Category: Virtuality

Understanding SL

Having been away from the virtual for a good chunk of time, and then now back for an equally long time, I have gained some perspective on SL. It’s basically, much like in RL, about recognition and, most importantly, about balance. The driving force behind recognition in the virtual world is productivity, which comes in many forms. Being creative provides a great challenge and a sense of purpose there, leaving us feeling fulfilled. 

But fulfillment in SL is deceptive for the simple reason that it is in part a fantasy. It can by default not be completely real since our avatar representation itself is flawed, i.e. we present ourselves to others (and to ourselves) in a distorted, often idealized manner. SL is ultimately a place where nothing is as it appears. It is a chaotic world held together by artificial virtual structures and imaginary human perceptions. It is an explorer’s dream, an artist’s paradise, a business entrepreneur’s financial haven, and the senior citizen’s fountain of youth. It is a hide-away for the emotionally sensitive and an opportunity for the emotionally corrupt. It is a fantasy that takes the form of an escape or a trap or anything else you want it to be.

In order to healthily exist in the virtual world then we need to allow it to become less consuming, less fantasy-based, i.e. it can’t interfere with the real world. We need that balance, well, at least I did, and it took plenty of introspection from my end to reach this conclusion. It took hard work to change my experience and it didn’t happen over night. I have reached a point where I spend a minimal amount of time in SL, devoted to what matters the most to me, namely meaningful relationships and creativity. My time-regulated experience in the virtual world co-exists and compliments what is going on in my real life. I am excited to have the best of both worlds.

Photograph by Kate Bergdorf

Avatar Posing

Avatar posing

At some point people who are taking virtual pictures of avatars realize they must start using brand poses in order to improve the quality of their images. The various standing, sitting, and walking poses in the AO will no longer do, neither will the built in furniture poses. Of course these are still used from time to time, but the main pose source becomes the separately purchased brand poses. This shift in a virtual photographer’s thinking about poses seems to happen about the same time that there is a change, and also more sophisticated approach, in integrating into the virtual image windlight, shadows/light/DOF, and editing. All of these factors contribute individually to an enhanced expression of feeling and mood in a virtual photograph.

For the longest time the go-to pose-maker was Del May (Del May Poses). The last few years, however, we have seen an influx of other talented pose-makers, here roughly in chronological order, like Olivia Lalonde (Le Poppycock), Fanny Finney (Ana Poses), Keon Xenga (RK Poses),  Lily Lovelace (KOPFKINO), E.Nantes (E.Poses), Toxx Genest (IntoXx), and Marina Münter (Blaue Reiter Poses). There is an array of pose companies out there, I am simply mentioning here a handful of makers that I tend to use a lot personally. Each of the pose-makers add their own styles and characteristics to their specific poses, making them in that sense unique.

Since all of our avatars are built differently, tweaking of pose-maker poses often needs to be done with AnyPose, a pose adjusting system that lets the user move each avatar body joint separately. Most recently, LeLutka put on the market an avatar face system, the LeLutka Axis HUD Face, that allows us to change avatar facial expressions as well. These separate tweaking systems are quite expensive and take a while to learn, but if you are looking to improve your avatar photography, both are worth purchasing and learning how to use.

Avatar brand poses are available at the pose brand stores and monthly shopping events (and later on usually as Gacha in each specific pose store as well). Most are also on the Second Life Market Place. The brand-pose business has flourished over the past years and I think it is safe to say that brand poses are now just as desirable and lucrative as hair, skin and clothing.

Photograph by Kate Bergdorf

Minecraft as an Artistic Medium

As Second Life residents, we repeatedly come up against the Second Life platform being old and obsolete. We complain amongst ourselves that Linden Lab does not invest enough in making it into something unique and more manageable. Nonetheless, the SL diehards amongst us plug along and make the best of it. It seems we simply become more creative and use the limited tools we already have to our disposal. There are other platforms, of course. Recently a friend made me aware of Minecraft, not the gaming aspect of it, but how people use it as an artistic medium. Not for me really, but nonetheless interesting and perhaps worth checking out. Take a look.

north updates

North has been up for almost two months now and there is a steady stream of people visiting the sim. It is not yet listed in the Second Life Destination guide, which to me is a good thing since it would ultimately just bring large crowds of visitors, something I am hoping to avoid. The North Flickr group is flourishing and pics are posted daily. I take great pleasure in seeing how you experience and interpret with your photographs North and, truthfully, every time I see a new image posted my heart beats a little faster. I will continue posting the five North Friday Pics on the board next to the skateboard rink and announce them via the North inworld group every week.

I would like to continue keeping North simple. I am reluctant to bombard visitors with messages when they arrive at the landing point and thus just provide the most basic information. People who have joined the North inworld group for rezz rights have mostly been great at removing their objects when done. Thank you for that. Some of you have asked me why there is no “tip jar” and the answer is that I am not looking for donations. I want people to enjoy the environment without feeling pressured to pay.

Moving forward I would like to work on getting a proper North windlight and also a unique North music stream. As many of you know, I am itching to transform the sim for winter! I already started removing and adding little things here and there, but there will be a major transformation in a few weeks. I will then close the sim for a week or two. The North foundation will remain the same, but I imagine the general ambience will end up being a bit more raw and austere.

Photograph by Kate Bergdorf

Laurie Anderson: A Virtual Reality of Stories

Please click the link below to see one of the most outstanding contributions to virtual art/machinima that I have seen to date, The Chalkroom, by Laurie Anderson. Thank you moonie, for making me aware of it.

Explore Laurie Anderson’s ‘Chalkroom’ – a new artistic discovery in virtual reality – and learn what it feels like to navigate through an exciting universe of drawings and stories while flying around disembodied and free.

Source: Laurie Anderson: A Virtual Reality of Stories

Berg by Nordan Art Closing

I will close my gallery Berg by Nordan Art December 31. Until then, we will continue operating as usual; CapCat Ragu and Meilo Minotaur have a new exhibit coming up October through December, as does moon Edenbaum. Gallery M, the permanent exhibit space by Mich Michabo, remains open. I hope to be able to extend at least a smaller version of Marina Münter‘s installation Non-Perishable beyond the end of September as well. More about this to come.

Berg by Nordan Art started as Nordan Art. The gallery operated as Nordan Art from 2010 through March of 2012 and then as Berg by Nordan Art from 2015 through 2017. The vision of the gallery has remained consistent; to offer the highest quality virtual art, both when it comes to large immersive installations on the ground as well as to virtual images in the gallery build. Thank you to the outstanding artists who exhibited in the gallery since 2010; they are, in chronological order, nessuno Myoo, Paola Tauber, freebee Withnail, Kicca Igaly, Natsha Lemton, Del May, Bliss Violet, typote Beck, Syn Beresford, Feathers Boa, soror Nishi, Betty Tureaud, Rebeca Bashly, Rose Borchovski, Helene Lytton, Simotron Aquila, Claudia222 Jewell, Shelina Winkler, Theoretical Afterthought, Igor Ballyhoo, Cherry Manga, Anley Piers, lalie Sorbet, Romy Nayar, Trill Zapatero, Artistide Despres, Alizarin Goldflake, Stephen Venkman, Robin Moore, Scottius Polke, Tutsy Navarathna, Piedra Lubitsch, Harbor Galaxy, Giovanna Cerise, Sina Souza, Haveit Neox, Mich Michabo, Imani Nayar, Maloe Vansant, Livio Korobase, Mi, Meilo Minotaur, CapCat Ragu, Huckleberry Hax, daze Landar, Senna Coronet, Marina Münter and moon Edenbaum. Some of these artists exhibited twice and of note, there was a period in the beginning of 2012 where documentation about the gallery is not available. Please let me know if you exhibited then and are not on the list and I will make sure to add you.

Retrospective publications (Nordan Art: A Retrospective 2010 to 2011, Berg by Nordan Art 2015, Berg by Nordan Art 2016), machinima (Rebirth by Iono Allen, Penumbra Machinima by Erythro Asimov, Penumbra Opening at Berg by Nordan Art by Tutsy Navarathna, Berg by Nordan Art by Zarrakan the Cat, Berg by Nordan Art Opening 2016 by Tutsy Navarathna, Fading Mask by Haveit Neox, Berg by Nordan Art Opening October 2015 by Tutsy Navarathna, Harbor Galaxy at Berg by Nordan Art by Tutsy Navarathna), lectures, Nordan Art awards (both at UWA and at Nordan Art), inworld groups (Nordan om Jorden and Berg by Nordan Art), blog posts (The Bergdorf Reports and The Virtual Review) and Flickr groups (Berg by Nordan Art, Nordan Art Issuu Publishing and Non-Perishable) came about as extensions of the gallery. A special thank you to Igor Ballyhoo, Huckleberry Hax and Tutsy Navarathna. You were integral as creative collaborators and contributors.

Moving forward I will focus on my sim North, create my own virtual images and maybe write some art blog posts here and there. We will publish a Berg by Nordan Art 2017 retrospective next year. The Berg by Nordan Art inworld group, as well as the Nordan om Jorden inworld group, will remain open and active. I also anticipate that I will be involved in various art undertakings in the future, which will then all fall under the auspice of Nordan Art/Berg by Nordan Art.

Photograph by Kate Bergdorf

Virtual Distortions Between the Sexes


As the reader of this blog already knows, now and then I put on my thinking cap and try to sort out various virtual life conundrums. Today I will look into another aspect of virtual distortion. As most of us are aware, things are rarely as they appear and I think I can safely say that this rings more true in second life then it does in real life. In the virtual world then, and I refer specifically to second life and Flickr here, we can divide distortions into obvious and less obvious. The animal avatar is a good example of an obvious distortion. Standing in front of a cat in second life, we can be pretty certain there is no real life cat sitting behind the screen maneuvering the kitty in the virtual world! The less obvious virtual distortions are harder to detect. And when it comes to male and female virtual interaction, there are as many distortions as there are stars in the sky. Think about it. Who is the other person behind the avatar? Unless we have actually met this person outside the virtual world, there is no way of knowing. Yes, we have hope, we have faith and many of us love others here, but that is all we have. Moreover, there is a kind of unspoken agreement between us in the virtual world that we will just act as if the fantasy we live here is real. The virtual image of the other on the screen, coupled with our own fantasies about who we want to be and who we want the other to be, is in reality deceptive beyond words. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Just saying.

Photograph by Kate Bergdorf

On Endings


I’ve noticed that several Second Life couples ended their relationships these past few weeks. My relationship came to an end as well, perhaps that is why I am more attuned to other people ending theirs. It got me thinking. What are the types of intimate relationships we actually have here? What happens when these relationships end? And how do people move on? Second life intimate relationships of course mimic real life ones, but with obvious exceptions and limitations. As far as I can tell, there are roughly three different types of virtual intimate relationships; the sexual one, the romantic one, and the “everlasting” one. The sexual relationship can be a one night stand or an extended relationship where people usually agree to just be friends and have sex. No strings attached. The romantic relationship is a committed relationship that can last for years. People fall in love. The “everlasting” relationship is a rare one, a solid love relationship with a bond that does not seem to falter. All these kinds of intimate relationships represent forms of intensified human connectedness within the virtual world. I talk more about intensified emotional experiences in the virtual world here.

Seems to me that most couples in a virtual intimate relationship actually end up breaking up a few times before it is truly over. Once it is over, immediately following, I’ve noticed at least three kinds of behaviors (we see these behavior patterns in social media, like Flickr, etc., which are crucial communication tools for us Second Lifers); complete ignorance, tactful distancing or destructive hysteria. The complete ignorance kind of behavior is simply that. The couple stops speaking and interacting and it is, in fact, as if they ceased to exist. There is no longer any interaction in-world, on Flickr or other social media. The tactful distancing behavior can be thought of as a respectful farewell. There is an understanding that one will need time to heal, but may then be friends again at some point. This kind of couple stops communicating, but don’t completely disconnect, i.e, temporarily discontinue speaking in-world and may selectively continue commenting on/liking Flickr pics. Finally, the destructive hysteria pattern seems to be one signified by impulsivity and rage. People here engage in viscous seeming in-world and Flickr personal attacks that may lead to de-friending or blocking. Ultimately, all these kinds of break up patterns probably overlap in one way or another. They are our ways of dealing with loss.

In terms of moving on, I think people have very different ways of dealing with it. Some people may simply jump right into a new relationship because they don’t want to be alone. Others may really treasure their newfound alone time. People may immerse themselves in creativity or social activities. Some may even consider a virtual break up an opportunity to completely re-evaluate their virtual world existence and start cutting down on time spent in-world. Some may leave the virtual world all together. Whatever ends up happening, the processing of the ending of the relationship has begun. And then clearly, just like in real life, time heals wounds. Both sadness and the experience of loss will eventually fade, no matter how unlikely this may actually seem right after a virtual break up. With time we see people liking and commenting on their ex-partner’s Flickr photo postings and becoming friends in-world again. Virtual life goes on.

Photograph by Kate Bergdorf

The way we are


I’ve been thinking. You know how we second life people always say that time goes so fast here? Like one or two months in second life are like one year in real life, something like that. There is a sense of distortion of time here. Could it perhaps be that this pertains to our feeling states also, that feelings like love and hate are warped in some way as well? In other words, projections and fantasies that influence our sense of time here similarly have an impact on our emotions. If this is indeed the case that our feeling states are in some way intensified in second life, that when we love there is a sense that we love more and when we hate our hate is perceived as stronger. Interestingly then, as our feeling states are experienced as more pronounced here, there is also a great opportunity to look at more difficult behaviors, try to resolve them, learn from them and grow. Just saying. Maybe I’m just thinking too much. 😛

Photograph by Kate Bergdorf

Inventory Madness

Inventory Madness

My inventory is a horrible mess. I have reached the point where I can no longer comfortable navigate my folders. I find myself spending an enormous amount of time trying to find the simplest thing. Truthfully, I dread opening my inventory. How did it come to this!? I am generally an organized person and I am usually on top of things like this, in fact, I would even go as far as saying I take pride in being on top of things like this! A long list of textures, mostly named Snapshot_001; a huge pile of new objects all needing to be rezzed, opened, looked at and sorted into folders; enormous amounts of scattered folders of hair that need to be tried on and then either kept or discarded; clothing, plants, furniture, buildings; it goes on and on and on…. A nightmare. I have decided that for once and for all this must be resolved. I will set aside time and sort it out. My point here is that it is actually more stressful to frantically look for items in the inventory than it is to set aside a few hours to organize the damn thing. I can’t believe I just wrote a post about inventory organization, I could have used this time to sort the inventory! 😛

Photograph by Kate Bergdorf