the name of a seminar series led by Dr. Michael Heim (aka. ommm) during
fall 1998. We, Victoria Popdan (comfortably numb) and Mikael Jakobsson
(mjson), will here give a brief account of what went on there. We would
like to offer a taste of what being there was like by showing some images
from the worlds we explored.
Above: Some of the participants gathered for a class photo.
The course participants were a very heterogenous group of people. Physically people were located in Australia, North America and Europe. The only thing we had in common was a curiosity concerning virtual worlds.
Right: Time zones are a constant hazzle for netizens.
The seminar started off with some virtual reality basics. Based on the assigned readings, Heim (1998) and Isdale (1998), we pretty soon got into discussions on VR in science fiction and the nature of immersion. At this stage we were dealing with the subject at hand strictly theoretically, using a web based message board for the discussions.
It didn't take long, however, before we took our first steps into the ActiveWorlds (AW) universe. AW is a "desktop VR" system meaning that you navigate in a three dimensional environment, but your window into that environment is your standard computer monitor, which in itself is restricted to two dimensions.
When users gather in a virtual world they can communicate with one another as if they were in close proximity, though they may physically be far apart. Their avatars (graphical representations of the participants' bodies) are, however, positioned right next to the other, allowing them to "speak," "listen," and respond as in the ordinary world.
Avatars themselves lend to the immersion factor through projecting a physical representation of the self into a virtual world where one can affect, and be affected by, others. This form of interaction, coupled with the visual and/or audio input/output, all occurring instantly, simultaneously, in real time, creates a feeling of "being there" or a sensing of one's own involvement in the situation.
On our first "in world" meeting we toured ACCD World that Heim and his gang of builders (consisting of colleagues and students at Art Cernter College of Design in Pasadena) has built. We also got to try building in the public building world Mars, and ended our tour in a world especially built for Haloween.
To the upper left we see the participants making their first attempts at building. In the lower left picture mjson strikes a pose in the halloween world.