We do, in fact, now constantly inhabit a sort of blended VR, but we now assume that we don’t need the goggles as long as whatever’s on the screen is sufficiently engrossing. And the distinction between real and virtual continues to blur. The virtual is colonizing the real, but generally in ways we don’t notice. VR was predicated on a notion of real/virtual that now seems very last-century. Our grandchildren won’t be able to readily imagine where we were at, with that one!
In 1420 Venetian engineer Giovanni Fontana created a proposal for the Castle of Shadows. From BLDG Blog:
Philippe Codognet describes the 15th-century machine as “a room with walls made of folded translucent parchments lighted from behind, creating therefore an environment of moving images. Fontana also designed some kind of magic lantern to project on walls life-size images of devils or beasts.” Codognet goes on to suggest that the device is an early ancestor of today’s CAVE systems, or virtual reality rooms—an immersive, candlelit cinema of moving screens and flickering images.
Electronic musician and artist Donald Baynes, aka FSK1138, spent 10-12 hours a day exploring 3D virtual worlds in 1996 and 97. But now he spends less than 3 hours a week online. He spent an hour of his weekly Internet time chatting with me from a park to tell me why he decided to unplug.
Klint Finley: You say you were “addicted” to virtual reality in the late 90s. How did you get started with VR and what were you doing with it?
FSK1138: During that time – I was what you would call cyberpunk – I spent days plugged into a body suit, data glove, and HMD [head mounted display]. I explored virtual worlds and was surfing the web in 3D. Searching, always searching, for others and A.I out there in the sea of information.
What sort of equipment were you using?
Virtual io HMD, Nintendo Powerglove, dual cpu pPRO.
Did you have broadband back then or was this on dial-up?
I was using dial-up but I moved to Toronto because there was faster Internet – this thing called ISDN.
I remember ISDN. Basically it was using two phone lines to achieve faster speeds, right?
Yes. It was a dream – so much faster. It made 3D surfing VRML [Virtual Reality Markup Language] a reality.
So you were surfing VRML sites then? What were those virtual worlds like back then?
Low rez – like Quake or the first DOOM but at the lowest settings. There was a whole underworld of VRML BBS sites at the time.
And what did you typically do on the BBSes? Chat, socialize?
Chat, socialize, share data – much like what people are doing right now but like the Sims or SecondLife.
Are you still using VR?
No – I think it is a very bad thing. Even back then 3D was considered bad for your eyes and brain. I don’t think we were made for this type of input.
What makes you say that?
The reaction of any one who has seen avatar – when people who have seen it talk about it they always seem to have a smile on their face – the same smile…
He later sent me this article mentioning health concerns surrounding prolonged 3D gaming in children
You say now use the Internet for less than 3 hours a week and do not own a TV, phone, or stove. What brought you to the point that you decided you had to unplug like that?
I lived in Guyana for 4 years. You can have days when you have no power, and I survived. I feel that people think that the Internet will always be there. I feel it will not and the day is coming soon. I have seen the Internet change over the years – it has changed alot. The day is coming, I feel, that the can not remain a free utility.
Life really is not hard without technology if you learn to live without it. But if you’re addicted – what then?
When did you decide to cut back your use of technology?
When I realized it was taking up so much of my time – 2007 – I started closing down websites that I was using. I cut back to Myspace and YouTube – there were so many. And I cut my surfing – I use RSS now, I do not surf. By 2008 I did not have a landline or cell or Internet at home.
Above: Video FSK1138′s “Catch the Man,” a cover of Front 242′s “Headhunter.”
It looks like you use a lot of technology to make your music – have you thought about going towards a more low-tech approach to making music?
I am in a way back to where I started with making music. When I could not get a sampler or computer I used found objects – metal and glass and things you could bang together to make noise.
So you’re not using computers for music music any more?
I am using computers still – I just did a track for The 150-Years-of-Music-Technology Composition Competition.
Do you have any opinions of augmented reality? Have you used any AR applications?
I think is a cool concept. I just hope it doesn’t become the next form of spam.
One of the problems with virtual reality has always been that you had to either confine yourself to a joystick or strap into some crazy Lawnmower Man-style harness. Hardly natural. This April, however, a team based at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in T?bingen, Germany, unveiled the CyberWalk, an omnidirectional treadmill designed to serve as a VR-capable movement platform.
Nightline had a show on lucid dreaming the other night. Unfortunately, I only caught the second half of it. Since I know some readers (myself included) are working with lucid dreaming, I thought I’d post a link to the article. I also included an exercise from The Dream Studies Portal blog called “Reality Check”. It seems to be working for me. When I remember to do it…
“Somewhere in between the Cinderella school of dreaming and the darker dreamscape of “The Matrix” lies Stephen LaBerge, an expert in a technique called lucid dreaming. He believes that what happens to people in their dreams is as real an experience as what happens in real life. By becoming aware that they’re dreaming while they’re asleep, lucid dreamers say they can learn to consciously control and manipulate the dreamscape, allowing them to live out their wildest fantasies in a virtual reality with no earthly boundaries.”
So, what made Mondo 2000 so special? It was, in my opinion, the best alternative culture magazine that America ever had. They wrote about smart drugs, brain implants, virtual reality, cyberpunk, Cthulhupunk and cryogenics. They covered Laibach and Lydia Lunch in the same issue. The pantheon of writers was a force to be reckoned with: Bruce Sterling, Robert Anton Wilson, and William Gibson all lent their talents, and there was even a Burroughs vs. Leary interview face-off. Then there was the famous U2-Negativland interview, in which Negativland, disguised as reporters, interviewed U2 into a corner to reveal the band’s hypocrisy over their lawsuit against Negativland over sampling. All in all, the magazine took risks. ‘The good dream for me and Mondo,’ said editor R.U. Sirius in an interview with Purple Prose, ‘is overcoming the limits of biology without necessarily leaving sensuality or sexuality behind.’ Issue after issue, Mondo 2000 threw a sexy dystopian bash and invited the decade’s best thinkers.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve probably sensed this coming. Expect a slight change in direction here, nothing radical. I’m just going with the flow. Where am I going with all this knowledge and experience I’ve been acquiring? Here is an idea:
Because, really, all the counterculture and occultism is, is simply another approach to trying to understand the world. Whether it’s the best one is very much debateable in my opinion, but at the end of the day there are a lot of people that want to be successful, make enough to get by, and help others. While occultists may be focusing on problems too deep to be adequately acted upon by their current capacity for social interaction, many brilliant thinkers out there are innovating new ways (thinking magically and manifesting intent) and aiding their communities.
Today I see art students trained by guilt-driven semioticians or post-modern theorists, afraid of the materiality of their medium, whether painting, music, poetry or virtual reality (since, given the framework dogma, every culture creates its own reality). The key to break away from this is to cut language down to size, to give it the importance it deserves as a communications medium, but to stop worshipping it as the ultimate reality. Equally important is to adopt a hacker attitude towards all forms of knowledge: not only to learn UNIX or Windows NT to hack this or that computer system, but to learn economics, sociology, physics, biology to hack reality itself. It is precisely the ‘can do’ mentality of the hacker, naive as it may sometimes be, that we need to nurture everywhere.
Today I see art students trained by guilt-driven semioticians or post-modern theorists, afraid of the materiality of their medium, whether painting, music, poetry or virtual reality (since, given the framework dogma, every culture creates its own reality). The key to break away from this is to cut language down to size, to give it the importance it deserves as a communications medium, but to stop worshipping it as the ultimate reality. Equally important is to adopt a hacker attitude towards all forms of knowledge: not only to learn UNIX or Windows NT to hack this or that computer system, but to learn economics, sociology, physics, biology to hack reality itself. It is precisely the “can do” mentality of the hacker, naive as it may sometimes be, that we need to nurture everywhere.
Futurism, robots, brains, virtual reality? these are a few of our favorite things as we talk to our friend David Pescovitz.
Besides being a founding co-editor of the Boing Boing blog, Pescovitz is a Research Affiliate for the Institute for the Future, editor-at-large for Make Magazine and he?s written for dozens of periodicals ranging from the New York Times to Scientific American to Spin to Wired.