This is my contribution to the ‘What Second Life Means to Me’ video project being run for the virtual world’s 12th birthday celebrations. I was not sure about doing this project, but several things came together. It seems appropriate that this should be my 100th blog post.
This will be my third video this year. I always felt there was enough to explore with still image photography without dealing with the moving image as well. However, more recently I became aware that this was a skill I really needed to develop. Anyway… here’s the video before I start talking about the importance of the cut and other such ideas. It’s embedded here from Vimeo, which I prefer for quality, no ads, and less hassle, but it is also on Youtube.
Cutting is the part of movie making that I am finding most interesting, even more so than the filming.
Cutting is a vital part of the cinematic and photographic process, and it is essentially about choosing the one place where the cut is right, out of a choice of an infinite number of places. It can be an ending, but more often is not. Good cutting redirects the flow along chosen channels, creating an understandable narrative out of a potentially overwhelming flood of events.
It has been argued that cinema and games are different because film constructs narratives out of cut sequences, but games, because they are immersive, have a self-directed flow that works against narrative continuity.
Movies clearly have cuts, a means of moving the narrative from one place to another. Games with levels have cut-scenes that cover the transition, which is often a question of giving the hardware time to load up a new set of data. Second Life also has them – the teleports from one place to another. But I doubt that most people see them as cuts, as they are consequence of their choice, not the maker of the game.
However, cutting is a way that humans make sense of their surroundings. This all-but-unconscious process segments reality, allowing us to compare the relative differences of experiences and life on either side of the cut. The difference, I think, is not whether cuts are made, but who makes them. And if it is the person, how freely they can make them. Cutting creates memorable points in time, which we remember later and thread into narratives and personal biographies. Those narratives vary – it depends on who we are talking to and what is most relevant to that conversation, and they are retrospective views dependent on the realities of the present. One of the great things about Second Life is that the choice of where to go and how to act, that which creates the significant points, is largely up to the resident. A personal and social act.
I remember my six years in Second Life as a series of places where I have been and experiences that I have had. What does my Second Life mean to me? It is a Creative Exploration of my own work and that of others. The video I made is about how I feel now: looking ahead to a life deeper in digital art, living in the moment and curious about the present, and a history that is retold with a narrative rooted in experience and the landmarks of the past.
The above few paragraphs draw on:
Becker, Gay. Disrupted Lives: How People Create Meaning in a Chaotic World. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.
Kember, Sarah, and Joanna Zylinska. Life After New Media: Mediation as a Vital Process. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2012. Chapter 3.
Tong, W.L., and Marcus Cheng-Chye-Tan. “Vision and Virtuality: The Construction of Narrative Space in Film and Computer Games.” ScreenPlay: Cinema/videogames/interfaces. London: Wallflower Press, 2002.
Music credits for the video, which are all under Creative Commons licences, as is my video (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0):