Thursday, October 09, 2008

Virtual Praxis: A Conference on Women's Community in Second Life

(yours truly will be a presenter at the Ohio State University Conference, as detailed below, November 15, 2008)

Saturday, November 15, 2008
To be held on Minerva, the teaching and research space in Second Life maintained by The Department of Women's Studies, Ohio State University.

As teachers, librarians, artists, health care workers, and as volunteers in the many charitable and activist organizations of Second Life, women are a very visible element of our virtual community. The number of women's groups and community centers is increasing, supported by an informal network of committed individuals. Those who come here out of curiosity often find themselves involved in these community activities, and those who came for professional reasons often find that their interests have widened and diversified as they have come into contact with Second Life society. Is what we do here just relaxation, a metaphor for what we do in real life, or do our Second Life activities have importance for our home communities and for society in general?

Virtual Concerts in the Park
Linda Rogers (Second Life: Kate Miranda)
Executive Director, Toronto Philharmonia

There was a time when orchestras wanted to reach out to new audiences, they would go out and play in public parks or shopping malls. These days people are increasingly gathering on the internet and in virtual reality to play and shop. As an arts administrator I have been curious about the possibilities of audience development within Second Life. Who are the musicians that are active in Second Life? Why are they performing there? And who makes up the audience?

Virtual Praxis: In the Director's Chair
Phylis Johnson, Ph.D. (SL: Sonicity Fitzroy)Associate Professor & Interim Chair, Department of Radio-Television
Southern Illinois University

This paper looks at women involved in the creation, production, and distribution of news and entertainment content, and provides a wide scan of their contributions in-world. This content is created for and distributed to radio streams and news and entertainment cable services, and printed in magazines and newspapers in Second Life. The discussion specifically investigates the role of "media" women in SL content creation, and the potential impact on the larger media industry. SL users, internationally, are becoming notable media makers, and HBO featured the first documentary produced inside this digital community in early 2008. This paper attempts to create a portrait of an emerging woman producer who resides in this hall of media mirrors, and subsequently considers how much originality is realistically possible during construction in this parallel mediated universe.
The Women of Chilbo
Chris Collins (Second Life: Fleep Tuque)Instructional & Research Computing, University of Cincinnati

Chilbo is a community of artists, architects, educators, musicians, parents, hobbyists, students, and people from around the world who share a common vision that our interactions and experiences in virtual worlds can have a positive impact on our real world and our real lives. The Chilbo sim in Second Life is the cultural center of our community, but neither physical nor virtual location limits our ability to collaborate and share resources with one another.

A Village of our Own
Leta Hendricks, MA, MS (Second Life: Tamu Oh)
Librarian, The Ohio State University

"A Village of our Own" is a discussion of womanist resources available in Second Life. The Discussion will include a review of Second Life contacts, landmarks, and other womanist sources.

Gender and Race in Ultra-Conservative Groups in Second Life
Randolph Hollingsworth, Ph.D. (Second Life: Bella Yan)
Assistant Provost, University of Kentucky
My presentation will focus on the role of female avatars in racist right-wing groups in Second Life. Why would a right-wing group choose to use Second Life for communication and outreach - and especially in regards to women? Katherine Blee's Inside Organized Racism (2002) states that women are heavily sought after by American hate groups, making up half of all new recruits. Second Life is ideal for imagining and practicing gender and race, and ultra-conservative groups have found land, groups and events in Second Life that match their needs. There is a clear connection between some white power, nationalist websites and groups in Second Life. Individuals identified in fascist discussion groups and MySpace profiles sometimes post their Second Life avatar names. Portraits of female avatars participating in right-wing groups in SL will be described. Attendees will be given a party favors bag with hyperlinks to important rightwing groups' websites and SL landmarks to interesting sites. Attendees may wish to be teleported to one particular site to see and discuss the symbolic structures present. In this session, as Ingeborg Reichle wrote in her 2004 essay "Remaking Eden," (Cyberfeminism. Next Protocols): "the observer is no longer merely an observer, but rather becomes a participant." The presenter will facilitate a short discussion on the role of gender and race in rightwing groups in Second Life.

Performing Virtual Women's Community
Lea Popielinski (Second Life: Lette Ponnier / Laertes Parx)
Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Women's Studies
The Ohio State University

This paper will explore the ways in which the concept of "women" in Second Life shapes the building of women's homosocial environments within SL through an examination of the concept in terms of gender performance. The facility of constructing an SL avatar that is, by conventional definitions of sex and gender, incongruent with one's physical body, is enough to place such concepts as "women's community" in tension. This paper will explore the meaning of the phrase "women's community" through the concept of performativity as it is understood through the work of Judith Butler. I will argue that the physical sex of SL users is filtered through the SL medium to obligate avatars in presumptively all-female spaces to perform "women's community." The creation of "women's communities" in SL is a practice in referentiality wherein tropes that take their meaning in users' understanding of women's community come to be recognized and reiterated in the virtual context, but with a latent awareness that gender performance takes precedence over physical sex in the creation of such spaces. One SL space I particularly wish to examine is the Joyous Harmonious Park, formerly known as the Baths of Sisterhood, a women-only relaxation park with a history that seems to involve several characteristics stereotypically associated with the creation and dissolution of women's spaces.

Panel discussion: Is Second Life a welcoming space for women?

As educators, business people, community activists, artists and musicians, women make a strong contribution to Second Life society. According to the last published metrics from Linden Lab, 40% of user hours in Second Life are spent by people who self-report as female. While their achievements are to be seen everywhere in our virtual world, the energy and creativity of women in our community may face obstacles. Although no formal studies have been published, there is anecdotal evidence of harassment and intimidation. This panel will be one of the first attempts to assess the problem, beginning with a discussion our own personal experiences.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Received from Gregory Oh today.

Q: Do you still need cyclists? A: YES!!!
Q: Is it hard? A: NO!!!! (5 easy instructions)
Q: Is it fast? A: NO! (easy, comfortable pace, riding in formation)
Q: How do i join in the fun? A: Check out spokes for more details and instructions on how to register as a cyclist. No registration is needed to play "In C"
Q: Is Eine Brise a good piece? A: I have no idea...
Q: When is the rehearsal? A: Earlier that day - probably around noon or 1 pm.

May 31, 2008 - 3:00 p.m.

New Music Arts Projects
Track field, King Edward PS, 112 Lippincott St., Toronto

Sometimes a bicycle with a bell is more useful than a graduate degree in making music. Case in point - Mauricio Kagel's Eine Brise (procession) for 111 cyclists. The work may have been intended as a two-page testament to conceptual art, but mere technicalities cannot stop the two-wheeled artistic soul. A crticial mass of cyclists will ride around the audience in formation, creating a web of sonic undulation. It could sound wonderful, it could sound awful, but in truth we'll have no idea until the actual performance! If you have a bike with a bell or horn, are not too ashamed to make strange noises, and are interested in "riding" some Kagel, go to to find more details on how to join in the fun. If you want to participate but don't want to ride, we are looking for about 15 volunteers to help us out with the event.

On the same program, former Dancemaker Julia Aplin choreographs an ensemble of teenaged cyclists/dancers in her Bicycle Ballet, set to music by John Gzowski. Going far beyond obvious functionality, Aplin helps us to find new things to love and adore about our Mieles, Treks and Norcos, and the people who ride them

Finally, EVERYONE is invited to bring an instrument, or just their voice, and participate in an open performance of Terry Riley's In C. It is easy to play and lots of fun. Music is available at spokes. All are welcome to perform. If you've never played this work before, be brave and find out how fun and easy it is; if you have played this work before, you won't need any encouragement!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Technology in the Arts Conference

It was my privilege to present to people at the Technology in the Arts conference at the University of Waterloo May 9-10 on the subject of classical music in virtual reality.

My introductory presentation can be found here. In addition I have posted my backgrounder document with more detailed technical information here

But the magic really happened when Alessandro Marangoni, stepped up to the real piano in Italy and the virtual piano as Benito Flores and charmed the participants across oceans and media.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Rally to save the CBC Orchestra


Wednesday April 16, 2008 … Standing on guard for the CBC Radio Orchestra, April 20 at 2:00 pm CBC Radio Two listeners are following up on last week’s successful staging of a coast to coast National Day Of Action to demand CBC brass back down on their apparent systematic destruction of the Radio 2 network and their decision to replace it with programming completely foreign to its core audiences. The rally Sunday is a call to the CBC Board and Management to restore the CBC Radio Orchestra within a revitalized CBC Radio Two.

The rally on Sunday starting at 2:00 pm is an hour before the orchestra’s regularly scheduled, and nearly sold-out, performance at 3:00 pm.

The natural amphitheatre at the Chan entrance is a dramatic location, which will accommodate an impressive number of supporters, while allowing the 1,200 concert-goers easy access.

“It’s not the usual sort of prelude to an afternoon of live music at the Chan” said Canadian Music Centre head Colin Miles. “This situation has become a flashpoint for the general downgrading of CBC by the people who have been entrusted with our precious public broadcasting system."

“We are seeing the end of a cultural treasure that serves Canadians coast to coast and is an essential player in our musical exports to the world. Elimination of the CBC Orchestra is the destruction of our ability to tell our stories. It amounts to censorship and stifling of free expression of our composers" he stated.

“At 2 cents per year per person, how can CBC management, the board and Parliament agree to this? The issue has now been raised on the floor of the House of Commons and we will be keeping the pressure up.” added Colin Miles.

Three years ago CBC management stopped the CBC Orchestra from working in the studio to record music for broadcast and CDs and told they could only give public performances. Renting concert halls and paying for publicity to promote concerts is expensive. This orchestra has a recording studio that was built for them and well trained creative producer, recording engineer and orchestra librarian on staff. CBC management needs to be reminded what power in creating programming they have by keeping their orchestra. We are calling on CBC to restore the orchestra and get the musicians back into the studio to do what they do best for the benefit of all of Canada. As the CBC Radio Orchestra's own webpage states "With an audience as diverse as the Canadian experience, we create engaging musical radio programs, commission and perform new works as well as established classics, and showcase exceptional Canadian performers and conductors."

Rally organized by:
Save the CBC Orchestra Committee
Based in Vancouver, Reaching Across the Country

For more information:
Joan Athey 250-294-6040 to April 18; 604-908-9124 April 18, 19 & 20.
Laurie Townsend 604-822-9161

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Benito Flores; another real musician in Second Life!

Benito Flores in Second Life, known as Alessandro Marangoni, here in real life, has been generously sharing his time and talents with SL audiences over the past few months.
The real life pianist can be viewed here, performing with the Malaga Philharmonic:
YouTube - Malaga Phil. Orchestra - Aldo Ceccato, Alessandro Marangoni

Benito Flores was recently was interviewed and performed on the Second Life cable networks, Music Academy Online program on his life and work as both a real and virtual musician.

Benito also has a blog!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Akito Kuramota, a real musician in Second Life

Anyone interested in learning more about classical music in Second Life might by interested in visiting the new My Space page of Akito Kuramoto. There is a little about the artist, but best of all some truly delicious recordings of some selections from his popular recitals in Second Life.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Classical Music in Second Life

Pictured above, is a "live" concert by British community orchestra Sinfonia Leeds in the virtual world of Second Life. The concert appeared in virtual reality within an open-learning community Cedar Island, where I reside in my Second Life identity as Kate Miranda. Organizing and presenting concerts Music Island is part of my work and play within Second Life.

People unfamiliar with virtual reality usually have a few main questions:

1. How does it work?
2. Why present classical music in Second Life?
3. Who is performing in Second Life and what is there motivation?

How it works:

The performer or ensemble use microphones or instrument pickups to capture a live performance. That performance is encoded as an MP3 stream (usually using one of three popular programs Winamp, Simplecast, or SAM) and uploaded to a ShoutCast server on the Web. Meanwhile in Second Life, a venue owner tunes the media channel the URL to the streamed music.

At the same time the performers are using their computers to position their Second Life avatars to "play" virtual instruments, in fact triggering animations. Performers also can use the stream to introduce their works by speaking into a computer head set microphone or by using their avatars to text introductions.

Why present classical music in Second Life?

Well first let's deal with the principal objections. The sound is no better than any podcast on the internet and the animations are not really linked with sound production in any way--something some consider a bit of a sham.

Both true.

The principal reason for presenting classical music in Second Life, for me, revolves around the quality of the audience experience. Listening to a podcast or recording is a solitary experience. By contrast, concerts in Second Life are joyfully social, audience members are joyfully celebratory in their anticipation and appreciation of the music in a way rarely matched in real life orchestras. Unique to the medium, listeners silently text appreciative comments, hurrahs, and questions that they hope someone more informed will be able to answer. Sometimes Second Life avatars even decide to dance to the music in the manner of small children at a summer concert at the park.

Conversations quickly reveal that many of those attending classical concerts in Second Life have little or no experience of live classical music. While classical music series are having trouble attracting new audiences to conventional concert stages, it seems that the internet virtual audience is open to the experience of art music. It seems worth it to step into the virtual world to reach out to this new audience.

The other unique element to the SL live concert experience is the accessibility of artists. Performers can view texted messages and questions. They usually engage the audience before and after concerts and sometimes at breaks in the program. This accessibility is as rewarding to the performer as to the audience.

Not to be minimized is the "fun" factor. Even audience members and performers who are regulars in the real world concert hall are amused, engaged and refreshed by the experience of classical music in the context of virtual reality.

Who is performing in Second Life and what is their motivation?
Classical performers in second life range from competent amateurs, music students, music educators, plus emerging and mid-career professional musicians.

Love of the music and interest in virtual reality is common to everyone performing in second life. You have to think it's just a gas to be bothered. Those without a sense of humour will not be amused.

Some performers find it is a good way to work up new material and play it before a live audience before facing an audience in the concert hall. For students it is a way to get more live concert experience. For educators, a way to keep performance skills sharp.

Performers are warmed by the appreciation of the audience and the sense that they are reaching new audiences.

While some hope to promote real life careers and boost earnings, this last goal is more difficult. The requirement to have a pseudonym in Second Life hobbles name recognition. As Second Life evolves into a serious platform for art, corporations, and learning, this role-play with fictional names seem more and more out-dated.

On Music Island we have been getting around the name recognition issue with posters, T-shirts and even virtual CD stands with links to performers' real world websites.

Anyone interested in learning more about classical music in Second Life should join the Classical Group in-world. Please contact me--Kate Miranda--if I can help you or answer your questions.