I am doing research related to art education in virtual spaces and my specific quest is the implementation of a learning strategy known as the Groundcourse, which was developed and practiced by Roy Ascott, under whose tutelage I am studying towards a practice based PhD at the Planetary Collegium. During my research update in Sao Paulo in December 2006 Mike Phillips, my Director of Studies, suggested that I might do worse that take a look at Second Life. It has to be said that I had never ever shown the slightest interest in gaming environments up till then and at that point I was under the much mistaken assumption that that was what Second Life was all about. So, I was not really falling over myself to rush in. I kept delaying the task. It took me a while to reconfigure my computer and bandwidth settings but a few months later I finally leapt in. I started my life at Orientation Island, painstakingly learning how to walk, how to change my appearance, how to fly and teleport, thinking to myself that the visual environment left much to be desired and what was I actually doing here anyway? But once on the mainland I realized very quickly that Second Life was anything but a gaming environment, that huge and far reaching implications as far as creativity and embodiment were concerned were embedded into the concept of it. And, of course, I realized almost immediately that as far as my project, ground, went, this was the environment for it. Up until that point I had played around with the idea of creating a standalone 3D application – that brilliant little idea went out of the window pretty much during the first week that I was on the grid. My methodology needs unpredictability, heightened levels of social interaction and rezability – in short, the metaverse, for me, is it.
So, my reasons for entering SL were ostensibly related to my research. There is however, another reason as to why I stayed and it is a pretty sad one. Very shorlty after I entered Second Life I suffered a huge loss in Real Life: My best friend of 30 years died of leuchemia. I spent the first few months inworld, in a total state of bereavement, trying to distract myself through extensive shopping trips, hanging out at music venues, never finding anything I really liked, too shy to approach anybody – in short, living out a typically pathetic noob existence. To my credit, I became aware of the huge potential for the rehersal of novel forms of embodiment, of what play might mean, of the freedom of the place, almost immediately. I was fascinated and spent hours and days inworld. My dreams changed, I was flying. Having grown up in the 70’s I have done my share (indeed more than just my share) of psychotropic experimentation and SL also reminded me of that altered state of consciousness, which at this point in my life I no longer indulge in to quite the same extent – if at all. But, I was very much of an outsider and had no real clues as to how I would end up making this place my own.
Things changed, almost from one day to the next: I heard through a mutual friend that an artist that I had met very briefly in RL, and whose creative output I admired a great deal, was also in Second Life. I obtained his avatar name and contacted him inworld. This brought me to a wondrous sim called Klein, into the company of three extraordinary avatars, Hardwarehacker Hoch, MosMax Hax and wolfgeng Hienrichs – and it was then that my Second Life really began.