Dear Frank,

I remember the first time we met. It was my third and final interview for my current job at CCNMTL back in Spring ’04. I was initially anxious, but you immediately made be feel welcome and comfortable. [Over the years I came to appreciate your gift for authentically connecting with just about anyone, often within 30 seconds of meeting them. You dispatched with superficial niceties and blazed trails directly to people’s souls. You bridged intellect and emotion, without a hint of pomp or circumstance, projecting sensitivity and respect to everyone you encountered. Age, class, race, gender – not so much that these dimensions were irrelevant, but you always managed to connect with the individual. You actually listened. And learned.] During that interview I remember walking into your office, encircled floor to ceiling with books. You asked me about my undergraduate senior thesis, a topic I hadn’t revisited in almost a decade, and then proceeded to pull Julian Jaynes off the shelf. You showed me your photo with Allen Ginsberg, and then asked me if I recognized the person in another grainy b/w photo. When I correctly identified Wittgenstein I was pretty confident I had landed the job. But, more importantly, I had found a new mentor.

We didn’t interact very often my first summer at CCNMTL. I worked in Butler library, under Maurice’s supervision, and you were keeping summer hours, at your office in Lewisohn. When Fall rolled around I was eager to enroll in classes, and begin my graduate journeys, but I was nervous about signing up for a course with my boss. You never made me feel like a subordinate, but I was scarred from my relationship with management at previous jobs, and wasn’t sure what it would be like for us to enter into a student-teacher relationship. I hadn’t quite figured out that that was the only kind of relationship that you knew how to cultivate, although our roles were constantly revolving and inverting, as you shared your wisdom, and facilitated growth in every exchange. You brought out the best in everyone around you, rarely content to talk about people or events – always rushing or passing your way into the realm of the Forms. As I reflected when Robbie retired, I chose to enroll in your legendary Readings seminar after one of your students (I think it was Joost van Dreunen) made the case that your syllabus was your text on social/cultural/critical/communications/media theory.

That year was invigorating. I remember rediscovering the joys of school, as I learned to reclaim spaces of intellectual exploration and play, and translate them into action. On the surface, our seminars resembled office meetings, but the luxury of non-directed (not to be confused with non-purposeful) conversation, which was a privilege I needed to readjust to.

Together we figured out ways to weave together disparate threads of my life – work, hobbies, play, passions – somehow, I learned to integrate these (often inconsistent) vectors into a unified construct. A self, I suppose. But, it was my self, not one you imposed on me. It never felt like you pushed your agendas or ideologies on me – rather, you always wanted to help me discover what I really want to think about and work on. And I know that I’m not the only one that believes this – this was your way.

I often wish you had written more, although your autobiographical text is a multi-volume, multi-dimentional, multimedia masterpiece. Sometimes I wonder how seriously you took Socrates’ critique of writing, along with his commitment to be a midwife for ideas. Did you lose count of the number of dissertations you helped deliver?

One under-studied paper that you published, “Who controls the canon? A classicist in conversation with cultural conservatives,” (Moretti (1993), Teachers College Record, 95, pp. 113-126) captures many of the paradoxes you embodied and worked through. A radical classicist, a skeptical optimist, a scientific artist, a philosophical craftsman, an institutional revolutionary. Somehow, you integrated these roles with a career trajectory that not even the most advanced detectors in the Large Hadron Collider could trace. I watched you start countless conversations with a Greek or Latin etymology, charming the academics, administrators, and funders alike in a display of the continuing power of the Western cannon. You constantly reminded us of the classical education that many of our favorite thinkers received, and insisted we read them against that backdrop. But, more importantly, a reminder of how radical these thinkers all were in their own time, and how likely they themselves would be protesting the ossification of the cannon, if they were around today. These lessons will live on through one of the last projects you initiated, Decolonizing the Cannon, which a number of us are committed to follow through with. After 25+ years of reading Homer every fall, it will take us a lifetime to reconstruct the lesson plans you left behind.

In the 9 years that I’ve known you we’ve been to hell and back. We’ve studied together, traveled together, worked together, gotten sick and healed together, but all the while kept our senses of humor. I’ve read many beautiful eulogies about you, but in this letter I want to emphasize your enduring sense of humor. You were a funny man. LMAO funny. Slapstick funny. Dada surrealist funny. Hashish funny. Plenty of the humor was dark, and perhaps, as your student Ruthie suggested to me recently, your humor helped shield you from the brutal injustices that you perceived and experienced all around us. But you were also sometimes a klutz, in an absentminded-professor sense, and a disorganized mess. A creative mess, but a mess. But, I have to say, that even when you were operating on scripted autopilot, you were way better than most people at their best. There wasn’t much you enjoyed more than being called out for your lapses in attention, and my glimpses of your inner monologue were often hysterical. I think that your analysis of power led you to conclude the the world was simply absurd. We all witnessed you acting on this with gravitas and determination, but in the minutia of our micro-interactions, there was always a wide smile and a belly laugh. I don’t think any of us will ever forget the sound of your laugh. (Or, your bark. Man, did you love to throw down and argue. But, that’s another post.)

After I started taking classes with you, it didn’t take me long to realize that that the secret to understanding what you were talking about was knowing what you were reading that week. You would basically have one conversation all week long, no matter who you were talking to. I imagine it was bewildering to many of my coworkers when you brought up false-needs, or commodification at our weekly staff meetings, but if people paid close attention, they could almost observe the wheels spinning all week long, as you lived the theorists you were teaching through the practice of our projects. I often explained to people the incestuous nature of my work/school commitments by comparing my situation to a graduate student in the natural sciences. They might spend 40-60 hours a week in a lab, and working for you was about as close as I could imagine to working in a communications lab. I often wondered how many of my cohorts managed to keep up on developments in new media (and many of them certainly did) without the ambient immersion in a practice that exercised and embodied the theories we were reading.

When summer vacation rolled around, you never quit.  I remember how you used to talk about the stretch of time between Sept-May as one long sprint (as long as I’ve known you, you’ve taught at least 2-2 + advising phd students + multiple committees at TC and the J-School, on top of your administrative responsibilities as executive director at CCNMTL and a senior officer in the libraries) , but you didn’t exactly slow down in the summer either. Or, perhaps I should say that you did slow down, but you never stopped teaching and learning.  For at least 3 or 4 summers I participated in “slow reading groups” with you and a few of your dedicated students. We didn’t get any credit for these sessions, and you didn’t get paid. We would sit in your office, and go around the table reading a book out loud, pausing whenever we needed clarification.  And, we often needed clarification. You were convinced that no one was reading anything closely anymore, and that the hundreds of pages that were assigned in courses each week were flying by without students or teachers taking the time to slow down and absorb them.  The second summer we tried this we read Latour’s Politics of Nature, a text we all internalized and will never forget.

You had such a funny relationship with technology. You loved gadgets, but were constantly thwarted and befuddled by them. I wonder how many laptops and phones you lost or broke in the years we have known each other. You never stopped learning, but were suspicious of every new tool that showed up, and the more hype around the tool, the more you growled defensively at it. But often, after months of critiquing and berating something, you would come around and start appreciating it. While some of my coworkers/cohorts seem to have chips on their shoulders about the ineffectual futility of technological interventions, you had an optimistic will that allowed you to wield technology like you wielded the classics. Opportunistically, and instrumentally, in the service of social justice. That was your gig. Relentlessly. Sometimes I wonder if you felt like you had painted yourself into a corner with all of your critiques — like when you whispered quietly to me that you wanted to learn how to use Second Life, without blowing your critical cover.

Last week I ran into an ex-girlfriend that I hadn’t seen in over 10 years. It was nice to reconnect, and in the course of our conversation I realized that we hadn’t spoken since I had started working and studying at Columbia. I was an entirely different person back then, one I barely recognized. Perhaps people return to graduate school in order to change, but true transformations require a relinquishing of your old identity and ego, without a clear idea of what might emerge on the other end. The Judaic tradition has a teaching that anyone who teaches you the alphabet is considered a parent. You literally taught me the alphabet, as we revisited the alphabet as a revolutionary communications technology (via Eric Havelock), and you taught me many other alphabets and languages that gave me access to entire new worlds.  You also invited me into your home, and made me feel like I was part of your family. Most of all, you modeled and embodied an honesty, integrity, and sheer force of will that I am blessed to have intersected.

Safe travels, Frank, and enjoy your vacation.

Love,
/J

“So what?!?” – Wikimedia ’06 Plenary session at Wikimedia ’06 in Cambridge, multimillionaire philanthropist Brewster Kahle presents his vision for the Internet Archive, and Frank steps up for the Q&A.  Classic brilliance.

Parabolic Intentions

4585915584_8cb079376dMystical traditions depict a singularity in consciousness occurring when all of humanity is united in the same state of mind. Our choices will determine if we will arrive at this state by achieving global peace, or take a detour through the another World War. In the limit, our shared reflective awareness is a possible consequence of globalization and has been linked to the promise of world peace.

Meanwhile, Princeton University’s all-but-unheard of Noosphere project has begun tracking meaningful correlations in random data that suggest an awakening of global consciousness. The project has distributed physical networked “eggs” which generate a steady stream of random numbers. Upon the occurrence of events of global significance the streams suddenly become a lot less random  (actually immediately before these events, but that’s another mystery).  Unprepared to even postulate the mechanism for the correlations they have established, the project minimally suggests that our collective intentions and emotions have the power to influence and affect our physical reality.

A wise mentor of mine thinks we might be able to accelerate this transformation if we all took the simple step of pausing, contemplating, and reflecting every day at noon.  Similar to the Play As Being practice I sampled a while back, the personal potency of such a discipline is dramatic. Noon is a convenient time to sync up, but the coarseness time zones introduces a margin of error. Imagine if large numbers of people welcomed the sun every morning – a wave of transcendence would (en)circle the globe. Some kind of psychic beacon?

The idea that our technologies mirror our realities is common, though contemplating our reflection within these mirrors is less so. Our global communications system is not only the planet’s nervous system, but through computation and representation, it is becoming a 2-way mirror into our collective psyche.

In the past I have appreciated how distributed research has given way to tools which help aggregate many snowflakes of data into a meaningful snowbank. Flickr and Delicious taught us how to conduct distributed research on photos and hyperlinks, but Twitter has helped popularize aggregation around arbitrary structured data.  We are monitoring elections, and each other’s sexual habits. And the data doesn’t even need to be particularly well structured, as this research on the pulse of the nation’s mood demonstrates.

Now that we have glimpsed own collective moods, can we design the biofeedback loops for us to become collectively-aware (in addition to self-aware)? To put this another way, could be learn to actually control the coordinated output of the Noosphere eggs, instead of merely tracking their correlations with our global state.

If we could collectively broadcast one syllable into the universe, what would it be?

Passing Virtual Cars

I’ve got a wonderful summer backlog of posts piling up, but I really want to try to keep these posts short(er) and sweet, so I’ll try to compose staccato.

My explorations into virtual worlds have taken a turn for the surreal lately, as I have made a few new close friends who have been graciously teaching me how they play. I feel like I might be coming ridiculously late to the conversation (I don’t often play video games), but my experiences have given me new pause about the raging debate over the potential influence of sex and violence in games/media on people (not just youth).

I have learned first-hand how Second Life encourages people to articulate their fantasies in intricate detail – trying on new fashions, tattoos, piercings, behaviours, and lifestyles. From a few conversations, I am also pretty sure that much of this identity-play sometimes sticks, and often crosses back over into real life.

The whole process is spookily reminiscent of the “manifesting principle,” described in magickal/mystical systems like Chaos Magick (e.g. Carol’s Liber Kaos) and even Kabballah (The Three Abrahamic Covenants and The Car Passing Trick):

  1. Know what you want. Clearly and precisely understand what you want by doing the intellectual work needed to really know what you want and how much it costs (or how impossible it is.)
  2. Sacrifice your(ego)self to the task. Put your heart and soul into your endeavour. Do real work in the physical world towards your goal. Care deeply about the work you are doing. Work (and pray) well beyond your normal point of giving up. Do the work and show your caring anyway, even if it seems that [God] is not listening.
  3. Return your personal will to [God]. Give up, be infinitely patient, and pay attention.

The manifesting principle only works when a person has made a real sacrifice and has continued to work even while they have let go of their expectations of the outcome they desire. When a person short-circuits the full process, nothing happens. When there has been no sacrifice, there is nothing for [God] to respond to. (Stan Tenen, The Purpose of Prayer).

So, while Halo or even Grand Theft Auto might not cross some yet unknown threshold, I am mildly concerned about the World of Warcraft players. Sure, many of them are just playing, but some might be inflicting real emotional harm on other real people. Something to ponder.

I haven’t really worked this out in detail yet, but I also wonder if Geertz’s notion of “deep play” (introduced in Deep Play: Notes on a Balinese Cock Fight) might be useful and relevant here. The deep play he describes shares many characteristics with these mystical formulas and the magical substrate that Second Life has clearly become for some people. Something the Stanford lab is trying to systematically measure and observe, though I don’t think they have floating this particular hypothesis yet 😉

In many ways my conversations and immersion in the wonderful Play as Being project and community have helped me think about these relationships (especially ‘letting go’, the final step in manifesting), but I will save some of the direct connections for a future post.

Tigers and Teachers

Last week I went back to ‘ol Nassau and attended the annual New Media Consortium conference, held this year at my alma mater.

The conference was very engaging, especially since I don’t think I have ever attended an event geared specifically towards the kind of work we do at CCNMTL. Typically, whether its developer, librarian, technorati, activist, or academically oriented, our work shares aspects with other attendees, but usually not a similar overarching mission. I was reminded how special our organization’s niche is – we should take pride in our projects and values. I also gained a better understanding of how privileged our situation is.

While no two university’s I have ever encountered share the same organizational structure, many now support groups whose primary mission is helping the faculty use new media & technology purposefully. I was astounded at the constraints, and corresponding resourcefulness, these groups exhibit. Most of them have a much smaller staff than ours, and very few actually develop custom software. A WordPress or Mediawiki plugin is about as complicated as many of them can attempt. And yet, they forge ahead, scraping together whatever tools they can wrap their minds around – and in the era of mashups, the possibilities are growing daily.

It is interesting to contrast this resourcefulness with corporate, and even non-profit, technical efforts I have been involved with. Many of these groups have gourmet taste in technology, and initiatives are often paralyzed until the right tools are developed. The educators show how far a healthy culture of use can go in trumping system constraints.

Overall, many groups are still working with the faculty to get beyond the allure of the media, and demand a greater educational return than “mere” excitement and motivation. Critical engagement must go beyond supplemental materials, as it is decidely difficult to follow through on the promise of a demonstrated educational value. There were many projects that clearly helped the students feel good about their learning, but it is incredibly hard to design a curriculum where these new media objects become a central component in a student’s analysis. In our work we try, and occasionally succeed, to help push the faculty to design assignments where the new media elements are an integral part of the critical analysis – where the learners deeply engage with the media, and bring these elements into play as evidence in support of an argument.

These aspirations place the bar quite high, and often require faculty to develop an radically new teaching style. Additionally, none of us learned this way, though we all seem to be convinced these new styles are superior to the ways we were taught. Consequently, there is a great deal of experimentation and research involved in educational technology. It was really great having these kinds of conversations all weekend long – sharing and exchanging perspectives with the others grappling with similar concerns.

Some of the highlights I learned about included:

  • Sun’s Wonderland Virtual World – a free-software, enterprise/education-ready virtual world environment, with more of a professional emphasis than Second Life. Of Sun’s 34k employees, 50% or more work remotely or from home on any given day, so collaboration tools are very important for them. The environment supports authentication, allows for any X window to be shared w/in the world, and even has telephony bridging, so users without a client can call in.
  • Emerson’s NEA funded Digital Lyceum Project where New Media scholars Eric Gordon, John Freeman, and Aubree Lawrence are investigating the orchestration of attention during a live event. Research like this could help the backchannel transition from distracting to essential – its fun to imagine being able to cite or reference the flurry of associations, chats, and google jockeying that flow by in the stream of consciousness that live events have become.
  • The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus – Wow. Imagine this media studio on wheels pulling up to your school when you were a kid. Three hipster musician/media-mavens tour the country on this bus, sponsored and outfitted by the likes of Apple and Sony – they are rock stars without the responsibility of performing. Students on the bus come aboard without any specific skills, and leave with something they made that day. The bus sports two fully outfitted media workstations, instruments, and even a green room. Buses like this represent an incredible amount of potential, helping students understand they can produce as easily as consume.

I hope in the years to come the bus incorporates a few more Media Fluency lessons (think: MacArthur’s Digital Learning Initiative, John Broughton’s Pop Resources and David Buckingham’s Journal of Learning and Media) at touchstone moments (“Ah! so all media produced incorporates the producers perspective”), a few more lessons on the ethics of sharing (“Hey, how do I share my media with the world, and let others remix it?”), and offer concrete strategies for continuity after the bus pulls away (“I get it – all media is produced on magic buses”)…

Many NMC’ers have drank deeply at the fountain of Second Life kool-aid, and I glimpsed more variations on the educational potential of Virtual Worlds. I didn’t hear too many people riffing on the centrality of realistic memories the environment offers, so this is an idea I certainly need to develop further. I am immensely grateful to the Play As Being community for introducing me to these experiences in a very meaningful context.

Finally, I spent lots of time reminiscing about my undergraduate years. My colleges and I cracked secret codes, narrowly averted an attack by a giant tiger, revisited the Princeton Record Exchange (where I spent $20 and came home w/ 6 cds), and lamented the campus’ new density – a building has sprung up in almost every open space I remember.

Phew.

Mirror, Mirror On the Screen

It’s been a few weeks since I first started experimenting with the Play As Being practice, and ventured into Second Life. I continue to appreciate the performative brilliance of utilizing Second Life as a means to study the nature of consciousness, being, and reality. I am starting to imagine a metaphysical syllabus that incorporates virtual world immersion as an instrument for laying bare the everyday assumptions we make about consensual reality.

While I am learning something about myself as I project my identity into my avatar (its almost impossible not to, as veteran SL’ers will attest), I am also learning more about this world, and its seductive attraction. Lots of Second Lifers believe that Second Life is just as real as Real Life (which, for mystics might just mean that both are illusory), but I lean more towards the cautious opinion that Second Life is a mirror, albeit one with a great deal of depth.

Mirrors are quite magical and wonderful (7 years of altered luck, and all that). They can be used to see far and deep — think reflecting telescopes or the michaelson-morely experiments — but they have also trapped a fair share of narcissuses in their alluring reflections. So does SL represent the vanity of vanities? Maybe not, but considering that the energy consumption of a typical SL avatar now exceeds the energy consumption of an average real world brazillian, it is important that folks consider their time in SL well spent.

One upside of my recent journeys is that I now appreciate the research going on in this area much better. Here are two pieces from the Chronicle of Higher Ed reporting on research going on at Stanford’s Virtual Human Interactions Lab:

The claim that a user’s avatar imprints so strongly on their psyche is much easier for me to understand after spending some time in Second Life. I would have been far more skeptical of these findings if I hadn’t experienced the power of this medium first hand.

These findings and experiences really helped me imagine the potential impact of projects like Virtual Guantanamo (which I haven’t personally visited yet). I can say, that when I stumbled across the Virtual World Trade Center I found the location distinctly eerie and spooky. Apparently I’m not alone, as the virtual storefronts on the groundfloor are vacant here too. And, as I learned recently at a symposium at the Fashion Institute of Technology, SL is an ideal environment for teaching fashion and design. While SL has its share of casinos and lap dances, places like Rieul’s Zen Garden and the Interfaith Gardens show a real diversity of interest, consistent with the proposition of SL as a mirror.

As for the core experiment, sprinkling the pixie dust of reflection and contemplation throughout my day, I continue to be impressed by how malleable my awareness can be. In Pema’s words: “repetition is a powerful thing.” Over the past few weeks I have also enjoyed poking holes in reality while at the movies and travelling to foreign countries. Ideas we have been repeating and playing with regularly in Dakini’s lovely Rieul teahouse.

Jingles, Mantras, and Catch Phrases

play as beingWell, I’m on day four of our experiment with Play as Being, and have noticed subtle changes in my mood, disposition, and preoccupations. I really like the rhythm of this discipline – in Piet/Parma‘s words, this practice is an experiment in trading off duration for frequency.

Between work and school I haven’t managed to carve out significant stretches of meditative duration the past few years, but the gentle, persistent redirection of my attention is somehow more manageable, and showing positive traces. I am more confident in my decision making, better at recognizing and balancing desire and self-control, and spending more time thinking about abstract concepts and questions.

I have been very excited about this adventure, though I have self-censored and tempered my enthusiasm since I continue to be wary of the seductive siren’s song in the aesthetics of an unfamiliar media. I love learning and experiencing new things, but I sometimes have a tendency to go overboard, so I am trying to take things slow (I put myself in a lower tax bracket than my 1% cohorts – I only pause hourly, and drop by the tea house once every day or two).

With the help of a new friend that I met at PyCon, who coincidentally works at Second Life, I am appreciating the value of this type of practice in the interest of cultivating a non-judgemental awareness. Could the mainstreaming of experiences like these become the catalyst for a widespread shift in consciousness?

On the cognitive/phenomenal front, I crossed a threshold yesterday and actually experienced some SL memories. Unlike the afterimages (like after a day of playing tetris or picking mellons), these memories had a different quality. And, unlike trying to remember which page I read a story on the 2D web, these memories were vivid and real. I am realizing the ways in which an environment like this hacks my perceptual system, tuned over millennia of evolution to respond to faces and places.

This riff has me thinking alot about neural hacking, and the ways in which we all can begin to deliberately program and alter our habits and patterns of perception and interpretation (errr, I guess some people probably just call that learning 😉 ... however, the metaphor of software has perhaps pushed our understanding of flexibility and malleability farther than ever: e.g. Mind Hacks and Your Brain: The Missing Manual). I think I can make a good argument that the safest and most effective way to reprogram our consciousness is through the natural interfaces that our mind provides – namely, our natural senses.

Contrast this approach with the crude and barbaric attempts to modify mood and behaviour through pharmaceuticals. And compare this approach to the Mind Habbits “game”, which begins with the design question “Can we design an interactive multimedia experience designed to make people feel better?”

My work and studies have been conditioning me to be more deliberate and purposeful in my use and design of technology. Second Life continues to present affordances and opportunities for learning and growth, but I still haven’t heard that many stories of this kind of targeted exploration, which specifically leverage’s the unique advantages of an immersive experience. There must be conversations like this happening in serious gaming circles, though in many ways, this project demonstrates that it isn’t the game that needs to be serious, rather the attitude, approach, and context that the participants bring to the table.

Finally, here is an enumeration of some of the networks of concepts that this project has activated for me:

Quite a fun web of ideas to be snared in.

/play as being

The Zen of Life^2

cgon370l.jpgI suppose it was only a matter of time before I experienced something within Second Life that caught my interest. Though I work on and study social software, I haven’t been particularly giddy about metaverses (multiplayer, persistent, 3D immersive environments) for a variety of reasons – perhaps tracing back to the fact that I haven’t really enjoyed playing too many computer games.

As a free software developer I have participated in quite a few post-geographic projects where communication is managed quite effictively in 2D. While I recognize the value of ‘presence’ and synchronous communications, I doubted that an avatar added much additional value to a communicative experience.

This semester I am personally participating in a digital studio, where we have held some meetings inside Adobe’s Connect, but have found the experience cumbersome, adding little value over irc (or, at least, VOIP + text, like in skype). I usually dread video conferenced meetings, though its sometimes worthwhile to share a browser. At work, we helped set up a Global Classroom for the Earth Institute, which has been receiving rave reviews, but is mostly just a shared video experience (with a few live events). Prior to this week, I have visited second life on a handful of occasions as a guest, but mostly just been reading about it, watching videos, and hovering over other people’s shoulders while they play.

All this changed this week, after a chance encounter with a professor, Piet Hut, whose work I encountered years ago as an undergrad. His dialogue with Bas Van Fraassen on The Elements of Reality really helped me crystallize my thinking on a range of philosophical questions, and the perspective explored in this conversation may serve as an effective bridge between ancient and modern metaphysics.

Prof. Hut is an astrophysicist at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study (which now, more than ever, reminds me of the village) , and he takes phenomenology and mysticism pretty seriously. His interdisciplinary research is really all over the map and I dig his philosophies of science. His writing is usually clear and free of jargon.

I have not been keeping up with his work, but when I saw his name on the schedule at the CSSR Neuroscience and Free Will conference, I decided to crash his talk (and I figured there would be coffee and snacks).

In his talk he mentioned some of his latest work inside of virtual worlds, including new ways of conceptualizing (scientific) simulations and research. I was quite receptive to this topic, since I have been thinking a whole lot about how Technology is transforming Epistemology, which I have started writing about here, and hope to expand upon at the end of this semester (um… that’s in a few weeks!).

His latest project though is another trip entirely – (or, perhaps identical, from the inside-out ;-)). The project, Play As Being is described and tracked on that blog, and is a bit tough to explain in words – you sorta have to try it to understand/believe it.

So, I kinda had an enlightening experience inside of SL. I learned about the potentialities of virtual worlds as phenomenological laboratories. While I was there last night I was attentive to my minds restlessness (how weird is it that after 45 minutes I was compelled to stand my avatar up and stretch my “legs”?) and learned a few new RL practices. I brought the lessons back to meatspace today, and was much more mindful of my body and breathing. I’m not on the full 1% time-tax rhythm, but I am working on picking out mnemonic bells so I can introduce a bit more discipline into the flow of my experience.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been that surprised at the cognitive value of a 3D experience. I mean, I’ve read about The Loci Method in books like The Art of Memory. But the idea of using the environment as a Zen training studio really blew me away. I imagine you really need the right group for the experience to work, but I am quite impressed by this particular purposeful use of this instrument. It took a really good teacher(s), but I have a much better appreciation for effectively using SL as a space to practice mindfulness and contemplate Being.

Has anyone else heard of things like this happening w/in SL?

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