The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

September 25, 2007

SL - theoretical approaches

Second Life behaviors come as animations which may eventually go down to
the frame, but are packages in any case. There is a relation with older
silent film and melodrama patterns - what have been dubbed histrionic
gestures. A good text here is Bharata's Natyasastra, which discusses,
among other things, rasa and pattern presentations. Patterns are used as
generators of audience psychological response. The text not only considers
patterns independently, but as group structures.

Second Life bodies touch on the abject, but don't 'enter' within it; there
are issues of purity and corruption. Buddhaghosa's Visuddhimagga, Path to
Purity, is extremely important in this regard, especially in relation to
illusion and suffering. There are also kasinas which are may be related to
landscape 'focal points' in SL. A second important text is the Hevajra-
tantra with its multiple bodies; it might be worth looking at the works of
Tsong Ka-Pa in this regard as well. (Again, Kristeva's Powers of Horror,
Lingis, Mary Douglas, all come to mind.)

In terms of ontology, Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika, The Fundamental
Wisdom of the Middle Way, is critical, given its analysis of dependent
(co)-origination ad emptiness. This correlates almost too neatly with the
ontology and epistemology of protocols on one hand and the abject body on
the other. Dependent (co)-origination can also be related to Indra's Net
and the relation of the Net to the Internet as a collocation of nodes, at
least on an epistemological level.

One might ask what is the ontology of SL from _within_ protocols - and
whether such a question makes any sense at all.

To self-active an SL avatar - use the screen itself as vision, motion-
detection across the image - feed this into AI neural networks - output
back into SL through encoded behaviors. Note the ontological and epis-
temological shifts involved: from digital readout through analog screen
(2D) interpretation.

Finally there are the old MOOs - MUDs-object-oriented, where MUDs stood
for multi-user-dungeon (or some such - out of the old D&D gaming). MOOs
are text-only virtual realities, somewhat similar to SL. One of the
biggest differences: MOOs are open-source and can easily be set up on any
linux/unix box. Now MOOs (like SL) have a system of unique identification
tags for every object, player, etc., and this is hierarchical (much like
unix itself, with the root / ). Explore the earliest numbers (which re-
flect the sysadmins, wizards, MOO structure as a whole. Remap through
dependent (co)-origination. (It should be noted that the Sharp Zaurus,
which runs on embedded but easily terminal-accessible linux, has a file
structure which 'resonates' with itself - one can literally go in circles
through it. How can one think through these dependencies, proxies, etc.?)
This might be a way of clarifying the philosophical issues - for example,
one might think of both absolute and relative ontologies (much like URLs)
- and then how the former maps onto the latter, or how all of this dis-
appears. (Just as things disappear, mathematical objects appear to appear.
So problems related to SL and avatars: the mapping of protocols, networks
in relation to the visual; to mathesis and abstract ontologies; and to
hardware implementations: static (ROM or storage where configuration is
mapped thing that is read as virtual thing), and dynamic (where transmis-
sion dynamics, ontologies, and economies are paramount).

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