第二人生的音景 i·Mirror: Soundscapes of SL
2007 基于在线3D虚拟世界Second Life的田野录音作曲和声音装置
* 该作品为艺术家曹斐在2007年威尼斯双年展作品 “i.mirror”的声音装置部分，以及影像的声音设计部分。
过度符号化的现实：虚拟世界的实地录音 文 / Zafka
过去半年，我和Zafka Ziemia（我的avatar）断断续续的在Second Life（简称SL）旅行。这是一个居民数目不断增长，可以自主创造的3D在线虚拟世界。我喜欢SL，也相信虚拟世界很快会成为人们生存的另一个重要空间。因此，在探索这个世界的同时，我开始用Audio Hijack取代麦克风进行field recording，试图留下关于虚拟世界的第一份声响记忆。
Around 2006, I became a user of Second Life, a 3D online virtual world. I spent a lot of time playing in SL, doing research on SL’s society and culture, and started writing the first Chinese blog dedicated to SL at the time, as well as a virtual world column in Urban China magazine. At that time, I even changed a job and joined HiPiHi, a local 3D virtual world startup in China. I am responsible for researching industry and community policy. I connected with many global virtual world investors and practitioners at that time. I began to see the online virtual world as an extension of the offline world. In 2007, I made a new record based on my research and field recordings in the SL. At the same time, the work was also presented as the sound installation part of artist Cao Fei’s work “i.mirror” at the 2007 Venice Biennale, as well as the sound design part of her video work.
An Over-symbolized Reality: Field Recording in the Virtual World （By Zafka）
I’ve been traveling on and off with Zafka Ziemia (my avatar) in Second Life for the past six months. It’s an online ‘metaverse’ whose increasing ‘residents’ can create 3D virtual world of their own. I like Second Life, and I believe that the virtual world would soon become another essential space in people’s life. Therefore, as an attempt to collect the first sonic memories of the virtual land, I began to do field recording in it (using the Audio Hijack software as microphone).
Land owners in Second Life can play live music and expand online radio into 3D theatre. Shut down the music and you’ll hear the pre-recorded sounds in the Second Life client software, including built-in natural sounds (wind, footstep, insect, ocean wave, etc.) and sonic fragments uploaded by the residents. Streamed in realtime and looped, these sounds of various qualities are sampled from the real world and are limited to no longer than ten seconds each. Together with the operational sounds of the client programme, they comprise the virtual soundscape of Second Life.
The sound uploading feature has not, however, resulted in much resident-made sonic environment, nor is there much industrial sounds. The sound of ocean wave, torrent, wind, fire, bird and insect are almost everywhere, but with little variety. Masked by the industrial sounds in the real world, natural sounds are over-emphasized as unconscious, excessive self-salvation in the virtual one through looping. These ‘over-symbolized’ sounds, as well as fragments uploaded by residents (wind-bell, door, yelling, mechanics, etc.), speak to people’s memories of real world sounds through endless repeating. Yet they don’t sound ‘real’ because of the lack of complexity, inter-relationship and multi-layered construction. In fact there is a sense of cheap abstraction in them. Sometimes sounds would be delayed, paused or morphed due to the limitation of bandwidth and computer system resources, thus stressing the mechanical, repetitive, and clumsy quality of the soundscape.
Second Life is an utopia deprived of the capability of sound making. It replicated the visual, spatial and emotional dimension of the real world, but left out the organic sonic environment of it. In many occasions, however, it’s precisely the abandon of real world sounds (including voice) and the looping of sounds at hand that bring us the detachment and the immersive experience in the virtual space. The sound of avatars walking and flying, the constant typing sound while chatting, and the default operational sound of the Second Life client are no doubt recognizable to individuals and thus reiterate our existence in the virtual space. Plagued by the noisy industrial sound of the real world, we find it difficult to engage ourselves in an active-listening relation with daily sounds of human behaviour, which would have been an important way of self-perception.
Yet human beings have long been detached from the environment in the virtual world when sound is concerned. Perhaps sound is not necessary here. Actually, many residents have chosen to shut down all the pre-recorded sounds in and of the client software. Avatars can fly, and you can control them to observe spatial structure in bird’s eye view. People can detect their environment and tell direction without the help of the aural sense. With sonic recognition system absent in most of the places, it turns out that the virtual world is more visual-centric than the real one. The existence of human beings in the virtual space depends on gazing at the 3D avatar through man-machine interface.
Although voice chatting is on its way to Second Life, I think I’m gonna stick to typing and to the sound of keyboard. I need to keep telling myself that between the virtual and the real world is this lifeless interface, and that fresh air – the essential embryo of life and sound – is absent at the other end of the keyboard.
(Translated by Lawrence R.Y. Li.)