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Blog by Ina Centaur » Ephemeral Life


Ephemeral Life

Written by ina on Saturday, 14 of June , 2008 at 9:33 pm
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I’m thinking of the RFL prom - the immersive virtual prom event on Second Life created by the passion of numerous designers, to benefit ACS through Relay for Life. I’m also thinking of data loss, oil paintings, and quantum mechanics… the ephemeralness of everything coherent.  

A younger me used to find it apalling and infuriating that great canvases of oil paintings would burn in a building fire. And be lost forever. I used to regard cases like that with the naive innocence of someone with too much pride in her own era’s distinction. I’d scoff and think — had they done that digitally, it would exist forever. And yet…

The great works of art from the ancient past will outlive the great works of this era. Modern art is relative, and in the eye of the beholder. Digital data is ephemeral. Hard drives fail, CD’s fail, DVD’s fail, flash drives get lost. Simulators on Second life get wiped because their maintenance fees are far too great.

It’s amazing the amount of passion and love people put into Second Life - and the beauty of some of the work is just wow… The insane amount of time and tendency to details the creator puts in… just defies good reason… especiallly when the details won’t survive after its creation - the creator, galvanized by more things to create would never look at it again… the detail, being to subtle and fine, would get overlooked by others, especially when there are a thousand others. (”The greater you are, the less of each of your works.”) And yet, I guess the only thing that really matters is the experience. There’s no gaurantee that the end product will survive or what sorts of freak accidents would prevent it from successfully reaching its destination. It is as Eshi says. It is all about the process of creating it. It is not about the end product, and yet the process of creating it is often unbearable in the horrible way - and while creating it you’re thinking about the end product. But, in the end, it is only about you. There’s a high chance no one will see it beyond you. And a high chance you’d never look at it after you’re done with it. It’s the process, and yet…

I guess that’s why in the middle of my personal life experiment in Second Life I start pursuing live theatre. I’d always strayed away from it after I “developed” my philosophy of life. Really, I studied physics thinking that knowing physics I would be able to understand everything else, and that really wasn’t it. Philosophy was more rhetoric and tenure politics than truth. And bioengineering was just unrigorous physics and luckiness. I used to pity people who spent their time doing art and that sort of stuff, since I thought they were so deep into their own niche they were “shallow” — savants, in a way… and yet, what I wanted to be was a savant too, actually a savant polymath, if that makes sense… Anyway though, live theatre is often not recorded not because of technical reasons but because of politics - recording rights and all. In Second Life, live theatre can’t always be recorded “live” because of lag and “ruthing” and gray-unrezzed-textures - they often render the view not as optimal, and a substantial amount of postwork becomes necessary. Thus, in Second Life, you’re lucky if you see things “in the eye of the creator,” textures rezzed and sculpties rezzed and everything as beautiful as intended.

The other element of a live event involving multiple people is that it isn’t always easy to get all of them together simultaneously. Some things only happen once in a lifetime - once in all of creation and existence. The extreme amount of anti-entropy required and butterfly effect and the mess that might precipitate an event. It’s a miracle it happened. And even if the medium has limited reach due to technological lackings… I guess I was lucky to have taken a part in it.

And then back to data. The loss of it. The capital necessary to maintain it. And even then there’s the possibility of these digital bytes succumbing to its own butterfly effect as random cables suffer random effects to sudden blow up a huge data center. I’m thinking about the no-cloning theorem in quantum computing. And I’m thinking of paintings, the massive oil canvases. They can’t really be cloned either - taking a photo just isn’t the same, and even so-called restorations where a lesser paints over the work of the master…

But I’m thinking about simulators on Second Life again, and the beautiful things created on them… and then destroyed on them because of the cost to maintain these simulators. It’s just such a pity when copying data is so easy in other digital mediums, and yet so hard in the infrastructure of Second Life. Why isn’t there an for Second Life?

I dunno, I guess I have a super-weak weak spot for beauty. If told that the only way I can immortalize beauty if only for the span of another’s lifetime were to lose my own, yet pass on what transpires of it, I would… You live and then you die.

Category: Reflections

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Who is Ina Centaur?

A 25-year old American polymath of Taiwanese ancestry pretending to be old and Caucasian in Second Life. Semi-retired independent scholar also dabbling as an independent artist in new media, particularly theatre and the humanities—notably Shakespeare. Programmer, playwright and novelist. Formal academic background in, philosophy, and bioengineering.

This is largely a personal blog which isn't always up-to-date. There's no one definitive way to stalk me ;-).