And I go over to the psychologist, and he says, "Emo, what does this inkblot look like to you?" I said, "Oh, it's kind of embarrassing." He said, "Emo, everyone sees something, so don't be embarrassed. Tell me what the inkblot looks like to you." I said, "Well, to me it looks like standard pattern #3 in the Rorschach series to test obsessive compulsiveness."
Ever notice birds don’t build stairways to their nests? Yet the fully airworthy Second Lifer insists time and time again to include the unnecessary crutch in every build! Perhaps this folly is what the judges of the recent State Of Play competition tried to expose when they gave SL’s finest builders a verbal spanking. The lesson was basically that Second Life is a powerful virtual reality tool that should not be used to simulate real world structures but rather should be used to express creativity in ways nobody understands or can identify with.
I have always considered creativity to be the degree to which creators, morph the information received by their senses into something else based on their core of experiences. Generally speaking, the more complex the morphing, the more creative the idea is deemed … to a point. The spectrum ranges from non-creative to, well, frankly INSANE. At one end you have an automated script that takes your input and echoes it right back to you. You type “Hello World” and it returns “Hello world.” At the other extreme we have output that bares no resemblance to the input. You type “Hello World” it returns a shade of blue between hockey stick and thirteen written entirely in pungent. Now THAT’S creative!
Actually it wasn’t very creative, it was random. Real creativity is generally found at a sweet spot on the spectrum where ideas are morphed and pushed to the limit but never depart from the context in which the audience will receive them. Whether you anguished geniuses like it or not, this context is important.
Many of the freedoms Second Life grants us are savored mostly when placed in a real world context. Flying, for example, is far more gratifying when zooming over the tops of trees and houses than it would be in, say, some abstract upside down room from an M.C. Escher drawing. Without an earthly sense of “UP” it’s impossible to know that you’re flying at all, never mind enjoy it.
This brings me to our little civics contest. Cutting edge ideas understood and appreciated only by academics may very well help to promote civic engagement and strengthen the public sphere … as long as you don’t actually need people. But for most civics projects the perceptual context of the general public is non-negotiable, and right now that means letting people know which way is UP.
My recommendation for next year's State Of Play judges (and I know they are scrambling for a pen to write this down in their Moleskines) would be to hold two contests. One would reward the most creative virtual space least encumbered by the context of our real world experiences. The other would be about bringing people together for civic engagement in a virtual world.