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<nettime> synworld.txt
Konrad Becker on Tue, 11 May 1999 20:52:12 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> synworld.txt


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SYNWORLD playwork:hyperspace, 26.-31.5.1999 
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SYNWORLD

Synthetic worlds are a key concept of contemporary infonautics. A broad
spectrum of scientific disciplines is located at this interface of computer
simulation and the visualization of information in dataspace. Especially
those research areas concerned with the game theory, where complex worlds
are outlined by game rules, play an increasingly significant role, but also
the functions of art and culture are of primary interest. 1) Learning while
playing and productive work as a game are developments that are gaining
significance in media hybrids. A multimedia future of digital expert
systems and knowledge databases will change teaching and learning and also
the working process. Will post-industrial society suffer the computer game
recreational shock?  2) Hopefully, the dark millenium of "work makes free"
has come to an end, and it seems high time to free work from its inhuman
context and to do justice to a new significance of recreation time and
employment. In recent history, the game age seems to have set in. A
president, who in the 80s went into raptures about training American
youngsters with video games to become perfect fighter pilots, was permitted
to experience how in the 90s war itself was turned into a video game. This
was, however, no clean "telesurgery" but a bloody war employing so-called
mass destruction weapons.

Scientific and military research is focusing on the creation of virtual
worlds and the realistic simulation of complex, dynamic, and
multi-dimensional space and processes, thus further gaining economic
significance. The interaction with complex technical systems (the intern.
space stations for instance) or complex data in many cases requires leaving
the 2-dimensional on-screen user instruction or menus behind to navigate in
spatial structures. Today, through the mass production of powerful
multimedia computers for a broad market, many results of this research and
development can be found in generally available user programs.

Progressively, the creation of unknown galaxies, which no human has ever
entered before, has become easier. These developments have become apparent
especially in the field of home entertainment and in the computer game
industry.

With growing success, simulation is being employed for exploring real
contexts, from material research to cosmology. Although we are approaching
the simulation of reality by means of technical media, we seem to be
distancing ourselves all the more from a homogenous perception of reality.
The multiple realities of non-linear games and hypertextual narrative
structures of digital space and electronic poliversities are preparing us
for the simultaneous existence of different levels of reality. Software not
only makes our world smaller by drawing us closer together but it also
seems to be making it "softer". The representation of the world is a system
of game rules and symbols for codified perception. The more reference
points this system offers (thus becoming more useful), the more risk
factors seep in... This means that what we are "sure" about is not real
after all. Theory determines observation and humans inevitably perceive the
complex world through limited means. Thus the foundations of understanding
are based on the misunderstanding of the comprehensive world around us.

It has become more difficult for us to know whether objects actually exist
and can be distinguished from the remaining world in any way, especially
after having realized that space and time are relative to our perception.
Frequently, even the limits between a real and a very life-like and
distinct imaginary experience are blurred. The human nervous system adjusts
itself according to what it considers real - this peculiarity is the basis
for many psychological mnemonic phenomena. (ARS Memoria).

Dead Hollywood stars live longer - ever since they have been digitized to
become virtual actors and their motion have been captured. The designer pop
star has been translated into electronic space and numerous virtual TV
hosts and kids' idols made of bits and pixels (Date Kyoko, Lara Croft,
Sonic Hedgehog) are soliciting the attention of mediated society. The
mimetic gesture of pure information bodies in telepresent infectious
postures offer social standing and positions. The bio-cultural game rules
of social reality are becoming ever more complex and abstract due to
mediation. A "special affects" industry is being engrammically inscribed
into collective unconscious; just as viral genetic information has
surreptitiously entered into the human genotype, the human being is
becoming its own double. Bionic WoMen in cognitive homeostasis
(self-regulation), psycho-cybernetic game figures with aim-seeking
servomechanisms, on the stage that mean the world to them, cloned from the
triplets of trivial media. (Do androids dream of electric sheep?)

Economic change, in which growth is based on the propagation of information
instead of industrial goods production, is transmuting into a virtual
economy, where the course of the money economy's fever curve relies less on
real production values than on self-referential cycles of dematerialized
game rules in electronic channels. The continued instantisation of media to
hypermedia is pursuing the trend of multimedia and broadband usage of data
networks and we must brace ourselves for the compression to the
gravitational collapse of a black hole whose pyschosocial aftermath holds
surprises in store for us: on the way to global self-fulfilling media, the
data demons in virtual environments are turning into emancipated knowbots.
On the silicon planet, the "deus ex machina" is producing the "ghost in the
machine" in medial logorhythm. What role can art play in this age of
biocybernetic self-reproducibility?

The human is a symbol-controlled organism, and complex systems or organisms
are on the lookout for entertainment, young computer game enthusiasts are
just one example. From this perspective, it seems meaningful to ask for the
entertainment value and dramaturgy of technical systems and the structures
of our wold. The rare accidents, coincidences, and improbabilities in media
production are then explained by the necessities defining action.
Contextuality, the mother of all postmodern perplexity, is being
obliterated by hypercontextuality associated with the growing certainty
that everything is somehow interconnected.

The design, and architecture of information also has deep implications on
social politics. The dramatic acceleration in the flow of persuasive
communication transports not only entertainment and information but also
standards of behavior. If information flows faster than most people can
take, then perspectival filtering and structural selection increasingly
play a role in the creation of social reality.

Representation systems and images of the world as a simulation of reality
are efficient inductors and thus astonishingly high costs are put up with.
The depiction of the world has always been a political instrument and the
distortions, as produced by the projection of multi-dimensional space onto
planes, has been well exploited in this context ( maps as an abstract view
of the world itself but also of those who are drawing them.)

Reducing complex multi-dimensional structures, not simply the projection of
a sphere onto a surface, inevitably creates ambivalences and distortions,
or a subjectivation of depiction. The perspectival loss of the setting not
only leads to a shift in the relation of sizes and forms but also to visual
oscillating effects as the ones that occur during optical illusions.

A standardized perspective prevents in-depth perception and the
reassessment of relational dimensions. For this reason, humans, in the
ideal case, have at least two eyes and two ears. A restricted and
pre-determined perspective enables numerous special-effect illusions,
similar to those used in feature films and the creation of "necessary
illusions" in the social collective.

For visualization and information architecture, which functions with
dynamic complexity, the expansion of Euclidean space into the field of
hyper-dimensionality, the supposition that more than 3 dimensions exist,
has become necessary. An example thereof is the architecture of super
computers, which would be impossible without a multi-dimensional hypercube.
Not only up and down, left and right were suggested for hyperspace, but
also ana and kata as additional spatial differentiation.

A new dimension of digital space is evolving in software-generated
architectural structures, intelligent software environments, and in the
algorithmic spawning of the software itself. Adaptive virtual environments
have a special status in this context. Hopefully, there will be enough open
systems to enable such dynamic information environments to express a unique
culture of their own. Likewise, the limits of representation have become
clearer by employing simulation systems. Tools that enable us to use
limitations for the redefinition of possibilities and to reveal new,
undreamed degrees of freedom, which were not included in the original
semantics.

The fascination for role games and their transcendence using virtual actors
may not only allow for a more differentiated understanding of gender
stereotypes but also help transpersonal and inter-subjective qualities to
move into the foreground.

Konrad Becker

1) In the field of artificial life and expert systems, artificial
intelligence and operations research, visualization technologies and
computer graphics, mathematics and physics, politics and economic theory,
behavior and conflict research, psychology and sociology, chemistry and
evolutionary biology.

2) Computer simulations for iterative and territorial forms of the prisoner
dilemma can show, for instance, how cooperation strategies succeed even if
deceit promises the biggest benefit in the short run.

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<blink>  : S : Y : N : W : O : R : L : D : </blink>

SYNWORLD playwork:hyperspace           26.-31.5.1999
http://synworld.t0.or.at                      synworld {AT} t0.or.at

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