Saturday, April 9, 2016

LEA 13: Miyako Jima Island

Arrival at Miyako Jima Island

One of the amazing things about the Linden Endowment for the Arts is the sheer variety that exists within it. From the experimental to the experiential and through to the realistic - everything can exist within their sims. Miyako Jima Island is one of the last, a complex and lovely representation of Japan within Second Life. According to a quick googling, Miyako-jima is part of Okinawa Prefecture, a string of islands south of Japan that became fully part of that nation in the late 1800s and prior to that had a long history as autonomous islands that profited highly from trade between Japan and the nearby continent. I know of it at a distance, through anime and travel shows, but I love an opportunity to wander around and explore the small details built by people who clearly care deeply for Japan itself. Part of me really wishes there was an opportunity for more information, as I often end up chasing my own navel when I wander around representative, rather than abstracted, creations. I also ended up wondering what it would be like to live in a world where Miyako-jima itself might have an off-cropping in Second Life, their own virtual island showing in three dimensions what their tourist page shows in two.

Time for Tea

The recent release of interactive goggles (Oculus Rift, Vive, Cardboard) has driven renewed interest in virtual spaces which could take us to a world where three dimensions are as critical to marketing as two. However, this interest exists in this very odd vacuum left by the gutting of interest in Second Life in 2007 - ironically more than a year before I joined Second Life on a more regular basis; I can count the number of times I've heard Second Life mentioned in these new conversations on one hand. I think about what it might be to experience Miyako Jima Island in three dimensions, to move as I walk around instead of guiding my passage with arrows on a keyboard, but i have difficulty imagining it given my usual evenings' entertainments. For example, I am very rarely just doing one thing. This blog post itself is the intersection of two days; the images come from when I wandered through in full on Lolita gear, and while I type this in I'm also standing in the welcome area and cammed off into the distance, enjoying the reflection of a bridge onto the water below. The practice of camming off of myself, or framing shots to look at while I type on my blog or talk to people, is incredibly common - so much so that I've had people contact me to ask why I'm staring so long! Easy answer? I'm not really - we're in the middle of a discussion and I'm staring off into the virtual distance with a lovely view. For brief periods of time, or to experience a specific event like one of Bryn Oh's art projects, I could see going for 360° immersion, but for every day wandering about I prefer something a little less all consuming.

Temple in the Sun

This is in direct odds to how virtual reality is portrayed in fictional contexts like the Matrix, Sword-Art Online, and Ghost in the Shell where the characters are shown fully engaged and unable to do multiple things while acting within very specific contexts. Virtual worlds in particular have been much more open ended, even the ones which didn't last for very long. One of the bigger issues people have with Second Life is not knowing what to do within it - there are tons of options, but even fewer directions than in your standard open world. I think this is in the background of the fictional versions above, but glossed over in the momentum from the plot; having to guide one's own experience is it's own challenge, and one rarely experienced in any world. In the end, though, how people talk about virtual reality seems to hinge more heavily on fictional representations than on how people actually exist within virtual worlds, and that worries me both because of the enormous cliff that Second Life fell of off and how it continues to be treated like a joke by most of the people who know about it. Virtual Reality via goggles seems like it has a similar cliff to fall off of, with similar effects - which I think is a shame because of how valuable I've found Second Life for myself, even a while after it was dismissed by a lot of people, and I hope people making worlds for a new spike of interest can build on what we have created instead of dismissing it while repeating the cycle of hype.

Pausing for a Refreshing Drink

( More pictures here. )


Location: LEA13: Miyako Jima Island
Windlight Settings: Sim Default
Water Settings: Sim Default

Photographed by Deoridhe Quandry
Post processing: Cropping

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