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Podcast: Parallel Worlds: Explorations in Second Life

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View Podcast Online? Yes

Podcast length: 1 hour 42 minutes

Note: The Fora TV online player can be a tad temperamental. Unlike most online viewers, it deals with files one or two hours long, in a continuous stream. In tests, we have found about a third of the time, particularly for Windows XP/Vista, the player will lock up partway through, and require a page refresh. Unhelpfully when it does this, the time display zeroes out, so it is worthwhile keeping a check on it whilst the video is playing, so you can fast-forward to where you left off, if necessary.

Podcast Description

This podcast is basically concerned with photography in the virtual. It deals with as they quote "the digital revolution in photography". Pushing beyond technologies such as photoshop to digitally tweak images, this 'cast discusses the possibilities that the photography digital revolution expands as far beyond digitally remastering, as motorised transport extends from the capabilities of the horse.

It discusses technologies such as Google Earth and Microsoft Planet to begin with, discussing the ability to map the world photographically, and in immersive 3D such as you can immerse yourself in the map, have it surround you on all sides, and be photographically accurate to the day that was taken. Similar, much smaller scale projects such as Quicktime VR panoramas and photographic skyboxes are also discussed.

Gigapan and other photographic montages are discussed - the social aspects of shared photography, where panoramas are made, shared, discussed and annotated.

It then moves on from passive VR scenes, to interactive VR and photography. SecondLife is chosen specifically, but it applies to any VR environment in the most part.

A brief, condensed history of interactive VR development is included as background placement at this point in the talk, ensuring even those new to social VR have some understanding of the background technologies and philosophies.

Things then move on to an explanation of Second Life, and its business opportunities. Mentioned are the lack of necessity for air fares, and the ability for galleries where lack of space is a non-issue. A figurte of over 20,000 commercial photographic galleries with a presence in SL, is mentioned.

Fifteen minutes in, international art shows with all participants being all over the world, but 'physically' present at the art show is mentioned. This is bnot big news for those accustomed to VR, but for the art community, this is a big thing still.

A cascade of examples follow, with Second Life opened on the projector screen, and various presenters showing in real-time, different galleries, and the interaction with artists, live, from across the planet, discussing their work.

Occasionally the presentation does break down into a slideshow format, however the presenters manage for the most part to keep it interesting, even if there are a lot of 'ums'. It also shows how even the very technology of a virtual world can be artistic. At an hour, five minutes in, we get to see a set of virtual photographs, tracing the symmetry, and beauty of a virtual location as it downloads piecemeal, as bandwidth allows. Starting with the blank, empty canvas, and slowly filling in as the servers deliver content, bit by bit.

At one hour 22 minutes, it turns into an audience question time against the panel, asking all manner of awkward questions, uch as what happens when second life crashes, or 'what about all the empty areas' - meaning the areas that have been built, but that no-one ever visits.

A description of the Miss Second Life beauty constant is used as an example of the opposite end. Because SL's architecture cannot support more than 70 people in a given building, you also quickly end up with popular events that no-one else can get into. It should be noted that this particular problem is unique to Second Life, and the way their technology has been set -up.

Download problems were also discussed. As one panellist said: "You cannot get into second life that day, unless you download this new 37 megabyte viewer, due to a bug in the last one." In other words, it does push those with slower net connections out of the arena, due to the constant need for large downloads.

Presenter Biographies

Michael Van Horn

Michael Van Horn, curator of the Joseph Monsen Collection in Seattle, who has organized shows about and within Second Life.

Michael Schmelling

Michael Schmelling is a photographer whose work has appeared in such publications as the New York Times Magazine and Wired, and has recently completed a commissioned project on Second Life.

Fred Ritchin

Fred Ritchin was a picture editor of The New York Times Magazine from 1978-82. He was executive editor of Camera Arts magazine from 1982-83, and founding director of the Photojournalism and Documentary Photography Program at the International Center of Photography. Ritchin created, with photographer Gilles Peress, the Web site for the New York Times, Bosnia: Uncertain Paths to Peace, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in public service in 1997. Currently, Ritchin is an Associate Professor of Photography and Communications at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and an adjunct at Temple University's senior lecture Journalism department and the director of PixelPress.

Richard Minsky

Richard Minsky is the founder of SLART magazine, a critical review and journal of Second Life art.

Transcript Available? No

Audio file available? Yes

Podcast Download? Yes

Podcast viewing notes


Additional Research Links

Second Life

SLART magazine
A critical review and journal of the virtual arts of Second Life.


Aperture Magazine

Staff Comments


Untitled Document .