Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bright Morning Sun: Virtual Harbin, Building as Ethnographic Representation

Bright morning sun ...


... Started to build virtual Harbin further in Open Simulator. I've had four regions, or sims, working for about a year now.

A friend and I are doing this together. He's a systems' engineer who knows networking, but doesn't know this OpenSim software, which is like Second Life and draws from the same library of assets, or virtual worlds, so we're hacking this together.

{Hacking, in many ways, is what brought the internet into existence. See Pekka Himanen's "The Hacker Ethic and Spirit of the Information Age," Prologue by Linus Torvalds; Epilogue by Manuel Castells, for example}.

I have four regions on my hard drive, as the beginning of virtual Harbin. Each region corresponds to 256 square meters. The code for one region in a .xml file, which you can write in textedit or notepad, for example, looks like this at present:


Config sim_UUID="2109c6e0-2516-11dd-bd0b-0800200c9a66"
sim_name="Cyclamen" sim_location_x="1000"
external_host_name="" master_avatar_uuid="00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000" estate_covanant_uuid="00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000" master_avatar_first="Lotus" master_avatar_last="Flower" master_avatar_pass="test" />


(To display this code above, I removed the opening < before 'Root' and 'Config,' and the < > after the last 'Root').

The a) OpenSim software - - reads this file, and we view this island then through an older version (so we can see Second Life in the current version) of the b) Second Life client - - (like a browser window which displays the interactive virtual world which we build). Adam Frisby is currently actively blogging about OpenSim, with a lot of helpful, 'how to' information - And here are some helpful instructions.

On my four, linked virtual Harbin regions in OpenSim, each 256 square meters, I've begun to use the bulldozer tool to raise land. With Google Earth - - as a reference, I've found that the on-the-ground Harbin area I'm particularly interested in fits almost perfectly into this 512 meter by 512 meter area which make up my four regions combined. The greatest elevation difference according to Google Earth is about 75 meters. So I'm first approximating the contours of the actual Harbin Hot Springs valley in northern California in OpenSim by raising land in-world using Google Earth.


Here's my "The Making of virtual Harbin Hot Springs as Ethnographic Field Site in Second Life and Open Simulator" (14 mins.). I'll shape something like this in OpenSim:


As an argument in my Harbin ethnography, I'm suggesting that raising land with the bulldozer tool, using computer commands to do things on these sims, as well as making this particular virtual world, is ethnographic representation of place, akin to writing ethnography vis-a-vis conceptions of the field.

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