The (free) software keeps track of all the servers you visit, their geographical location and the kinds of data you access. Uploads make hills and downloads valleys, their location determined by numbers taken from internet address itself. The size of each hill or valley is based on how much data is sent or received. Plants are also grown for each protocol detected by the software; if you visit a website, an 'HTTP plant' is grown. If you share some files via eMule, a 'Peer to Peer plant' is grown, and so on.
None of this information is made public or shared in any way, it's your own private landscape.
Somewhat related, Visualization of statistics in computergames, by Michael Zoellner and Daniel Kupczyk, tracks and projects the behaviour of German internet users in a 3D world. Topics as different as politics, sex, sports, environment or economy are translated into the appearance, behaviour, and the sounds of an avatar. As the stream of data creates and changes, so does the population of this world, unvealing a mirror image of the net society.
The second level gives the player more possibilities for interaction and to influence what is happening in the game.
The third level represents a realistic environment, a scene in the street with a supermarket, cars and lawns. This representation projects the statistics in a real world. in a later further development the game could be experienced in an augmented reality environment, meaning that the avatar would be projected in a real scenery.
Search words which date back further in the past are represented by ghost-avatars. One can recognize very fast how different weekdays and daytimes influence the search words and hereby the significance of the categories. On a Sunday morning you will find another population as during the nightly hours of a working day.
eRiceCooker, by Annina Rüst, tracks Internet news about genetically modified rice. Whenever there is a new report about GM rice, a quarter cup of rice is dispensed into the cooker. When there's enough rice for a meal, water is added automatically to the rice and the cooker is switched on. When the rice is ready, an email is sent out to inviting people to eat the rice.
The more news reports appear, the more rice is cooked, the more often invitations are sent out, increasing awareness to issues surrounding genetically modified organisms by producing excessive amounts of cooked rice and attempting to feed people with it.
Another great rice project: Nigel Helyer's Everything's nice with American rice proposes a radical "green" solution to the so called free-trade agreements which promote the importation of American rice into the Japanese rice economy. Imported rice is converted into "Bio-fuel" that, in turn is used to power local rice cultivating equipment to produce Japanese rice, whilst at the same time reducing the reliance upon imported fuel oil.
During two weeks four avatars in flesh and blood will attend your orders at the Mediamatic gallery in Amsterdam.
The Girlfriend Experience, a work by Martin Butler, will let you choose a human avatar and make him or her walk around the space. You can observe them live in the Analog Villa. All that from the comfort of your home.
The project is of course a comment on online avatar communities, be they Second Life or World of Warcraft. In The Girlfriend Experience you have first to "explore" each other. Player and avatar explore what they can do for each other and the avatar has to think about how far he or she wants to go to comply with your wishes. In fact who's in command is not always clear. You get ten minutes to play with your avatar, then someone else take your place.
The title of the project, The Girlfriend Experience, refers to the paradoxical nature of online social behaviour. On the one hand, the avatar provides you with a sense of anonymity. On the other hand, a close look at the characteristics of your avatar can reveal a part of your intimacy and the secret desires you might have. The best paid prostitutes are the ones with whom the client feels as though he is with his girlfriend, or with whom he has a Girlfriend Experience.
Be a puppeteer from 26 January 2007 on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 20.00 till 23.00 via the Mediamatic Internet site.
I'm currently investigating the way new media artist and designers explore mourning, its rituals and the ways to keep some form of life after death (any suggestion from readers is more than welcome.) It can translate into physical artefacts such as in Shiho Fukuhara and Georg Tremmel's famous project Biopresence, Michael Burton's Memento Mori In Vitro which imagine how the hair of the deceased can be kept alive. It can also envision a device or service that would consist of both a tangible object and its online complement like Elliott Malkin's Cemetery 2.0, a device that connects a grave to online memorials for the deceased; Digital Remains by Michele Gauler which wonders what happens to your digital data when you die; Mission Eternity by etoy, which would use the power of networked digital technology and inexpensive storage to keep aspects of us alive after we're dead; or Okude laboratory's Mastaba, a novel family shrine that consist of digital memories of ancestors with a wooden physical structure.
Or the projects might be purely virtual.
As Valentina Culatti at Neural puts it, "Just as the Web has changed long-established rituals of flirting and socializing, personal Web pages on social networking sites like MySpace are altering the rituals of mourning."
The practice of turning the MySpace page of a deceased user into a virtual gravestone has spawned a Web site focused on aggregating information about the deceased. Yourdeathspace, started 2 years ago, is simply a "collection of dead MySpace users." MyDeathSpace aggregates links to deceased MySpace users' pages, news stories, obituaries or blogs that detail their lives as well as how they died. Behavior researchers at the University of South Florida apparently follow its development to get insight into the psychosocial effects that social networks might have on youth, and whether online memorials and forums that focus on death encourage teen suicides or comfort those grieving. Researcher Ilene Berson says that the Internet lacks policing efforts similar to those at newspapers and broadcast outlets, where news stories about suicides are sometimes subdued.
The website has unsurprisingly stirred controversy for what some perceive as an irreverence towards the dead. However it is inevitable that as the Internet becomes a bigger part of our lives, it will become a place (the place?) we'll go to pay our respects.
This exploration into mourning and digital culture is still in an embryonic state. For example, i lack information about how it translates into the game world so i'd be happy to hear of any piece of information you could give me on the subject.
Justin Hall has been working on a new concept for Multiplayer Online Games for his Masters degree at USC Annenberg Center, that’s implementing a point giving system for searching the web, reading emails, texting from you mobile and lots of other activities not directly linked to an online game environment.
He calls it the Passively Multiplayer Online Game (PMOG) where MyWare tracks and catalogues your online activity and assigns a point giving system so checking your email might yield you 10 extra attribute points for "wisdom" or reading the journal of experimental quantum physics gives you 25 attribute points to "intelligence".
The concerns of the MyWare and sharing information with other players touches on lots of privacy issues and how to handle information in a safe manner. Justin defines the PMOG genre like this:
Passively Multiplayer is a system for turning user data into ongoing play. Using computer and mobile phone surveillance, a user and their unique history. These resulting avatars can be viewed online, and they interact with other avatars online.Examples of data: web sites visited, email addresses, chat handles, contents of email or messaging, contents of word processed documents, digital images, digital video, video game moves.
One of Justin's design sketches illustrating his understanding of a web experience and interactions for modelling the game.
I think it’s a really interesting concept when you think of some of the research being done into combining game theory with work routines and making work routines quest based and maybe adding a visible reputation system at the water cooler etc.
And the hype being generate in 2006 on living in virtual worlds like Second Life and World of Warcraft, this concept is adding a new dimension to the debate.
Howard Rheingold, author of Smart Mobs, has posted notes from Justin’s speak on the DIY Media seminar weblog. The post also has a great discussion about the privacy issues, semantic web and valuing experience.
A thought-provoking experiment has demonstrated not only that cyberspace can be used to overcome ethical constraints in experiments but also how some of us are reluctant at the idea of torturing a virtual character.
Stanley Milgram's 1960s experimental findings that people would administer apparently lethal electric shocks to a stranger at the behest of an authority figure remain critical for understanding obedience. Due to ethical reasons, it is nowadays impossible to carry out direct experimental studies in this area.
Mel Slater and his colleagues at University College London have used VR to reenact the Milgram's experiment. Their objective was to uncover the extent to which participants would respond to the situation as if it were real in spite of their knowledge that no real events were taking place.
Participants were invited to administer memory tests to an avatar. When she gave an incorrect answer, the participants were instructed to administer an ‘electric shock’ to her, augmenting the voltage each time. She responded with increasing discomfort and protests. Of the 34 participants, 23 saw and heard the virtual human, and 11 communicated with her only through a text interface.
The participants who saw and heard her tended to respond to the situation at the subjective, behavioural and physiological levels as if it were real. Six of them chose to stop the experiment before it was due to end. A further 6 said it had occurred to them to stop early because they had negative feelings about what was happening. By contrast, of the eleven participants who only interacted with the (unseen) woman by text, just one stopped the experiment early, and no others said it had occurred to them to stop.
Participants who could see and hear the avatar were affected by the experiment as if it were real. Their stress responses were raised (as judged by sweating and heart rate). And when the woman protested, the participants tended to give her longer to answer before administering the shock. Some participants emphasised the correct answer among the available choices, as if trying to help the woman avoid a shock.
Image on the right from the movie I comme Icare
Videos related to Milgram experiment. Videos of the Virtual re-enactment of the obedience experiment.