Andrea Hunter and Vincent Mosco
This chapter addresses the allure of virtual dystopias and their connection to the sublime. Normally considered repellant rather than compelling, virtual dystopias owe their attraction to the sublime transcendence they offer. Beauty invokes pleasure and identification, while the sublime, through terror and shock, forces one to grapple with the unknown and with the nature of existence. The sublime has often been associated with nature, but more recently has been connected to the digital world and visions of cyberspace. Virtual dystopias offer a type of sublime transcendence that allows people to confront terror and horror, without “actually” having to experience it. However, the relationship between virtual dystopia and reality is complex and porous. These themes are explored through exemplars from three different media spanning three decades of computer-inspired virtuality: William Gibson’s novel Mona Lisa Overdrive, the film Inception, and the multiplayer online game World of Warcraft.
David G. Green and Tom Chandler
In a virtual landscape you can burn a forest and watch it grow back over hundreds of years, an experiment you could never do in reality. Increasingly, landscape ecology and environmental management use simulation and 3D graphics to investigate complex interactions between the environment and living things. Although some technical issues, especially integrating data and models, are yet to be resolved, virtual ecology is already a crucial tool. The entire planet is now mapped and monitored remotely. Global circulation models capture climatic processes that affect the entire globe. There are virtual tours of many cities and environments. Representing landscapes through 3D modeling reveals issues that have not often been addressed in ecology and help to bridge the barriers between research specializations. The resulting insights are often unexpected, and yet crucial to sustainable management of our planet.
This chapter discusses the intersection of the virtual and law. It begins by offering a definition of the virtual. It then explains that existing law does regulate the virtual, since there are laws that create social rules with respect to simulations. The chapter next explores how the law regulates social actions within persistent online avatar-based simulations, also known as virtual worlds. It highlights the crucial role of copyright law in expanding the scope of private power over online interactions. In a third section, the chapter explores how virtual law is evolving in three particular areas: jurisdiction, contract, and property. Finally, the chapter concludes by stating that, with respect to virtual worlds, the current dynamic in technology and law is one that tends to increase the relative private power of platform owners and decrease the relative rights and freedoms of users.
Virtual Music, Virtual Money: The Impact of Crowdfunding Models on Creativity, Authorship, and Identity
The traditional path between music creator and audience has been seen to be complex, managed by a series of cultural intermediaries. The focus of criticism from both music producers and consumers decide on what is funded and what the consumers will hear. Emergent models of crowdfunding, born in the virtual environment, are, however, changing this situation by allowing music creators to connect directly with their audience in order to gain support for potential creations. A project is pitched, fans coalesce around it, it is funded, and it is then sold, all virtually. As such a new phenomenon, though, the reality is unlikely to be as simple as the utopia suggested. This chapter therefore examines how crowdfunding affects creativity, authorship, and identity in relation to producer, product, and fan.
The future development of artificially intelligent musicians depends upon an engagement with machine-learning technology. Human musicians have the benefit of long periods of study, which for expert musicians typically exceeds 10,000 hours of practice; machine musicians must match such dedication. This chapter reviews manifestations of machine learning in computer music systems, with a particular emphasis on live interactive agents. The LL (Listening and Learning) system is further described and critiqued, as used in performances for drummer and computer, and electric violin and computer.
Trevor S. Harvey
This chapter investigates the coconstruction of musical identities among audiences and performers in the virtual world of Second Life. Within this digital environment, musicians, rendered as digitally constructed avatars, perform “live” concerts in front of audience members, each represented by their own avatar. Through an ethnographic account of live music performances in Second Life, including interviews with musicians and audience members, this chapter will explore the layered identities of Second Life participants as they socially construct their digital avatar personas within the virtual world. Musical personas of Second Life participants, like real-world identities, are constantly in flux and incomplete, and are constructed in the process of musical performances. Musical avatars, both of musicians and audiences, are thus complex intersubjective and intrasubjective mediators of the meaningful sociomusical experiences that draw participation into virtual worlds.
This chapter discusses the key questions raised by its title—what should we understand by the terms virtuality, humanity, and, thereby, by the term reality? These questions are explored with reference to the work of philosophers such as Henri Bergson, and his concepts of perception and moral obligation, and Michel Foucault, and his concepts of discourse, power, and epistemic shifts in history. These philosophical backgrounds then underpin the more recent theorizing of thinkers such as Karen Barad, Stephen Gill, and Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, whose agential realism and neo-Gramscianism together constitute a broad picture within which the material manifestation of our dreams can be better understood. The chapter concludes that virtuality is consciousness, but that the freedom to choose implicit in this equation must be fought for, generation after generation.
Bruce Damer and Randy Hinrichs
This chapter reviews the origin and early history of online virtual worlds that represent users as avatars. Failed and successful applications of early virtual worlds in meetings and tele-learning are examined to derive indicators for the future of this form of virtuality in which virtual worlds are mapped onto the real world, blended with data and users’ avatars to create a form of ubiquitous augmented reality. Finally, the relevance of the new medium of virtual worlds in the long scope of human history is considered.
This chapter examines virtuality and reality in the context of economic affairs. Digital objects and currencies found in online game worlds and digital environments are considered play and make-believe, and are branded as “virtual” to distinguish them from the serious world of “real” consumption and economics. However, virtual goods are increasingly bought and sold for real money, and the value of such trade now reaches several billion US dollars per year. This encroachment of the “virtual” into the “real” serves as an occasion for a critical reevaluation of supposed economic realities. It turns out that the value of “real” goods and currencies is often just as subjective as that of their supposedly virtual counterparts. The real-virtual dichotomy in economic affairs is a social construct, and sometimes things are labeled “virtual” simply to marginalize them. As the “real” economy looks increasingly vulnerable, such categorizations may shift.
The central project of contemporary dance has been to create a spatiotemporal poetics of the body based on its relationship to gravity. Virtual reality technologies enable a much more radical deconstruction of the conventional dancing body; in three-dimensional computer-generated space, the laws of physics can literally be coded into being, and Susanne Langer’s notion of “virtual force” becomes negotiable by dancers on an entirely new scale. Dancers can float free of gravity or change their physical morphology seemingly at will. Game-engine technology enables “virtual choreography” in digitally generated worlds; motion capture technology is central to transferring dance movement into CG interactive environments. Drawing on work by dance technology artists and research centers around the world, this chapter argues that the poetic affordances of motion capture provide a fundamental shift in conceptualizing dance movement that expands dance’s ability to critically and artistically engage with virtual environments, and therefore with an increasingly virtualized cultural imagination.