DIVA 202 – Tuesday at Emily Carr

January 13, 2009

CONTEMPORARY DIGITAL ARTS AND ARTISTS

John Wilhelm “Billy” Kluver 1927-2004
– curated 14 major museum exhibitons
– received Ordre des arts et des lettres awards from France (worked with Rauchenburg, Warhol, Johns and composer John Cage)
– he was an electrical engineer at Bell Telephone Laboratories
– his work ranged from the TV antenna atop the Eifel Tower to an underwater video camera for Jacques Cousteau
– his artistic work reached pinnacle in 1996 with “9 Evenings: Theater and Engineering”
– John Cage – Variations VIII
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_Kl%C3%BCver

Kluver believed that artists and engineers could go one step beyond what either would have done separately.
– absorbing new technology into art practice is persistent throughout the 20th century (futurists, dada, constructivists, fluxus, John Cage)

Fluxus movement is essentially a geocache without technology

John Cage – Water Walk

John Cage’s ASLSP / Organ 2 / Halberstadt,

World’s slowest, longest concert

The world’s “slowest and longest concert” resumed on July 5, 2008, when the Halberstadt church organ played the next – 6th – chord of John Cage’s As Slow As Possible. The weights holding down the organ pedals were shifted resulting to the 6th chord change, and accordingly a chance of hearing the final note being played in the year 2639 would be a possibility. In 1985, Cage opted to omit the detail of “exactly how slow the piece should be played.” Its maiden performance was 29 minutes, while a second version took 71 minutes. The piece is a 639-year-long version of Cage’s ORGAN2/ASLSP As Slow As Possible, first played on Cage’s 89th natal day at 1361 St. Burchardi on September 5, 2001. At 3:33 p.m., Saxony-Anhalt politicians, tourists and media led by Hans-Jörg Bauer, head of John Cage Organ Project, attended the chord change to C4-A flat4.

The former Church of St. Burchard was used as a pig-sty in the communist years of East Germany. Two more organ pipes were added alongside the four installed and the tone became more complex at 3:33 p.m. local time. The second of the new pipes, the next musical change in John Cage’s slow masterpiece will be in this November. A machine keeps the sound coming out.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Video and satellites allowed artists to experiment with live performance and networking

Douglas Davis performance “Last 9 Minutes” (1977?) is broadcast to 25 countries live.
In 1977, at the opening of documenta 6, alongside Nam June Paik and Joseph Beuys, Douglas Davis took part in one of the first international satellite telecasts with his live performance The Last Nine Minutes. His exploration of interactivity involving various media continued throughout the 80s and 90s. He is the author of one of the earliest art pieces on the world wide web, The World’s First Collaborative Sentence (1994).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Davis_(artist)

Keith Sonnier and Liza Bear

Robert Adrian – using 1979 Comtech, artists collaborated and exchanged multimedia artworks for 24 hours

1970’s Digital Art expands into multiple strands of practice
– object oriented
– process-oriented virtual object
– open structure and process that rely on flux of information, like a performance

1980’s
– the audience participates in the work
– the artist is not the sole creator, but a mediator or facilitator for audience interaction
– the creative process involves complex collaboration and collapses boundaries between disciplines

Concepts of new technologies are shaped by fiction, and are compelling enough to inspire their recreation in reality

What came first, the chicken or the egg?

Or in Digital Art, what came first, the idea of an online universe or the realization of it?

William Gibson
(Vancouver based author) – invented the term “cyberspace” in his book Neuromancer

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Gibson

Neuromancer

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuromancer

Neal Stephenson

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neal_Stephenson

Snow Crash

– cyberspace, avatars, second life, mmorpg, internet…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snow_Crash

10 Cube Gallery in Second Life = online avatar art gallery

Selling Digital Art
Precious/Scarce does not always apply in digital context
– printmaking model of limited editions scan work with digital items
– for installations or other software dependent art practice, museums are buying the source code and keeping it on their servers

Collecting Art
– Means you are responsible for maintaining the work
– is inherently ephemeral and may only exist in documentation
– ones and zeros are stable, but hardware and software are not – technology creates an obsolescence

– – – – – – – – – –

SELF-DIRECTED Project – due February 10
– Digital Tools (photo, print, high contrast digital picture, GPS,
– HIGH CONTRAST

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

http://www.stuckincustoms.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_dynamic_range_imaging

– Digital Native (installation, conceptual, performance, projection, intervention, public)

GROUP Project – due March 31
– ARG
– Real-Time performance (acting on audience input) aka improv (Subsurvient Chicken)
http://www.subservientchicken.com/


The taxman cometh? IRS urged to tax virtual worlds, economies

January 13, 2009

The Internal Revenue Service should start taxing the fledgling virtual economy in Second Life, World of Warcraft, and other virtual worlds according to Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson. In her annual report published on the IRS website, Olsen said that there are still a number of issues that the IRS should “proactively address” before they get out of control. And now that it’s on the IRS’ radar, it’s likely only a matter of time before Uncle Sam tries to figure out some way to get a cut of your gold.

As most of our readers know, a number of virtual worlds involve the trade of real money for various virtual products and services inside of the game(s). And wherever people are spending money, someone is making it. Entrepreneurs are making fat cash off the sale of virtual land, clothing, sex toys, and everything in between in Second Life and other games, and now Olson wants the IRS to go after them.

“Economic activities associated with virtual worlds may present an emerging area of noncompliance, in part, because the IRS has not issued guidance about whether and how taxpayers should report such activities,” Olson wrote in her report. She points out that almost all income is subject to tax—even prizes, winnings, and barter exchange. She also acknowledges, however, that tracking and reconstructing so many tiny transactions would be a huge burden, and that attempting to place a value on virtual transaction could present serious challenges.

She urges the IRS, however, to establish guidelines on whether (and how) taxpayers should report their activities even if only to help taxpayers better understand what’s going on. “IRS guidance could improve taxpayer compliance even if it simply clarified that in-world transactions are not taxable,” Olson wrote. “To its credit, the IRS has recently identified a number of issues presented by Internet auctions of virtual property and other aspects of virtual worlds. However, the IRS should consider doing more to help taxpayers comply with their tax obligations by quickly issuing guidance addressing how to report economic activities in virtual worlds, as well as in other emerging areas of economic activity.”

This isn’t the first time the concept of taxing virtual worlds has come up. Since at least 2003, people both on- and offline started looking at the tax implications of virtual economies, and Dan Miller, senior economist for the congressional Joint Economic Committee, started entertaining the idea of taxing MMORPGs in 2006 after diving into the world of online gaming himself. As noted by Silicon Alley Insider, however, collecting taxes from virtual world activities could very well put a serious hamper on the virtual economy. No one likes to jump through bureaucratic hoops just to play an online game, after all.

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20090112-taxpayer-advocate-urges-irs-to-tax-economy-in-virtual-worlds.html


DIVA 202 – Back to Skool…

January 7, 2009

Jeff Wall – Vancouver based photographer – featured on the cover of vanity fair (went to school with Ian)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Wall
http://moma.org/exhibitions/2007/jeffwall/

Fungible – ability to take any piece of a production and send it overseas where it can be done faster and cheaper
Fungibility is the property of a good or a commodity whose individual units are capable of mutual substitution, where one unit of a commodity can be exchanged for another unit of the same commodity in the same quantity and grade. Examples of highly fungible commodities are crude oil, precious metals, and currencies.”

Damien Hirst ($230 million – sold directly to auction – subverted the gallery system)

– The asking price for For the Love of God (below) was £50,000,000 ($100 million or 75 million euros). It didn’t sell outright,[32] and on 30 August 2008 was sold to a consortium that included Hirst himself and his gallery White Cube.

In December 2008 Hirst threatened to sue a 16-year old boy for £200 because he incorporated pictures of For the Love of God into grafitti stenciles and sold them on the Internet.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damien_Hirst

Marcus Garvey
– “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcus_Garvey

– What makes digital art history compelling is that it is as much shaped by science and technology as it is by traditional art history.

– Digital art history is thus inextricably linked to the industrial-military complex, research centres, as well as consumer culture and associated technologies.

Leonardo Da Vinci
– Drawing showing cannon trajectories over castle walls

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper (USNR 1906-1992)

– PhD in Math from Yale in 1934
– joined naval reserve in 1943 and assigned to bureau of ordinance
– went to work in UNIVAC (universal computer), and wrote the first compiler
– co-invented COBOL and gave us…
– photo # NH 96566-KN (First computer “bug” in 1945)
– found an actual moth in the relay tape for the computer

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Hopper

Dr. Vannevar Bush

– wrote “As we may think” – coordinated science to warfare
– build a computer back in 1929 – Differential Analyzer
– used the computer to design bouncing bombs used to destroy German dams during WWII
– envisioned a device called The Memex – basically an analog version of the PC, the web and google

– picture of the memex in LIFE magazine – circa 1945
– his essay predicted many technologies
“Wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready-made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped in”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vannevar_Bush
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/As_We_May_Think
Earth versus the flying Saucers

– Hollywood used the actual computer for this film
Marshall University Differential Analyzer

Claude Shannon


– one of Bush’s graduate students – known as the “Father of information theory”
– A Symbolic analysis of Relay and Switching
– introduced to George Boole’s algebra as an undergrad
– proved that boolean algebra and binary arithmetic could be used to simplify the electromechanical relays then used in telephone
– enabled engineers to transform circuits from analog to digital realm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claude_Shannon

Theodor Nelson

– an American sociologist, philosopher, and pioneer of information technology. He coined the term “hypertext” in 1963 and published it in 1965. He also is credited with first use of the words hypermedia, transclusion, virtuality, intertwingularity and teledildonics. The main thrust of his work has been to make computers easily accessible to ordinary people. His motto is:

A user interface should be so simple that a beginner in an emergency can understand it within ten seconds.

– invented the words hypertext and hypermedia in 1961 – networked Docuverse

Douglas Englebart
– best known for inventing the computer mouse, as a pioneer of human-computer interaction whose team developed hypertext, networked computers, and precursors to GUIs; and as a committed and vocal proponent of the development and use of computers and networks to help cope with the world’s increasingly urgent and complex problems.

First computer Mouse

Early Macintosh Mice

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Engelbart

Marcel Duchamp
Rotary Glass Plates, 1920

L.H.O.O.Q.

– found imagery and appropriate it – READYMADE
– precursor of digital art practice
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcel_Duchamp
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L.H.O.O.Q.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Readymades_of_Marcel_Duchamp

FLUXUS ARTISTS
– a name taken from a Latin word meaning “to flow”—is an international network of artists, composers and designers noted for blending different artistic media and disciplines in the 1960s. They have been active in Neo-Dada noise music and visual art as well as literature, urban planning, architecture, and design. Fluxus is often described as intermedia, a term coined by Fluxus artist Dick Higgins in a famous 1966 essay.
– series of instructions to reach an event

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FLUXUS

John Cage

– pioneer of chance music, electronic music and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde and, in the opinion of many, the most influential American composer of the 20th century
4′33″ (Four minutes, thirty-three seconds) – the sound was different wherever it was played because it was silence

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Cage
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4%E2%80%B233%E2%80%B3

Grahame Weinbren

“The Digital Revolution is a Revolution of Random Access”
http://www.heise.de/tp/r4/artikel/6/6113/2.html
– Random Access is a basis for processing and assembling information
http://media.rmit.edu.au/students/projects/iiki/index.php/Grahame_Weinbren
http://www.yale.edu/dmca/dhtml/lectures99/weinbren.html

Sonata

– created by Grahame Weinbren, is an interactive narrative that is controllable by the viewer’s touch. The installation was exhibited internationally between the years of 1991 and 1999. Containing classical narratives of passion and violence by Tolstoy, Freud, and the Apocrypha, Sonata requests viewers to create their own narratives through interaction, and thus their own interpretations.

By touching the screen at any moment throughout the piece the viewer will affect the way the narrative continues. This includes viewing the narrative from a different perspective, superimposing future footage, or allowing a split-screen effect to show two different characters simultaneously.
http://media.rmit.edu.au/students/projects/iiki/index.php/Sonata

On Time

– one of the four short films produced for Garage Flicks. Directed by Ted Chung, with the screenplay by David Bradley Halls, and produced by Bianca Bodmer, Rich Ho Kok Tai, Elena Titova, and Vincent Schmitt. The credits also show their ‘Project mentor’ as Grahame Weinbren – his works, in my opinion, share similarities with the story of On Time. Sonata in particular as it experiments with future knowledge, just as On Time does.
http://media.rmit.edu.au/students/projects/iiki/index.php/On_Time

Howard Wise
EAI : Electronic Arts Intermix Funded by a number of American state agencies, federal agencies and organisations, Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI) was founded by Howard Wise in 1971 to support video art. It is a non profit making organisation. As well as video art, it now rents and sells audio, CDs, CD-ROMs and other interactive media works by artists. Web projects are also featured online. The searchable online catalogue includes artists’ biographies, descriptions of the works, QuickTime excerpts and ordering information. The website consists of an alphabetical list of authors and titles; a new artists / new titles section; audio and interactive media; selections from the video archive; streaming video, where excerpts of the video collection can be viewed; and a Resources section, which includes bibliographies and information about exhibitions and events. The Features section includes Web projects, which can be viewed online.
http://www.eai.org/eai/index.htm

John Whitney – CATALOG

– computer generated pictures in 1965 – used analog military computer equipment to create his short film CATALOG
demo reel of work created with his analog computer/film camera magic machine he built from a WWII anti-aircraft gun sight.
– Also Whitney and the techniques he developed with this machine were what inspired Douglas Trumbull (special fx wizard) to use the slit scan technique on 2001: A Space Odyssey


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Trumbull
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slit-scan_photography

Slit-scan is an animation created image by image. Its principle is based upon the camera’s relative movement in relation to a light source, combined with a long exposure time. The process is as follows:

  1. An abstract colored design is painted on a transparent support
  2. This support is set down on the glass of a backlighting table and covered with an opaque masking into which one or more slits have been carved.
  3. The camera (placed high on top of a vertical ramp and decentered in relation to the light slits) takes a single photograph while moving down the ramp. The result: at the top of the ramp, when it is far away, the camera takes a rather precise picture of the light slit. This image gets progressively bigger and eventually shifts itself out of the frame. This produces a light trail, which meets up with the edge of the screen.
  4. These steps are repeated for each image, lightly peeling back the masking, which at the same time produces variation in colors as well as variation of the position of the light stream, thus creating the animation.

Naturally, this effect is very time-consuming, and thus expensive, to create. A 10-second sequence requires a minimum of 240 adjustments.

Billy Kluver
– art and science should colaborate
– was an electrical engineer at Bell Telephone Laboratories who founded Experiments in Art and Technology. Klüver lectured extensively on art and technology and social issues to be addressed by the technical community. He published numerous articles on these subjects.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_Kluver
http://www.conceptlab.com/interviews/kluver.html

Techno Viking – original has now gone viral

World of Warcraft spoof

They’re taking the hobbits to Isengard techno spoof

http://technoviking.tv/

THIS IS SPARTA!

http://failblog.org/

THE ONION

– macbook wheel – the onion spoof
http://www.theonion.com/content/index

DIGITAL ART 2ND EDITION – CHRISTIANE PAUL

RED VS. BLUE

– Halo machinima movies

The Original Human Space Invaders Performance

– props to Julaluck (aka Bob) for finding this golden nugget!

MY SECOND LIFE
– created by Douglas Gayeton – hbo bought it for $6 million – Who is the Creator?
http://www.hbo.com/docs/programs/molotovalva/interview.html


Snow Crash and Alternate Reality Games

November 15, 2008

/ SNOW CRASH

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snow_Crash
http://www.time.com/time/2005/100books/0,24459,snow_crash,00.html

– lethal text as popular fiction
– Neal Stephenson stared writing Snow Crash in 1989; published in June 1992
– in 1990, Tim Berners Lee began testing the ‘world wide web’ at CERN in Switzerland
– in 1991, the world wide web was released
– in 1992, there were 26 websites, mostly associated with the University of Illinois
– in 1995, traditional online dialup services like AOL began to provide access to “The Internet”
– cyberpunk / post-cyberpunk genre novel
– Time listed it on the 100 all-time novels written since 1923
– a graphic novel without the graphics
– cyberpunk is gritty (technology bad – like Blade Runner)
– post-cyberpunk = technology is good (Hiro Protagonist – technology is celebrated – young urban professional with more social status)
– Phillip Rosedale who created Linden Labs (aka Second Life) – Snow Crash was their business plan
– there is a video game company named Black Sun
– Are the characters governed by their ideas and origins or their feelings and emotions?
– popularized the word AVATAR- virtual world-ware named Blaxxun (after the disco in the metaverse)
– Google Earth / Google Knol – monetizing information = CIC

– video of Neal Stephenson speaking in London in 2008

– did Stephenson write a technical vision of the future or did techies take his ideas and make it a self-fulfilling prophecy
– Dr. William Gibson – wrote Johnny Mnemonic (invented the term cyberspace)
– memes are self-replicating units of culture – memes to genes as memetics to genetics
– memetics = the theory that cultural information comes in chunks, and are transmitted like viruses.
– Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene
– principal thematic concern of Snow Crash is memetics – ideas are transmitted like code and are vulnerable to hacking
– the original Sumerian is analogous to binary/machine-level coding
– language and ideas are programs written by priests/hackers
– diversity in a culture is a good thing so as to not have everyone vulnerable to a single viral attack
– L. Bob Rife (metaphor of L. Ron Hubarb) seeks to control the media and UNDO the nam-shub and then recreate a lethal text that will control through hacking
– A TEXT THAT DISRUPTS OR DESTROYS THE MECHANISM THAT PROCESSES IT.
– a computer virus is a lethal text
– The Tower of Babel
– Die Laughing?

MONTY PYTHON – funniest joke in the world then die laughing

– lethal text paradox: no one can know the lethal text and remain capable of telling it (perpetual auto-responder computer paradox)
– many a malevolent computer in science fiction has been short-circuited by making lethal text queries that have no logical output (Wargrames)
– we can choose to lose at Tic-Tac-Toe – the WOPR in Wargames came to a rational conclusion about nuclear war by being force to play tictactoe

– “The only way to win is to not play”

– the brain can deflect paradox by ceasing to think about it, machines cannot – no one can win, so why play?

– is dystopic or futurist writing (in this case cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk) a form of memetic virus that infects the future?
– Mosaic and Google founders / CEO of Second Life / XBOX architect J Allard
– most prophetic aspects may not be the technology, but the depiction of a decentralized, post-statist social system
– has de-coupled the notion of land of sovereignty and redefined nations as people linked by values or interests

– posits an atomized, completely de-centralized future
– “Rhizomatic” structure; small, inter-dependent nodes, no central government
– the one nuclear power in the story  is an individual, Raven (the ultimate free-agent)

– Freidman wrote “The World is Flat” in 2005 – just won the Nobel Prize for economics
– international best seller – describes the mechanics of fungibility and out-sourcing
– documents flatteners like technology, workflow, the web, outsourcing…
– American economy needs to shift to a creative or value-added economy
– Blackwater = General Jim’s defense System and Admiral Bob’s National Security
– for-profit prisons in the state that has 3 strikes you’re out laws!

– – – – – – – – – –

ALTERNATE REALITY GAMES (ARG)

– an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform
– uses media and traditional game elements (like puzzles) to tell a story that may change or be otherwise affected by the participants’ actions or reactions
– the internet is the central binding medium for an ARG (cellphones, the web…)
– players are more actively ‘controlled’ by designers, as opposed to the AI-based characters in a video game
– does a game require an opponent?
– ARGs don’t necessarily have an opponent
– puppet master may change or engage players in real-time, but they want you to ‘solve’ things

ARG TERMS

The Curtain = a metaphor for the dividing line between the designers and the players (from Wizard of Oz – man behind the curtain)

Puppet master = the lead designer or producer of an ARG; directs or impedes the progress of the players through clues or puzzles

Rabbithole = AKA Trailhead, the Rabbit hole is the first clue or invitation to the ARG (Alice in Wonderland)

ARG DESIGN PRINCIPLES

Archaeology = not a single narrative, but a story that is assembled by player community from pieces scattered across multiple media

Platform Appropriate Media = using the best media to deliver pieces of the story (ie: download mp3, watch youtube, send txt / I Love Bees)

Crowd-source Solution = requires cross-discipline expertise within player community to solve

Whisper Rather Than Shout = present the entrance to the Rabbit hole with a whisper rather than a shout; get players to ‘pull’ out the story, rather than ‘push’ it on them

TINAG = this is not a game – actual phone numbers, URLs etc all worked – characters functioned like real people

NAH = Not A Hoax – at the same time, one has to be aware of creating panic, discomfort or a disturbance in players, public and civil authorities. It needs to be a game.

– – – – – – – – – –

CASE STUDY EXAMPLE:

http://ilovebees.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Love_Bees

– Halo 2 launch event website – they sent jars of honey to previous ARG players with ilovebees website and the countdown = rabbit hole
– around the same time, TV commercial showed a link to the ilovebees url
– these were not connected publicly for several weeks – curious players went to the website that had been “hacked”
– no direction or guidance was given – the community worked within itself to help this lowly beekeeper
– players were given 210 time codes and gps locations (turned out to be pay phones) which were when the pay phone calls would go down
– communications between puppet masters and gamers increased in scope – phone calls, emails
– the winners got to go to 4 theaters and play first edition Halo 2 game
– over 3 million people were playing the game
– game was designed and produced by 42 entertainment

http://www.42entertainment.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/42_Entertainment


‘Second Life’ ends couples’ first marriage

November 14, 2008

LONDON (AFP) – A woman is to divorce her husband after discovering he was having a virtual affair within the online game “Second Life,” newspapers reported Friday.

Amy Taylor, 28, met her husband David Pollard within the game in May 2003, and six months later, she moved into his home in Cornwall.

The couple married in July 2005, while their “Second Life” avatars Dave Barmy and Laura Skye — younger, slimmer versions of their real-life selves — also held an online ceremony for their virtual friends.

After a rare break from the computer, however, Taylor returned to find her 40-year-old husband in an intimate, albeit virtual, position with an online prostitute within “Second Life”, which she said was the “ultimate betrayal”.

“I was so hurt,” she was quoted as saying in The Times, adding that theirs was a “very serious marriage”.

“I just couldn’t believe what he’d done. It’s cheating as far as I’m concerned, but he didn’t see it as a problem and couldn’t see why I was so upset.

“He said I was just making a big fuss and tried to make out it was my fault for not giving him enough attention.”

Second Life is an online role-playing game with more than 15 million users, in which players can create virtual avatars and interact with other gamers, or the environment.

The game has its own virtual economy, in which online currency can be exchanged for real-world US dollars, and several major businesses have set up “branches” within the game, while others operate entirely within it.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Taylor claims that Pollard is now engaged to the woman he was having an online tryst with, despite never having met her.

She has, meanwhile, found a new love, through fantasy online role-playing game “World of Warcraft”.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/afp/081114/world/lifestyle_britain_family_divorce_internet_offbeat
– the last part made me seriously laugh hysterically lawlz


Angry online ‘divorcee’ kills virtual husband in cyber revenge

October 24, 2008

By Mari Yamaguchi, The Associated Press

TOKYO – A 43-year-old player in a virtual-world game became so angry about her sudden and unexpected divorce from her online husband that she logged on with his password and killed his digital persona, police said Thursday.

The woman used another player’s ID and password to log onto the popular interactive game “Maple Story” to carry out the virtual murder in May, a police official in the northern city of Sapporo said.

Police said the woman admitted to carrying out her cyberspace revenge and has been jailed on suspicion of illegally accessing a computer and manipulating electronic data.

“‘I was suddenly divorced, without a word of warning. That made me so angry,”‘ the official quoted her as telling investigators.

The woman, a piano teacher, had not plotted any revenge in the real world, the official said.

She has not yet been formally charged. If convicted, she could face up to five years in prison or a fine up to $5,000.

Players in “Maple Story” create and manipulate digital images called “avatars” that represent themselves, while engaging in relationships, social activities and fighting monsters and other obstacles.

In virtual worlds, players often abandon their inhibitions, engaging in activity online that they would never do in the real world. For instance, sex with strangers is a common activity.

The woman used login information she got from the 33-year-old office worker when their characters were happily married to kill the character. The man complained to police when he discovered that his online avatar was dead.

The woman was arrested Wednesday and taken 1,000 kilometres from her home in southern Miyazaki to be detained in Sapporo, where the man lives, the official said.

The police official said he did not know if she was married in the real world.

Bad online behaviour is usually handled within the rules set up by online worlds, which can ban miscreants or take away their virtual possessions.

In recent years, virtual lives have had consequences in the real world.

When bad deeds lead to criminal charges, prosecutors have found a real-world activity to cite – as in this case, in which the woman faces possible charges of illegal computer access.

In August, a woman was charged in Delaware with plotting the real-life abduction of a boyfriend she met through the virtual reality website “Second Life.”

In Tokyo, a 16-year-old boy was charged with stealing the ID and password from a fellow player of an online game in order to swindle virtual currency worth $360,000.

Virtual games are popular in Japan, and “Second Life” has drawn a fair number of Japanese participants. They rank third by nationality among users, after Americans and Brazilians.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/capress/081023/koddities/japan_avatar_murder


Virtual Morality

October 17, 2008

I came across this essay yesterday and I think it definitely fits within the realm of our class discussions – when it comes to online / video game universes:

– – – – – – – – – –

“Either we will be forced to concede that as long as no ‘other’ is being harmed, people are free to do absolutely anything (torture, rape, molest, murder, etc.), or we will conclude that morality does indeed have a place in virtual worlds.”

– – – – – – – – – –

VIRTUAL MORALITY

Technology is dragging morality into some deep and murky philosophical waters, forcing us to reexamine our understanding of it as many of us choose to become actors in virtual worlds. By putting choice and consequence in closed virtual worlds where we can kill without harming others or facing punishment ourselves, we are forced to reconsider the case for moral behavior. New videogames such as Grand Theft Auto IV and online communities such as Second Life, invite an increasingly large percentage of society to participate in fantasy worlds where we are invited to experience life without rules – to be the bad guy or the sexual deviant. The implicit suggestion of these products is that, like gravity, morality does not necessarily exist in a virtual world. Morality and consequence can be switched off. Anything goes. It’s an attractive proposition, one that undoubtedly contributed to the record breaking sales of Grand Theft Auto IV, which took in over $500 million in its first week. Morally questionable behavior provided by the game now includes lap dances, sex with prostitutes, killing prostitutes, killing cops, and of course, stealing auto

Although Grand Theft Auto IV allows you to kill anything that walks, you cannot (yet) sex anything that walks. Sex in the game is restricted to prostitutes who willingly engage. This design choice has allowed the game maker, Rockstar Games, to negate some particularly unsettling in-game situations such as virtual rape or virtual pedophilia. Though I believe there would be a public outcry if such morally repellent things were included in the game, explaining exactly why virtual sex and murder are acceptable – while virtual rape is not – is a difficult argument.

The issue typically discussed around violent games such as Grand Theft Auto is that the violence or sexual behavior of the virtual worlds will surface in the real world – that violent games will eventually create violent people who do horrific things (videogames were repeatedly blamed following both Columbine and Virginia Tech. massacres, for instance). But there is another concern that has gone largely unaddressed that will become increasingly perplexing as videogames create better, more immersive models of reality: am I free to do anything I want in a virtual world, or are some things inherently wrong?

The Matrix Revolutions hints at the complicated relationship between morality and virtual reality through a subplot involving a husband, The Merovingian, and his wife, Persephone. Set in a future age where simulations of people – programs – are largely indistinguishable from real people, the Merovingian has a sexual tryst with a stunning blonde-haired program. Persephone takes revenge on her husband for his sexual dalliances by betraying him to the story’s protagonists. In the scene of his betrayal, The Merovingian confronts Persephone, demanding to know the cause of her disloyalty. Persephone suggests her cause was her husband’s own sexual disloyalty. Unable to refute her claim, the Merovingian points out that he has not been with a woman, he has been with a computer program. “It’s just a game,” he says. The essence of his argument is that morality is meant for governing how people interact with people, not how people interact with machines. Persephone offers no counterargument, and none is required. Regardless of any philosophical arguments, she feels offended by her husband’s infidelity. This is one example, albeit a fictional one, which dispels the notion that virtual behavior has no real-world consequences.

Liberty City, the virtual world of Grand Theft Auto IV, is a much simpler virtual reality than that of The Matrix, but the essential questions of the role of morality within it still apply. The Merovingian’s argument for sexual infidelity – it’s just a game – is presumably the same argument used to justify Grand Theft Autos IV’s virtual lap dances and killings. To be sure, the killing of a fictional character in a videogame cannot be judged on the same moral grounds as the killing of a person in the real world, but The Matrix suggests that morality and consequence cannot simply be ignored in virtual worlds.

The 2002 film Minority Report, based on Phillip K. Dick’s short fiction, also projects a future in which there is a convergence of sexuality and technology. Minority Report imagines brothels of the future where people purchase sexual fantasies made possible via technology. The film doesn’t explore the moral implications of such technological innovation, but rather provides a picture of how technology can complicate our ideas about sex and what constitutes moral sexual conduct. In the wake of this kind of technological innovation, individuals as well as entire religious bodies will be forced to clarify exactly what it means to be faithful to one’s partner. A second, perhaps more difficult question, also quickly follows: what kinds of fantasies should be condoned?

This question was recently debated in the online community of Second Life when it was found that certain members who presented themselves to the online world as children were engaging in virtual sexual acts with adult characters. This may have been allowed to go on, except that some actual child pornographic material was uploaded into the virtual world. Something interesting happened when Second Life’s creator and controlling company, Linden Lab, issued a warning that such activity would not be tolerated. Some of the participants became angry, suggesting that Linden Lab has no business moderating the kinds of fantasies consenting adults participate in. It’s a fight between people who see no moral boundaries in virtual worlds, and those who maintain that there is a place for morality in virtual worlds.

Religion takes an entirely different approach to morality than the model which governs society. Our legal systems attempt to enforce a moral standard upon the way people interact with each other. The purpose of state-imposed morality is to prevent harm. While secular morality condemns actions that harm others (precisely because they harm others), religion is more concerned with what offends God. From a religious perspective, harming your neighbor is wrong not only because it causes your neighbor pain, but also because your action makes God angry. This perspective shifts the gaze of morality from other to God. The first five commandments of the Decalogue do not address the mistreatment of one’s neighbor (e.g. lying, stealing, murdering, committing adultery), but rather man’s approach to God (e.g. creating idols, taking the Lord’s name in vain, keeping the Sabbath day holy).

When Jesus began teaching and interpreting the moral code of the day, he radically redefined adultery, translocating the sin from the physical realm of actions and words to the virtual world of the mind and imagination. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says, “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” What Jesus teaches is that God is concerned not only with what plays out in the physical world of actions (reality), but also with what takes place in the virtual world of our minds. A sociological approach to morality judges murder wrong because it harms an innocent person. A theological approach to morality finds murder sinful not only because of the physical act, but also because God is offended by an angry mind as well as violent hands. The humanist or secular view of morality is concerned only with what we do. True religious morality is concerned not only with what we do, but with who we are, with what we desire to do.

In virtual spaces, questions of moral behavior seem to have been passed over entirely, perhaps because, until recently, few games have been specifically designed to allow people to virtually participate in morally reprehensible behavior. The record-breaking sales of the Grand Theft Auto series guarantee that this will soon change. Such a huge market for the game has shown that there is a collective desire to immerse oneself in virtual misbehavior. The market demand for virtual lawlessness guarantees that developers will soon be rushing to the marketplace with games that offer increasingly realistic worlds and potential for morally suspect behaviour. How we will act in those worlds, and whether we object to their content, will stem from our understanding of the source of morality. Either we will be forced to concede that as long as no ‘other’ is being harmed, people are free to do absolutely anything (torture, rape, molest, murder, etc.), or we will conclude that morality does indeed have a place in virtual worlds.

http://www.adbusters.org/magazine/80/virtual_morality.html