What Is Going On

At a real party this weekend I heard about a friend who is “working as a bouncer at funerals in Second Life”. What? Apparently, at funerals in Second Life [already lost!] grievers [or maybe “griefers”?] throw “balls of code” to disrupt the solemn proceedings. Thus, the digital funerals frequently require a bouncer. Got it?

Reading more about Second Life I learned that the virtual world has a very real economy (a GDP[?!] of several hundred million US dollars) and several very wealthy Residents. The most prominent is an avatar named Ailin Chung, née Ailin Graef, “the Rockefeller of Second Life”, who “owns thousands of servers’ worth of [virtual] land, most of which are sold or rented to other users as a part of her ‘Dreamland’ areas”. I don’t know what that means, but somehow she employs 80 IRL humans in her endeavors, and became “the first online personality to achieve a net worth exceeding one million US dollars from profits entirely earned inside a virtual world”.

And here’s where the need for bouncers becomes apparent.

In December 2006, while conducting an interview for CNET with Daniel Terdiman on her economic assets, the virtual studio in which the interview took place was bombarded by flying animated penises and copies of a photo of Graef modified to show her holding a giant penis in her arms. The griefers managed to disrupt the interview sufficiently that Chung was forced to move to another location and ultimately crashed the simulator entirely.

Yet the weirdest aspect comes with the copycat-consequences IRL. “This attack in Second Life later became a template for a real life flying penis attack on chess world champion and Russian presidential candidate Gary Kasparov.”

What is truly insane is imagining the surreal explanation that would be required to parse the incident for a Normal Person.

Normal Person: “Oh my! Why did someone just charge into this ballroom and throw a rubber penis at Gary Kasparov?”

Post-Normal Interpreter: “Well, you see, that prank was an homage/IRL allusion to an online attack against a prominent virtual real estate mogul.”

NP: “…someone threw a rubber penis at this woman as well?”

PNI: “Not at the woman per se, but at her online 3D avatar. And in that case they weren’t actual rubber penises, nor were they thrown. Rather, a cascade of self-replicating animated images of rubber penises overwhelmed the digital forum in which she was giving an interview to a CNET reporter avatar.”

And later if you ran into this poor NP after Gary Kasparov was arrested for protesting in defense of Pussy Riot? We can imagine NP asking with shaky trepidation, “Umm, is Pussy Riot related to the… rubber penises…?” “No, not exactly. But you might say that, in a way, Pussy Riot’s performance was a “rubber penis” thrown at the Russian Orthodox Church.”

(The title of the Kasparov/penis article deserves a nod: “Kremlin critic gets genital reminder about who’s in charge“.)

The levels of fictive realities deepen: Kasparov’s disrupted event was a coalition of opposition groups gathering to form “a symbolic alternative parliament”. The penis, dangled & maneuvered from a miniature helicopter, was operated by a man inspired by the online prank group named “Room 101”, a reference to a location in the fictional world of George Orwell’s 1984. LoL. With IRL becoming a simulacrum of a simulated world, Baudrillard is gonna need to smoke some bath salts and update his freakin books!

If nothing else, this sort of business deserves a new tag! Revisiting Bruce Chatwin recently, I was reminded of his book What Am I Doing Here. The title is strengthened by the missing/implied question mark (a literary point which Amazon.com fails to grasp!—compare the listing with the adjacent image—horrors!). Anyway, for us, a new tag: What Is Going On.

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One Response to “What Is Going On”

  1. doomspirals Says:

    As Black Cherry Brown reminds us, before Chris Marker rip’d into another world, he had moved into another world. Peep his interview in 2008.
    http://www.criterion.com/current/posts/1143-chris-marker-s-second-life

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