers (running the Second Life client), custom-built motion sensor and 5.1 surround sound system.
Physical: stereoscopic HD projection system, 2 LCD monitors, 2 computers (with the Second Life client), 5.1 audio system and custom-built motion sensor.