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March 20, 2007

Interview with Julian Bleecker


On Digitizing Everything and More

"[...] Laminating the lives is an interesting point. Let's look a bit more closely at the current interactions between those worlds: so we have objects with social qualities, thanks to their net-savviness. On the other hand - so it seems - there's a movement to create the virtual realities we had been told about for decades, with Linden Lab's Philip Rosedale talking about "digitizing everything". Are those two discrete notions, or are they part of one process and if so, what kind of reality would it possibly lead to?

I think this notion of digitizing everything is a bit misguided. It presumes that most everything should be digital, without consideration as to what it means to have particular human experiences or activities transferred into digital form. It's a kind of digital-era imperialism or evangelization of the database gospel - "if it can be structured as data, put it on the Internets" - or something. It has so many things wrong about it, beginning with a lack of any sort of critical inquiry as to what it means, or why one would think it worth while, for instance, to have make digital shopping malls in Second Life.

If the project of the digital age is to make everything that we have in "1st life" available in 2nd life, then I think we're on the wrong path. Laminating 1st life and 2nd life isn't about creating digital analogs. It's about elevating human experience in simple and profound ways. This blogject project is an early manifestation of what I think we will start seeing as clever tinkerers experiment with creating meaningful bridges between 1st life and 2nd life in which ethics precedes doing something "just 'cause" it's possible. And those bridges come firstly in very simple expressions of 1st life activity in 2nd life, or 2nd life activity in 1st life.

Bruce Sterling has a great turn-of-phrase I once heard him speak - "we will get the future we deserve." And in this case it means if we want Gap Stores, shopping malls and advertising signage in Second Life, that's what we'll get. But I think many people want something that will yield more habitable worlds, not more efficient ways to market and get people to buy crap. We could create impacts and shape thinking and behavior with digital networks, particularly ones that speak to 1st life. We can create bridges that capture, share and disseminate the current, day by day state of the thinning northern ice cap. We can create a 1st life / 2nd life bridge that makes this condition as present, as impactful and as resonant as a dripping faucet in the next room, rather than an abstraction only occasionally brought to our mind through a newspaper article or cocktail party conversation..." From Sascha Pohflepp's Interview with Julian Bleecker on we-make-money-not-art.

Posted by jo at March 20, 2007 09:08 AM