SDHS 2009 Conference RoundTable
DANCING IN SECOND LIFE: Envisioning Virtual Topographies for Corporeal Interaction:
dance and performance convergent applications of Second Life®

By Isabel Valverde, Yukihiko Yoshida, and Mike Baker

Wishing to contribute to map and analyze the implications of recent dance and performance activity/formats engaging with MUVE/Metaverse Second Life® (avatars and environment), we are organizing a Roundtable, to take place at the SDHS 2009 Annual Conference, “Topographies: Sites, Bodies and Technologies”, at Stanford/S.F., June 20.
We will discuss these issues based in our own work in dance/performance-technology, sharing the idea of Second Life 3D as a novel private-public terrain for creative convergence, rather than separation, of physical-virtual embodied realities. We want to identify and reflect about the proximities as well as differences in our approach to this new work platform. And how the ongoing traversing in-between physical-virtual modes of (posthuman) embodiment and spatial immersion inform and are informed by our theoretical and practice research. The engagement/investment with more accessible embodied networks is thus regarded not as a substitution but an amplification of our physical embodiment and corporeality.
How is this engagement challenging our dance making, interdisciplinary collaboration, as well as subjective and inter-subjective modes of engagement in general, given the increasing influence and importance of choreographing along with designing VR characters and environments? Can VR Movement become an inclusive mode of communication, integrating all others, a signature?

Company in Space (CiS), one of the first companies working with telematics and real-time mocap performance, conceived of dancing with each other through avatars in a shared vr space. When SL® came out in 2003, I envisioned such possibility through an accessible mocap interface immersion. Recently after SL® openness to free download and participation, there has been plenty applications of SL® in performance: as 3D set design (giving depth and illusion to live performance), as avatar performance, as alternative spatialized video presentation of live work, or other hybrid mixed reality forms of performance.

We want to acknowledge that the technology is there, however being developed and applied mostly with functional and economic purposes with a lack of attention and disregard for subjects’ physical health, culture, and creative involvement. Thus, these dance-tech works want to bring other visionary experiences and possibilities towards critically embracing these bodies and environments.

We would like you to participate in the discussion with comments, responses, and or more questions to the ones posed here:

Questions/issues:
- What are the contributions and challenges posed by dancing in SL?
- How is this practice influencing and affecting the way we embody, perform, and interact?
- What are the theoretical and historical implications of engaging and reflecting about these momentary instances within the fast process through post-human hybridity?
- How can these forms of dance-technology research and critical performance aesthetic approaches to Second Life® bring upon a closer inclusion and raise the stakes of corporeality within HCI development, and might? A new status of corporeality and embodied experience and communication through new modes of inter-subjective bodily knowledge?

Mapping Questions:
- What types of dance performance are going on in SL and where do they happen?
- How does this work relate with previous/other forms, approaches or trends in dance-tech, dance, performance art, media art, dance for the camera?
- Who are the protagonists? What involvement with SL amongst dance-tech community members?
- What led you to involve SL in your work? What are the connections to your previous work (3D, telematics, interfaces, dance forms/techniques, videogames, other)?
- What function/role does the SL avatars and or environment play in your work (concept, development, presentation format, dissemination and discussion, other)?
- Why are dance artists, researchers, and educators including this “platform”? Towards creating and interacting through this multi-user network environment?
- How are we experimenting with this sites and bodies regarding their possibilities and restrictions to dance and corporeality? What aesthetics of mixed embodied communication?

- How is SL included in the work?
a. As virtual set design in live performances
Backdrop or else immersed in space?
b. As performance alternative spatialized documentation
Offering a new kind of presentation and showing formats for previous and ongoing performance work in physical sites.
c. As avatar real time performance
Performances by avatars in a specific location for networked avatar audience, and or projected live to a seated audience.
d. As hybrid or mixed reality performance environments
Performances between physical and avatars participants. The physical site is broadcasted into SL screens through which participants performers and avatars interact.
e. As part of a greater project including avatars and other interfaces
Collaborations involving different domains sharing interdisciplinary concepts, such as HCI development (generation of other types of interfaces), forms of architecture, fashion and other 3D aspects, mixed reality environments, etc.
f. Other ways

Interface questions:
- What are the limitations and possibilities of desktop and alternative/beyond (mixed reality) interfaces with virtual bodies/subjects in Multi User Virtual Environments (MUVE) such as Second Life®?
- What is the purpose of dancing with avatars while seating at the desktop?
- Creating new possibilities to dance developing approaches otherwise impossible?
- Dance as intervention through interfacing with virtual bodies and environments?
- What is mapped, tracked, mediated from live bodies or generated to choreograph the virtual bodies/avatars and the media and analog responses? What is coming back to our bodies?
- What are the advantages of body-avatar interfacing through the Nitendo Wii manipulation?
- What and how are other interfaces explored to physically expand our interaction with SL avatars? Real time mocap based on Tag interface (attached or painted to the body)?
- What is the purpose of the mapped relationship between bodies’ position, movement, space, and other environment elements?

Content questions:
- What sort of questioning and reflection relates to SL® avatar choreographed behavior?
- How are works including or challenging VR corporeality typical of SL® and 3d in general?
- How do they change and raise the value of corporeality through avatar representation and movement, already proved unique mode of subjective recognition and signature?
- How can they invert formal and visual dominances, changing perspectives of embodiment?
- How are we engaging through avatar movement and interaction with each other and the environment?
- What are the implications of changes in making work, choreographing through embodying other entities?
- How is this dance involvement with SL applying and challenging the possibilities for creating embodiments and graphical content, the physical interface limitations, or the involvement of a monetary cost to upload own content/data into account or buy/rent space?

Collaboration questions:
- How important and particular is the collaborative and transdisciplinary work? What can and can’t you do by yourself?
- How did you find your collaborators?
- What are the most crucial aspects of collaboration (method, process, commitment, achievements, issues, production)?
- How does collaboration informs the work method and results?

We invite discussion on performance/dance work taking place in Second Life® and combined interfaces. We look forward to gather input from related projects, towards revealing/understanding possible characteristics/differences and current issues, such as, type of protagonists/collaborations, ways of working, content/concepts, formats, media, dance forms, choreographic approach, bodies/type of embodiment, other interfaces, geographic/SL locations, cultural/artistic contexts and networks.

This discussion wants to begin here and move into the SL network, towards an insightful and constructive meeting at SDHS. Second Life® environment and characters will connect the 3 main participants, Isabel Valverde at the conference in California, Yukihiko Yochida in Japan, and Mike Baker in New Zealand. Other attendees in the room or as avatars will be welcome to join. Depending on the responses we will organize the dates to meet in SL.

The RoundTable is at 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm (PWT) and (SLT) on 20th June.
The SLURL adress is Weltec, Koru (203, 224, 3093)

We are meeting every thursday and saturday at 7:00-8:30 pm until June 20.


Looking very forward to discuss,
Best regards,

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Hope that was not too overwhelming...

Here are the Round Table and participants abstracts.

RoundTable Abstract

We want to contribute to map and analyze the implications of recent formats of dance and performance research making use of Second Life® environment and avatars. We propose a roundtable to discuss the work of three researchers in Dance Performance Technology, Mike Baker, Yuikihiko Yoshida, and my self, Isabel Valverde. To us the Second Life 3D environment is a novel terrain for creative convergence, rather than separation, of physical-virtual embodied realities. The constant traversing between physical and virtual modes of embodiment and sites informs their theoretical and practice research. The process of involving these novel and accessible networks is regarded not as substitution but as amplification of corporeality in its infinite possibilities of subjective and inter-subjective modes of interactive engagement.
How is dance being challenged by artistic embodied practice in SL and hybrid mixed-reality environments? How is this practice influencing and affecting the way we theorize and historicize dance, setting new directions in dance-technology development, and proposing new forms of bodily knowledge?


Presenter #1 (Mike Baker)
Title: The Human Analogue in Mixed-Reality


I propose the documentation of missed conversations approached performatively in mixed-reality (Real and Second Life) expressed through a language of indeterminant ‘Leaving’. Due to the inevitability in our existence of indeterminacy, that is a state representative of chaos - a breakdown of order – we have an inability to be fully present at any given moment in time. Indeterminacy implies motion and emerges as Massumi asserts, through ‘… an unfolding relation to its own nonpresent potential to vary …’. We are constantly being drawn away, always either approaching or embracing involuntarily, a state of ‘Leaving’ that co-mingles with our efforts to converse with another in the here and now.


Presenter#2 (Yukihiko YOSHIDA)
Title: Real Dance and Dancing in metaverse : from the activity by INETDANCE Japan


Abstract:
In Japan, choreography using Avatars and making digital dance content is getting popular. INETDANCE Japan works with media artists to release Creative Commons licensed digital content. Content is stored at the level of the movement of body parts so that choreographers can share remix and reproduce it in their works. Japanese pop culture content is included, for example "Hatsune Miku" and the Japanese idol unit "Perfume". A strategy that combines Open Source and Otaku Culture is being undertaken to affect products in exisiting markets. The content is to be transferred into Metaverse contexts, increasing Far East dance content.


Presenter #3 (Isabel de Cavadas Valverde)
Title: Performing In Between Embodied Modes of Experience: Real Virtual Games project with hybrid site-specific physical and avatar bodies and environments

Real Virtual Games (RVG) is a collaborative transdisciplinary project, proposing alternative hybrid embodied interface environment for live and avatar inhabitants. RVG questions videogames and MUVE (Second Life®) social places’ immersive interfaces in their deployment of handicap embodiments, rather than a promised expansion. I will discuss RJV’s deviated application of the Second Life® environment through constructive deconstruction. Engaging performative interactive situations, the project experiments creative modes to alter and estrange what became too limited desktop bodily experiences. We want to contribute to an emerging posthuman corporeality concerned with subjective, collective, hybrid and mutable realities within Western Cartesian bio-information globalized virtuality of contemporary condition.

We are meeting today tuesday and thursday at 5 pm, Koru (203, 224, 3093)
hallo Isabel

greetings from London, how have you been (i no longer seem to have your correct email)? tell me more about your recent project, and this new interest of yours. I have been responding to Mike's postings, but have not found time to respond to your project, can i see it? is there a video? how did the conference go, was it fruitful...... Oh i see Yuikihiko was also involved, lovel.
with regards
Johannes

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