The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

April 5, 2011



which is my mail archive site, set up several years ago; at this point, it 
contains malware of some sort that can lead to real problems with Windows; 
it even attempted downloads in Linux. I'm trying to get the site fixed (I 
don't run it myself, and didn't set it up), but haven't been successful. 
Please do not go to the URL until the problem is (hopefully) taken care 
of. I've been trying to get in touch with Decklin Foster, but so far I'm 
not successful; if you know him, please inform him about the problem.

(Update: I just downloaded - whatever it is - and it seemed to contain all 
my email at the site? Something is amiss - I'm just not sure what it is.)

Thanks, and apologies. - Alan

Notes from some talks at Dartmouth and forthcoming at WVU -
Some of this is altered from older material.)


Notes on Analog and Digital

Analog breakdown of distribution laws - Land Experiments:
What constitutes illusion? Is it an illusion if the 'real' is
reconstructed? (Land experiments, also Jeremy's bot)
Analog - Complexity of the violin (The Violin Explained, Beament)
  -- modes of bridge vibration for example
  -- catastrophe theory - where the digital is forced
Thinking of the origins of music, speech, the absent body,
phenomenology, inordinately complex acoustics, 'making music together,'
muscle memory - Not Heidegger, but Husserl's internal time conscious-
ness, Schutz' relevance strata, but not dissolution, falling-apart at
every turn.
Varied consciousnesses of varied strata.
Widely varied time dilations and contractions, body centered.
Free jazz aesthetics.
Improvisation is possible on computer: within SL for example.
Tacit knowledge and Leder's absent body: relation to speech or playing
an instrument. Somatic difference between improvisation and score.

Tuesday morning - new media class

A. What constitutes the virtual?
B. What constitutes the digital? The discrete? Granularity?
C. What constitutes closure / the abject? (Kristeva, Powers of Horror?)
The abject is what leaks; closure can be augmented by purity,
potential wells.
D. Fundamental nature of physical reality.
E. The laboratory of Second Life, creation and use of 'concrete' samples.
  Some history: MOOs and MUDs.
  Use of language in SL. (Garrett's work among other people. Gaz.)
E1: Avatars
Personhood: First, Second, Third - the drift of persons and tenses


A. Motion capture -
Behavior/dynamic filters: Types: where does node addressibility happen?
1. From position of software rewrite: filter as intermediary.
2. Transformations within the external nodes
i. dispersions, scatterings: social dynamic embodied in avatar
ii. reverberations: avatar embodied in social dynamic (choreography)

B. Use of Second Life, OpenSim, Poser, Slac
1. Weather, constructions, scripting.
2. Active textures.
3. Imported mocap.
4. Accessories, attachments, avatar transformations.
5. == Use of available tech: Linux, Blender, Gimp, etc.

C. Demos:
SL or OpenSim Live? Video. Use Mocap documentation.
Mocap demonstration with Poser?

F. Avatar dispersions as social media.
Mocap Transformations

1. DISPERSED BODY: Sensors are dispersed among 2-3 people, who move
slowly apart / perform, as much as possible.*

Graceful avatar for live choreography
Live choreography for coagulated avatar.

1a. Movements are 'linear' - performers slowly moving apart or
together (occluding).
1b. Movements are 'tensor' - performers bend slowly, creating internal
body 'twists' (center external to skeleton).
1c. Movements are 'contractive' or 'expansive' - performers open up or
contract in relation to each other.
1d. Movements are 'rotational' - performers slowly rotate / twist
(center internal to skeleton).

2. SINGULAR BODY: Sensors on one performer.*

2a. Body curls in on itself as much as possible.
2b. Body twists as much as possible.

3. MAPPING: Sensors are 'mapped' according to various transformations
on the body.*

3a. Sensors are positioned 'inwardly' or 'outwardly' on the body.
3b. The body is twisted so that the sensor positions appear normal;
the body is then untwisted.

4. ENTWINED BODIES: Similar to 1, but with bodies entwined during

initial mapping.*
5. FLIGHT SENSING: Any and all of the above, mapping - if possible -
in flight. (This would allow, for example, for a 'normal' mapping
with a horizontal or upside-down body.)*

*All of these would be performed as 'near' as possible to the
breaking-point, where the sensor reading breaks down.


Movement _for the most part_ would be reasonably graceful, and
relatively slow. The dance/performance will appear to occur _within_
the body as much as possible - the body turning into otherwise
inconceivable positions.

I would also like to try out ideas related to the 'tumbling' body
(random positioning) with the flight harness, as well as the 'avatar'
body; I can demo these on video.


Tuesday night presentation:

The fundamental nature of physical reality:
Granular, discrete, without or without continuous mathematics
Many problems arise.

1 Virtual reality or mixed reality will be swamped by mass extinctions,
environmental degradation, local wars, hacking gangs, economic collapse.
   Virtual reality or mixed reality exists in a fragile zone within
literally catastrophic forces (in the sense of catastrophe theory).
   We move forward as-if.
**In this sense, vr can be considered a _virtual enclave_ or potential
well within the real. - The fragility of the good.
== Also issues of class based on technical knowledge, available tech,
surplus cash, bandwidth, etc. - including collaborative potential.

2. My own work is centered on decentering, on the somatic, on error.
At a codework conf. described the difference between programmers and
artists (which is really non-existent): that the former correct errors,
the latter embrace them. This is fictitious of course; there are 'band-
widths' of acceptability, depending on the project. Kludging is an example
where the two come together. (Most of the world is an example where the
two come together.)

3. Almost all work in virtual worlds is literal, allegorical, fantasy,
referential, simulacrum, parallel, mock-up. My work is not; my work exists
as alien: my spaces have to be negotiated, my avatars may or may not be
visible, and their behavior:

4. My avatar behavior is governed by animation files originating with
motion capture equipment. Almost all professional current mocap uses nodes
- information coming in from specific body areas, assigned body areas, and
so forth. I remap the mocap body, by distributing nodes among several
human bodies; by collapsing nodes, by node reassignment on a geometric or
random basis, by 'heaping' nodes and so forth.

In the virtual, how, where, does emotion, sexuality, abjection, come into
play? What are the barriers? Where are they? The potential wells? What is
safe and not safe play? Marrying in Second Life.

5. I see the body as:

a. An already inscribed, already virtual body: The body is cultural all
the way down, into the threshold of pain and death. I should add here that
_all fauna_ possess culture: it is not unique to humans; even amoeba have

when we talk about flesh - we references something uncontainable, soft, 
vulnerable, carrying history with its scars, always tending towards death, 
undergoing transformation - something we have a visceral reaction to -in 
SL there is always the possibility of photographic textures - as if the 
real has 'made it' to another world - avatar flesh is always a 
representation, never ikonic - as such it can form, focus, narrate, like 
any other representation - you can have emotional/psychological reactions 
to avatars, avatar movement - just as you can to pornography, images of 
violence - it's almost as if they can carry a certain truth. when however 
you go beneath the surface of the carapace - there's nothing - as perhaps 
in buddhism - the interiority - revelation - of the flesh is non-existent 
- emptied out, exhausted - it's this uneasy area between representations 
of surface and emptiness, as if corrupted, of interiority - that my work 
operates - related to my other theoretical concern - how does 
consciousness apprehend formal systems -

b. A distributed or social body: Who speaks 'within' 'us' and who answers 
for us, etc. My avatars are social, their movements produced by groups 
instead of individuals: up to four performers for one animation file. - 
this is a different 'within' - the internal voice - there is voice in SL, 
other sounds, written chat, attached chat which is read. -

c. A dying body: Our bodies are always _on the way out_ and our work, if 
it doesn't revolve around love, sexual arousal, and hatred, is bounded by, 
revolves within, the horizon of death and despair. the dying avatar - 
deadatar - the avatar left behind in the MOO or MUD - my current augmented 
reality work - (so much AR seems to go in this direction, as do 
performance pieces - the COFFIN - as if in the end death asserts itself 
always already against the virtual)

d. An absent body (Drew Leder); we rarely track everything. It is the
privilege of the camera in Second Life to reveal the avatar as simultan-
eous object and subject: confined and open.

e. A present body (Julia Kristeva) and an _abject_ body - both in and out 
of virtual worlds. What are we afraid of just beneath the surface - what's 

I am interested in _errors, leaks, and resistance,_ and in the
re-presentation of _flesh._

The work I've done: at Columbia and West Virginia: exploring the
limitations of mocap. Because my work always begins and ends with the
flesh, with the flesh-mind, with _embodied mind._


West Virginia University Talk, English

Language, playing music, and Literature:

Speaking with the absent body, speaking without the body.
Writing involves:
Preparation, a sheet of assertion, conventional symbols and encodings,
potential well (so that nothing happens to the text as it's being written),
storage, transmission, preparation. It involves stepping-back: WHAT HAVE I

Speech involves:
Improvisations, embedding in time, real-time, somatic issues, gestures,
'aura' beyond symbols, in general

Electronic literature involves a great deal from both writing and speech!
Think of writing through filters - similar to graphics filters:
Some simple examples:
tr, sed, grep, fold, cut, awk, cp, rev, sort, sort -k a.b
With perl scripts you can do much more (I can give these to you):,,,,,,,,,
With awk: all sorts of possibilities:
fil, fill, filter
With extended perl scripts:
.julu, julua, parent
Using talk or chat - 'culling' texts or textual bodies


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