A virtual world is like an animated film you can climb into and run around. The other characters you meet are all real people who have climbed into the same film as you,
and what you do there is pretty much up to you.
On the face of it, a virtual world looks like a computer game – software runs on your computer that displays the virtual world on your screen and shows what you are doing, and enables you to communicate with other people who have entered that world. The difference is that virtual worlds have no set rules or goals, apart from standards of acceptable behaviour and respect for others. Virtual worlds offer a space for online social gatherings and act as platforms for whatever the people who use them want to do, whether that’s immersive art, distance learning and education, machinima, or music.
(Party at The Century in Second Life, with Victoryan Bailey DJing)
Virtual worlds are the setting for the events and news we talk about on Virtual Advisor. We follow an electronic music scene where musicians and DJs stream live to the internet, and people gather in a virtual space to enjoy the music, chat and lark about. In essence this is another step on from internet radio and chat rooms, with the virtual world providing a new setting and a rich medium for interacting with other people.
In a virtual world, your avatar is a character representing you on screen that you use to interact with the world, and is also how everyone else in the world sees you. Having an avatar contributes to a feeling of participating in an event rather than disconnected listening. How much someone develops their avatar, or how involved they get with "living" in the virtual world, is really up to them. There is no requirement to become immersed in a world and develop a life there. Different people have different levels of involvement, from playing out richly imagined personas in roleplay, to others who remain very much themselves and are there for the social malarkey and the music.
Second Life, the virtual world I am most familiar with, is a world in which everything was built by the people in it. This DIY ethic has led to a lively music scene - venues have been quick to spring up and the music flows freely. Taken as a whole, the electronic music scene in Second Life is like a loose collection of dozens of internet radio stations, with DJs broadcasting live from different corners of the world, and each station tied to a particular venue where listeners can gather. Although the DJ and the listeners may all be in vastly different locations around the globe, the virtual world they have all joined provides the illusion that they are in the same place, enjoying the same vibe. There is no reason why a venue in Second Life should look like a real club venue either – For instance, listening to spaced out dub techno while floating in space would be perfect.
The virtual music scene certainly doesn't constitute a replacement for real-life clubbing and getting sweaty in your music box of choice, in the same way that TVs are not a replacement for cinema just because you can have one in your living room. If anything, I think what's happening in the real and virtual worlds will complement one another. Events in virtual worlds can showcase the best of what is happening locally in real life, to a worldwide audience. Mixed reality events blur the lines between the real and the virtual, with two-way video feeds extending the reach of events worldwide. And as the scene grows, established artists from the real world are regularly dropping in to virtual worlds to play, for example, Cari Lekebusch and Monosurround. Other guest appearances in Second Life have included Kerri Chandler, Kevin Saunderson, and Luke Slater.
If you love electronic music, I hope you will find events on Virtual Advisor that you like the look of and be encouraged to make your way into the virtual world to check them out. Say hello to me when you get there!