Estimated reading time: 4 minutes —
VB26 – Average
5-7pm GMT / 10am – Noon SLT
Saturday 30 April 2011
on the beach at An Li
On the beach, in the center of a small white sand island, a dozen or so female & male avatars stand in a configuration. They are a work of installation art. Of sculpture. For so many centuries the human body has been presented to an art-viewing public, mediated by the visionary eye and talented hands of the painter or sculptor – today we remove this mediation and present the human body directly, as an unmediated work of art.
Well… unmediated sort of… unmediated by the eye/hand of a single “genius” artist… instead… our “unique” avatars are mediated by a collective definition of the body. 220 women and 32 men have “voted” and based on that, we present a dozen-or-so avatars who have their own unique skin, hair, nose shape, ear size… but who, on some overall dimensions like height, arm length, leg length, have become identical to each other.
In First Life we actually work on our bodies quite a lot: the gym, the tanning salon, plastic surgery, lipposuction, lap bands, makeup, high heels, LBD’s, botox, tats, piercings, practicing smiling, teeth whitening, braces, and on and on…
But for all that interest / ability in the physical world, of course in the virtual world we can really tweak our shapes!
I started an “Open Source Avatars” project last summer:
And I’ve just discovered some amazing related activities…
Strawberry Singh has blogged “What’s Your Digits”
which led to the creation of her “What’s Your Digits” Flickr group
which inspired Vaki to crunch the numbers and figure out the “Average Avatar”
All of which is inspiring me to do an “Average” performance. There’s SO MUCH culture, biology, geometry, aesthetics that you can discuss around this… but let’s set that mountain of ideas aside for a moment and just imagine this performance…
Vaki has defined 12 of 78 female body attributes (aka “slider values”)
and 13 of 76 male body attributes
(as I mentioned in my comment on Strawberry’s post, there are 100e78 possible female shapes in SL, or writing that out longhand, 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible female shapes.
It is literally the case, that if you started making female SL shapes at the moment of the big bang, and made a new shape every second, then the universe isn’t nearly old enough yet to have made all the possible female SL shapes!
True there are only 100e76 possible male shapes in SL, but that’s still quite a few. And yes a lot of the more extreme slider values probably aren’t used that often (except by Four Yip of course! 🙂 but I do think there are plenty of shapes to go around.
I think it’d be really interesting to pass out Vaki’s numbers and have everyone make a hybrid of their own shape, with those set values. For example, Agnes and I would make copies of our shapes and set the 12 values, so we’d have the exact same Height, Torso Length, Arm Length, etc… but Agnes would have Agnes’ face and I would have my face… and our own skin…
It’d be great to do this in May with 9-12 female avatars and 9-12 male avatars. The one catch… we’ve never actually crossed the river of “male parts”… I kind of think a performance like this wouldn’t want any clothes… I think it wants to be naked… I’m ok with having guys show parts in the performance, after all, David’s been standing there naked for the last 507 years (now that’s a performance!) and he hasn’t destroyed human culture yet… come to think of it, that same dude painted Adam naked on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel 499 years ago… come to think of it, The Virtual Sistine Chapel is on the PG-Rated SL Campus of Vassar University… but IDK if we’ll find 9 guys who are willing to do it… hmm… might have to start hanging out at virtual nude beaches…
You don’t, of course, need me to post pix from Strawberry’s flickr group here, you can always go read it there:
Still, I thought it might be nice to show a few samples of the submissions and some of the raw data Vaki worked from. Sadly, of the 352 pix currently in the group, 328 of them are licensed All Rights Reserved, and only 24 of them use some flavor of Creative Commons licensing. Some of the ARR images even include links to purchase use rights from Getty Images. That’s great if you’re making enough money off your flickr stream to, say, pay SL tier, but if your images are rarely or never licensed, they you’re really just creating a cultural dead end full of look-but-don’t-touch read-only content. That’s totally every individual’s choice, but isn’t the inter-operable open world of Web2.0 that I dream of living in.
Realistically, in many cases, the artist didn’t even “choose” ARR, but simply took the Flickr default. It’s too bad that a photo “sharing” website defaults to All Rights Reserved. I wish they’d follow the lead of other Web2.0 sites and default to Creative Commons Attribution, with the option to select any other licensing terms they like.
Anyway, here are a few of the Creative Commons licensed images from Strawberry’s group. Click the image to go to their photostream: