The Virtual LHC was created by Second Front, with special credits to Man Michinaga for this specific story and build, which was primarily done for the GOGbot Steampunk Festival in Enschede, Netherlands.
Yesterday I had an extensive talk with Man Michinage to find out more on the build and the work theyre doing at Second Front.
The install was for the international RL media fest Gogbot (gogbot.nl) and the theme was steampunk. Therefore we had to come up with something, and the hadron collider was a current event. We work in context of the situation we are asked to perform in.
One cannot compare the works of Second Front to a normal theatre group of actors who perform their works over and over again. Every performance is a unique event and requires a unique setting.
None of our work lasts in SL, usually no more than a couple days and we usually only do performances once. This is very unusual. Most of our work is documented in print, video and painting, along with blog for RL audience. Also we create so much stuff we woudl need a lot of sim space.
Let's have a look at this particular build and the performance.
Fau Ferdinand created the first part of it, the torus and the landscape given that this woudl be a very bare stage from which we woudl create the story. I thought of Jules Verne, Goeorge Pal's The Time Machine, and I am currrently reading the Difference engine by Gison and Sterling. The script was improvisation, out of my head
The story as it played out was the actual activation of the Large Hadron Collider to find out about the origins of the Universe, the Metaverse in this case.
Its real life counterpart in Switzerland has been powered down for an unknown period due to some technical problems. This one actually passed the tests and ready to let some particle beams collide. Find out about the creation of the Universe or the existence of the Higgs particle.
Critics in the real world fear experimenting with the higgs-particle may be a bad idea, as it may create a black hole. Well, the test proves they're right.
Second Front was originally formed as a seven member group of artists from Canada, the US, UK and Italy who create performance based work in Second Life and other realities.is the pioneering performance art group in the online avatar-based VR world, Second Life. Founded in 2006, Second Front quickly grew to its current 8 member troupe that includes Lizsolo Mathilde, Man Michinaga, Bibbe Oh, Fau Ferdinand), Great Escape, Gazira Babeli and Tran Spire.
Taking their influences from numerous sources, including Dada, Fluxus, Futurist Syntesi, the Situationist International and contemporary performance artists like Laurie Anderson and Guillermo Gomez-Pena, Second Front creates theatres of the absurd that challenge notions of virtual embodiment, online performance and the formation of virtual narrative. Created in 2006, they have already performed extensively, including in Vancouver, Chicago, New York, and has been featured in publications including SLate, Eikon, Realtime Arts (Australia), and the popular The Avastar magazine.
Most of the artists have real life experience in Performance Acting, but as a group they work primarily in Second Life, although they've done performances in other worlds.
We are primarily on SL, although we have used Opensim and World of Warcraft. I think the difference is whether we're installation artists, SL artists or conceptual artists who use SL. We love the SL community, but we're contemporary artists before SL.
What is so special about the Second Life community, how does it differ from the World of Warcraft community as an audience?
Different aims. Pretty basic, SL isn't so much a gaming community - it's much less homogenous. You have everyone from the evangelized to the casueal user whereas in Wow, everyone is there to play in the WoW universe.
Our Real Life audience is much more specific. Then we're really talking to the contemporary/performance art crowd. The SL crowd, many have no idea who Marina Abramovic or Guillermo Gomez-Pena is.
Me neither, so to exit this blogpost, a quick defintion of Performance Art.
Performance art is art in which the actions of an individual or a group at a particular place and in a particular time constitute the work. It can happen anywhere, at any time, or for any length of time. Performance art can be any situation that involves four basic elements: time, space, the performer's body and a relationship between performer and audience. It is opposed to painting or sculpture, for example, where an object constitutes the work. Of course the lines are often blurred. For instance, the work of Survival Research Laboratories is considered by most to be "performance art", yet the performers are actually machines.
SECOND LIFE, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Will the marketing of real world brands in Second Life find a second life?
Maybe. Nestea, a Coca-Cola brand, announced today it’s sponsoring Second Life’s “Junkyard Blues” venue.
Neither Nestea nor Junkyard Blues’ owners were available for immediate comment. But a visit to Junkyard Blues shows a “Sponsored by Nestea” banner over the main stage. Don’t try clicking on the banner though — it’s non-interactive.
The sponsorship, while modest, represents an affirmation of Second Life as a continued destination for real-world companies to market their goods. A recent survey by BusinessWeek ranked Coca-Cola as the most valuable brand in the world.
Nor does the choice by Coca-Cola of a Second Life blues venue seem coincidental. Last month, Second Life bluesman Von Johin signed a record deal in what’s believed to be the first virtual musician to break into the real-life mainstream.
Coca-Cola was among the companies that made a strong entrance into Second Life during the first wave of corporate marketing with a “virtual thirst” campaign. However in recent months, the company has stepped back its Second Life profile, taking the virtualthirst.com website offline.
Find more on Coca Cola on the MindBlizzard blog
The island is a single, isolated one, not connected to the popular mainland shopping areas, so probably they're not counting on casual passersby noticing the shop while strolling through busy mainland malls where I had expected it to be. When we look at the build, it's of pretty good design and quality, better than that of most mainland stores, but when it comes to sales, it's all about content.
Upon arrival I see the usual jumble outside. Again, it is of good quality, but you'ld expect nothing less from a build which has been done by IBM. However, I was under the impression I came to shop, so I wasn't really dressed up to go racing in VW Beetles, flying helicopters and do a Lionel Ritchie kind of Dancing on the Ceiling. If I was looking for virtual entertainment, I'd probably do it elsewhere (unless they would come up with a very good mixed reality mix, but no festivities were going on)
Let's have a look at the aims of this build.
The French retail company Boulanger announced today the opening of a store in Second Life with development and planning help from IBM Research and Global Business Services. The goal is to complement Boulanger's physical stores and website with an additional distribution channel and additional services. Initially the build allows users to view and interact with Boulanger objects in a familiar context, click to be taken to the purchase page on a website, watch service and repair videos, or talk directly to a maintenance aide.
IBM says it had two objectives in the build: "develop a community aspect through the 3D universe and propose new services (configuration of kitchen, cooking lessons, guides, etc.) -- while integrating the three complementary distribution channels."
So far retail hasn't really taken off as a use for virtual worlds, particularly with big pricetag items like Boulanger's specialties of "leisure, multimedia and households products." The relatively high barrier to entry for Second Life (I had to download a new version after clicking on the SLURL from the press release) doesn't help much either.
Full story on Virtual World News.
True, I'd been entering Second Life for the past months with an outdated SL client, the version released in march 2008 and had been able to hover around without forced updates uptill now. This due to the fact that the previous latest client had problems with several graphical cards. Fortunately, this latest version worked fine though.
When looking at the general build and layout of the island it is very real-life-ish in look and feel, and the last of the above pictures shows a rotating cube displaying the locations of the Real Life Boulanger stores. Time to head on to the main venue.
The frustrating thing was, it had closed doors. I had a hard time finding a way in, which I believe should not be part of the proposed new services. The store itself looked rather empty. Rather than that it was actually empty, it also felt empty.
Let's be honest, the store just opened up. It will take some time to make stuff available through this sales channel, so maybe that issue will be cleared. Nonetheless, I doubt if it will be a profitable saleschannel in the near future. Truth is, Virtual Worlds like Second Life are still a niche market, especially when you only focus on the French speaking world.
At one point in the main venue, a gigantic layout of one of their real life stores hovered, and this is where a Business Case could have been made for operating an outfit in a Virtual World.
I would have very much appreciated an island with no social decoration, no immersive experience helicopters and just a naked empty store if it would have been a clear training and R&D site. What I mean is this:
If you build huge real life store with tons of products it takes a massive amount of design and calculation to sort out what the best routes are. Where do you place your products, how wide should the aisles be. How do you position your products. Which ones do you single out and promote to your shoppers.
With IBM's knowledge and expertise to do tracking & tracing in Second Life (see Wimbledon for instance) they could have made the build an experiment in logistics. They could have build a user testsite in which they could track customers to see where they would be going first. To see what the patterns arewhich customers are walking through a store of this size, or what the best logistic routes would be for employees to refill shelves with products from the storage in order to improve planning, logistics and real life sales.
When the first critical and cynical blogs on CSI:NYwere starting to appear I was starting to get some mixed feelings
For exact numbers we either have to wait for CSI or the Electric Sheep Company to come with traffic stats and onRez viewer downloads and compare them to next weeks' Headcount by Tareru Nino. I do believe though that the average number of concurrent logins is higher these days. I'm not saying it was a smashing success. The massive number of islands, the fuzz upfront made us expect a lot. Again, too early to tell. There may well be ROI's made, but not sure which. I hope it'll continue though. Haven't had time to start solving the murder yet, but I for one like the concept. Me liking something isn't a guarantee that it'll make you millions though. (CSI (5) The Aftermath)
Finally, the Second Life Herald posted an article that kind of tried to sink the project.
A virtual recession may threaten the metaverse, as service workers hired to meet and greet noobies suffered mass layoffs today. The layoffs are part of a significant downsizing in the number of CSI:NY sims - perhaps due to a less than enthusiastic response to shark jumping, couch potato marketing of immersive games to television viewers. At this time last week, some enthusiastic reports were suggesting that CBS television's CSI:NY/Second Life hookup could yield as many as 1 million new players. However, that enthusiasm has been tempered by reality. (CSI:NY shrinks by 93%)
I've discussed that post with my good friend Aleister Kronos who has some reservations on the subject as well. There are a few things that don't really fit in. First of all, we came to watch the show and it carried a lot of Cisco sponsoring. Secondly, there was some exaggeration in the announcements, in the way that Hollywood usually does
Just yesterday I spoke with Chris Carella (Satchmo Prototype), Electric Sheep's Chief Creative Officer. I asked him what they thought of the result. Here's what he replied:
"Believe it or not, despite the blogs, everything is going exactly as planned. We purposefully had many many extra sims and staff the first 2 nights as a just in case precaution. There are few user experience worse than not being able to log in or even worse crashing the grid.
We're right on point with ours and CBS' expectations as far as number go. I've been impressed with how many people are still signing up a week later. It's to soon to get a good feel on retention numbers. Our expectations were never the millions of people the SL community expected. The % of people who went from TV to SL are well in line with our other TV experience and CBS's other efforts in cross media.
TV is a passive medium. It's really hard to get people from watching TV, to their computer checking out a website an downloading an application. However, those that do make it become more valuable customers. They spend 2-3 times longer a week with your brand and they will tell others how cool your show is".
The show has had about 16 million viewers, of which some 80.000 signed up for an account in the last week. That's a response of 0.5%. My marketing knowledge is a little rusty, maybe Nic Mitham from KZero can say some clever things on that, but as far as my memory serves me 0.5% is a very acceptable response. Truth is, we don't know if those 80.000 signed up because of CSY:NY. If we look at groups in Second Life, the CSI:NY group is the largest at the moment, having close to 1200 members, but the group for "the Office", which was much more viral and smaller in setup has about 675 members. And if they signed up for CSI, how many of those will stay?
There were those who had expected more than a million of new residents to sign up. Like a 5% response. That would have been awesome, a smashing success. Such a smash hit isn't build overnight though. If the 80K signups is a reliable figure to go by, I would say that the Great Satchmo has every reason to be happy. By marketing and advertising standards it's good. It got publicity and people still come to the CSI:NY sims. Everybody is entitled to his / her opinion. I'm inclined to look at it in a positive fashion. It's been a first time experience. We've got lots to learn. But we'll get there