Monday, June 12, 2017

Re: [Yasmin_discussions] cultural heritage in the Byzantine metaverse

Dear Roger,

This is a good question:

> On Jun 8, 2017, at 10:32 PM, roger malina <> wrote:

> well we still are ! where are the equivalent of 4 dimensional cave
> paintings ???

They exist, but they take a lot of work and they are difficult to make. The serious and elegant equivalent of 4-dimensional cave paintings occur in several media. One that occurred to me when I read this was the scene in the Dreamworks animated film, Prince of Egypt. This scene recounts the first two chapters of Exodus, in the form of an animation of a series of monumental wall paintings:

It is difficult to create a visual artifact with authentic narrative power. For example, the cave paintings at Lascaux developed over many years. The exact dating and timeline are under debate, but many scholars believe that it took at least 2,000 years from starting the paintings to bringing the caves to the state in which we see them today.

One reason we don't see many such works in Second Life or Open Sim is that our society has not yet evolved to a point where we generate such works.

If I were to put it another way, the idea of a "born digital indigenous native" is a metaphor rather than a description of existing culture. No human being is born digital. We are born into human bodies, and everything we know about human beings suggests that we require many of the same qualities of human contact and social interaction that human beings have required as new-borns and infants for tens of thousands of years. What makes us human are exactly those qualities that make it impossible to be born digital.

To create works of narrative power requires us to master several vocabularies. I've wondered sometimes just how we can support the education and skill that goes into this level of mastery. The great paintings of the Renaissance and the Reformation required patronage. We have few such patrons today — universities have been a kind of halfway house or sheltered workshop, but university art departments have yielded few acknowledged masterpieces. Why that is so is open to question, but I don't see many works emerging from universities with the kind of narrative power visible at Lascaux.

I've been reading my way through some of Ursula LeGuin's novels again. I'm partway through her trilogy, The Annals of the Western Shore. LeGuin creates and sustains narrative power through the careful use of words — creating characters whose feelings and actions mirror our own. I've often wondered whether she is among the greatest living novelists because she grew up in a family of great anthropologists. Her parents were Alfred Kroeber and Theodora Kroeber (to remarry as Theodora Kroeber Quinn after Alfred's death). All of her creatures share understandable motives: human and fantastic, normal folks and wizards, spirits and dragons all operate from the twin dialectic of private self and culturally embedded members of a community.

While today's digitally engaged artists live a human life in one of their inhabited worlds, questions remain open as to the nature of their digital world, how they live in it, or what it means. Lacking a power physical presence in another world, they cannot create the kind of art that we see at Lascaux. However odd and mysterious this world is, however little we know of what it says and what it means, we can see and feel that the people who painted those walls lived in the world they depicted in a direct and physical way that the inhabitants of Second Life do not.

That's my first stab at an answer to your question.

Where can we find such works — and what would it take to create them? That's a second stab, and I'm not yet ready to attempt it.

Warm wishes,



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