I've been inactive in Second Life for about eight months, and in SL, that is almost an eternity! However, there are good reasons for the absence, albeit perhaps not for quite such a prolonged period. After having spent about a year learning the ins-and-outs of the virtual world, and then having developed an event that bridged the RL and SL (a museum exhibit in the real world that used a SL counterpart), my time and energy were caught up into an extraordinary RL initiative that has come to dominate my personal and professional landscape.
It may sound odd, but I think after learning to function in a "reactive landscape", I got busy building super-reactive environments in RL... specifically for disabled children, for whom real life is even less reactive than for most of us. I am now engaged in several projects that are building artistically-inspired reactive and interactive installations that, in many ways, emulate the kinetic sculptures the VAA group has developed and promoted in SL. For example, working with engineers who are specialists, on the one hand, in robotics, on another in physiological sensing devices, and in a third area, in so-called "smart textiles" (fabric that changes shape, color and texture on command), and with installation and media artists, we are constructing a large wall mural that will react to disabled children who roll up to it on their wheelchairs (or walk up to it, depends on the child) - changing shape, color, and thematic configuration. We will be able to measure their heartbeat, level of excitement (e.g. via skin perspiration and blood pressure), and modify the mural also in relation to these characteristics. In another initiative, we are creating a miniature "telegame" that allows children with disability to interact with each other through robotic devices that act as RL avatars. These projects are extraordinarily stimulating but also rather challenging to build (and fund!), and have taken most of my time over the past eight months to develop.
Interestingly, I used my experiences, especially those with the VAA, to "sell" these projects to the two hospitals who are now partners in their development. Using the video clips on VAA artists and the Reactive Sculptures clip, I was able to highlight the power that changes in the environment may have on changing our understanding of the self. One could say that SL got so far under my skin that it has ended up revolutionizing my relationship with RL!
Actually, this hasn't stopped with the creation of reactive environments, either. After developing a line of clothing in SL, and then being involved in the creation of SL versions of real life traditional ethnic garments in support of the museum exhibit we did last year, I decided that, perhaps, I could do the same with RL garments. So I taught myself to sew and am in the process of developing a line of RL garments. I discovered that sewing is an extraordinarily grounding activity for me and it has become an integral and daily presence in my life. I learned the power of fashion within SL, and have not stopped trying to use this power back in RL to do equally interesting things.
I share these observations and reflections, because I believe all involved with SL art are aware of the links between SL and RL and are interested in how the activities in the one sphere may affect or inform activities in the other.
I shall be around SL again on an off-and-on basis, but my engagements with the RL projects that flowed from my SL activities are likely to keep my presence low key. See you around!