Second Life Liberation Army

Here is the first one, second life terrorism. There is not much in this article; but it suggests that the ‘bombing’ is a reaction to the commercialization of the once wholly user-created space. Even the Simulations get territorialized by the commodity form, and that pisses people off. Anyway this may prove useful to me…

The popular Second Life virtual gaming environment has suffered its first terrorist action.

The so-called ‘Second Life Liberation Army’, a home-grown terrorist cell of users, has staged an online attack for the first time, calling for democratic decision-making in the virtual community.

Terrorists ‘bombed’ an American Apparel outlet and a Reebok store as part of a campaign for more of a say in the affairs of the online community.

An avatar called ‘Marshal Cahill’ told the LA Times in an in-world interview: “The population of the world should have a say in the running of the world.”

The action highlights a growing tension between long-term Second Lifers and those who have recently joined, and the corporations which have followed them.

Here is a link to the LA Times article conducted in-game that was posted on the SLLA’s blog

“The population of the world should have a say in the running of the world,” Cahill said during an in-world interview. Cahill is this participant’s online name, incidentally. He refused to reveal his real-world name for fear of banishment from Second Life.
The army has staged a number of protests in Second Life to publicize its position. Three gun-toting members shot customers outside American Apparel — bullet wounds in Second Life are not fatal but merely disrupt a user’s experience — and Reebok stores last year.

Then they stepped up the campaign, exploding nukes, which manifested themselves in swirling fireballs that thrust users at the scene into motionless limbo.
Cahill said the group targeted in-world corporate locations to draw real-world attention to its cause.
LONG-TERM Second Life residents have given Cahill and his conspirators money to buy virtual guns and other weapons. Cahill says he believes that 80% of long-term residents support his cause.

Comments by a Michigan professor on the corporitization:

For some users, these events illuminate how much Second Life has changed. Some early users in particular point to corporations as the culprits. They began to build their presence in Second Life as the population grew.
Big companies such as Toyota and Adidas have opened stores in the game, where players can buy virtual products for their make-believe characters. Second Life has its own currency, Linden dollars, which can be earned in the game or bought with real money at an exchange rate of 267.3 Lindens to $1.
“The utopian age has passed,” said Peter Ludlow, professor of linguistics and philosophy at the University of Michigan and editor of “Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias.”

He goes on to say:

Chain stores such as American Apparel are being dropped into “this fantasy world with unicorns and flying elephants,” he said. “It’s an eyesore.”

An ‘eyesore’? It is more surreal, or magically real. But, advisers say Linden Lab’ project just recently became profitable and needs the money companies can generate in order stay afloat:

“It’s impossible for Second Life to continue to exist without rapidly growing the user base and involving real world companies in their economy,” said Sibley Verbeck, chief executive of Washington-based Electric Sheep Co., which helps corporations set up shop in Second Life.

I am fascinated by this, both the spread of globalization, a virtual enterprise in many ways, into the virtual itself, and the resistance it is receiving.

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What history?

this past two days i’ve been able to attend the What History? conference here at UW. The two speakers I saw wrote on photography and the real. Julie Stone Peters’ work was on anthropology, performance art history, and the spectacle of ‘authentic savages’ in the early 20th century. Peggy Phelan, I found much more interesting. Her talk was on Performace, Photography, and 9/11 and made an argument for ‘performance photography’. From what I understand, this is a kind of photo that does not document the past and resists the kind of interpretive gestures that could potentially situate them in historical narrative. Her example was Richard Drew’s famous photo of the Falling Man. She claimed that this photo, shot blindly by Drew, has a kind of presentness, immediacy, and intimacy that, when paired with the difficulty of finding the backhistory of the jumper, prevent an easy narrativizing that passes the image into documentation.

What I found particularly interesting is that it seems to me that to make this argument Phelan has to treat the photos aesthetically, an interpretive move that she notes the public is hesitant to do. I think it requires a kind of decontextualization as a documenting image and a recontextualization as metaphor and composition, even despite the aspects of ‘luck’ involved in the shooting. This would seem, to me, to take the ‘real’ out of the photo, removing what Phelan claims is the performative aspect.

Now, I certainly could have heard wrong. I frequently find I am not a strong listener at lectures. In any case, her argument has interesting ramifications for my studies in that it speaks to a role for aesthetics as rescuing the real from mediatization that allows us to miss the real itself.

So I am looking up her articles.

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Virtual Assemblages and Imagination Management in Metal Gear Solid 2

I am trying out Word07’s blog publisher. Here is my abstract for the UW Comparative Literature Conference on Imagination: Public or Private?. Let’s hope I get in…

Following from the tradition of transcendental idealism, the Romantic conception of imagination was of an internal, personal faculty, an experience independent of the sensible realm directed toward outward expression. After the advent of the Internet, the experience of transcending the body took on a different trajectory. William Gibson, who coined the term ‘cyberspace,’ famously described this experience as a “consensual hallucination.” Where the Romantic imagination is internal and directed external, Gibson’s disembodiment is an imposition, something rendered externally, something consented to. How, then, do we conceive of imagination in the virtual age? How do immersive technologies like video games complicate the still-popular conception of the individual subjective imagination?

Using Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus, I will argue that the virtual reality of video gaming is an imaginative experience sustained by the mutually interactive assemblage of gamer, avatar, and game system. Gaming, in this way, demonstrates the cooperative nature of fantasy, and, due to its dependence on multiple external agents, the publicness of imagination.

This quality is made startlingly apparent in games like Metal Gear Solid 2 [MGS2], which violate a player’s expectations and thereby threaten the destruction of the gaming fantasy. In doing so MGS2 reflects on the interplay of fantasy and reality in everyday life. Taking off from Slajov Žižek’s analysis of culture itself as an expression of ideological fantasy, I will suggest that MGS2 exposes the weight placed on individual subjectivism for sustaining the current cultural imaginary.