There are ghosts
they inhabit other grids.
They are the souls of avatars lost to us,
like echos from other dimensions,
it is said,
though no one knows for sure.
What we do know is
A weakness in the structure of metaverse
and they now
So opens the description of Glyph Graves’ Ghosts of the Internet, a fascinating installation which continues the artist’s reflections in virtual space. Fascinating, because it exists both in Second Life at LEA21 and in the Inworldz region of Translation – and those in one can see the “ghosts” of those in the other moving around, and can even converse with them.
The landing point at each installation provides instructions on how to get started, together with recommended graphics settings (using Firestorm as the example). There’s also a teleport to deliver you to ground level, which is more-or-less identical in both regions (Sasun Steinbeck provided a tool to help copy items between the two environments), comprising barren rock, partially flooded and surrounded by tall hills.
Within either landscape sit a series of semi-transparent otherworldly forms, with shifting colours within, which might be taken as alien crystal growths or exotic sculptures. Some of these are the “bridge” between Second Life and Inworldz, allowing communications between the two to take place. Others, spread around the borders of the landscape are the Pylons of Binding – move beyond them, and contact with “the other side” is no longer possible. Snails also roam each of these realms, and at least one is large enough to slide run over you if you’re not careful, although they are shy: touch one, and it will retreat into its shell for a few seconds.
But it is the ghosts which are really the focus here. These appear whenever someone on either side is within the boundaries set by the Pylons of Binding (although if there is no-one in the region on the other grid, no ghosts will be visible). In other words, the ghosts that appear represent avatars visiting the installation on the other grid.
Communications between world is initiated by touching a ghost (which will then become somewhat multi-hued) and then typing into open chat (you may have to wait for the “ghost” to respond to your initial touch first). Only one conversation with a ghost can be established at any given time, so if you touch a ghost already in a conversation, it will not respond to you. It is also not recommended that you touch several ghosts at once to initiate multiple conversations, as “bad things will happen” as a result (and it might get very confusing).
Be aware that whatever you say to the other person is also repeated in open chat at their end of the link, not in IM, and so will be heard by anyone else who is near them. Chat from any other avatars around you, however, is not transmitted. To terminate a conversation, or if you do not which to speak to someone on the other side who touches your “ghost” there, simply touch the appropriate ghost to terminate the connection.
If you have accounts on both Inworldz and Second Life, Ghosts of the Internet brings a whole new level of meaning to the expression “talking to oneself”; nevertheless, it is an easy means of experiencing the installation should there otherwise be on-one else on the other side with whom you can converse. Alternatively, if your focus is solely on Second Life, you can enjoy something of the experience by having a friend hop over to Coppelia, and converse with them from the Ghosts of the Internet installation on LEA21.
As well as being a fascinating technical / artistic piece, Ghosts of the Internet carries with it echoes of the past. Remember the heady days of 2008, when a group of brave explorers set-out to move between dimensions, travelling from Second Life to OpenSim, and the promise therein? It is also – possibly – a hint of a potential future, given Ebbe Altberg’s comments on SL and the metaverse.
Both of these give the installation an added philosophical edge in terms of what might have been and what might yet be. I also found that when talking two myself between the two worlds, prompted thoughts of how the metaverse might be used as an expression or reflection of the multiverse, and our own multiple existences therein …
So, for a while at least, there are ghosts on the grid, and echoes in the metaverse. See them and hear them while you can. Recommended.
- Ghosts of the Internet – LEA21, Second Life (Rated: General)
- Ghosts of the Internet – Translation, Inworldz (Rated: Moderate)