IV Congress of CiberSociety 2009. Analog crisis, digital future

Work Team B-16: Open Knowledge

Artistic research in real and virtual worlds



In the project, the issue of aesthetics of places and unplaces is being explored from an artistic research perspective. Students in different countries work together in project teams. The concept of sense of place is being explored by the students. It serves as didactic tool towards the co-construction of open knowledge. Educational goals include the collaborative construction of knowledge and the improvement of the participants sense(s) of place, and support a differenciated perception of places and unplaces, idylls as well as anti-idylls in both physical and virtual space to address the issue of place as an intercultural interface for context based artistic rersearch projects and collaborative learning. The students in the different countries design and reflect places and unplaces in real and virtual space by means of artistic research diaries. Interactive representatives (Avatars) are develped. The students model the behaviour using the tools which come along with Second Life (SL) environment. Students reflect on the opportunities, problems and constrains opening up using SL as an artistic medium by developing art projects. In a phase of reflection students will reflect on the opportunities opening up for education and the co-construction of knowledge through collaborative, intercultural learning in project based teams. Artistic research of and in SL is being realised through online meetings, desicussion and collaboration inworld and through the Internet. In the project SL serves as an environment to research the specific aesthetics of the interactive environment, its potential for art practice as well as the students' projects.
The project is based on the idea of an international co-operation between dispersed groups of students in higher education from media and art study programs. The issue of sense of place thereby serves as an intercultural interface for context based art projects linking the physical and the virtual space. Teams of students work together in the different countries and collaborate through the Internet as well as in SL (inworld) online. They are using a variety of media in order to present the places and unplaces identified in the countries and discuss it online and inworld. Characteristics and functions of media, . such as extension of man as described by McLuhan as well as the transformation of media are being addressed and reflected through the actively shaping objects and artefacts in real and digital space.

Paper contents

Evolution of the project

Rather than to replicate teacher oriented classroom lectures in SL, we aim to have the 3D-communitiy environment augmented through Web cams and video streaming facilities to extend the communication as well as artistic collaboration processes online in the second phase of the project. In the first module, the students were asked to develop an avatar, get familiar with the opportunities opening up to edit the appearance, to control the behaviour, to navigate through the community space and use chat function for communication. The first joint meeting was held in Porto Alegre in Second Life. We aim to explore the extended SL environment in two ways: Firstly as a means for communication and online collaboration to be explored in the framework of a project based seminar, and secondly, as a new artistic medium. The main research question for the students is in terms of reflecting the medium itself: What are the opportunities and constraints opening up for arts and artistic processes using these media? After this first meeting students were asked the above questions in order to reflect on the extension of SL added through such media.

Artistic research projects as a didactic tool towards open knowledge generation

Art practice can be initiated research driven, and perceived as a form of artistic research. A research approach is introduced to facilitate to find out what kind of art projects can be realised well in SL. For example in order to overcome museum and exhibition-based concepts, more project-based interventions in the public community space as an environment for art practice could be realized. (cp. Reimann, Biazus, 2007: 5). Different genres might be taken into consideration: Artistic interventions, performance as well as SL-based land art. In this project, the students will link their own projects to the genre of video and machinima. The main focus of the project is on the scrutiny of the artistic and art educational contents, the opportunities and constrains opening up using the augmented SL community world as a medium for art practice.

In the project, Secondlife.com serves as an overall learning and shaping space for dispersed groups of students: 1. Students can appear online via video streams; 2. Videos uploaded to YouTube can be presented inworld. Additionally the videos produced by the teams of students will be streamed and discussed in the SL community world. The documentation and exchange of ideas will be realised through Blogs and Wikis.

Course design

In the first phase of the project, issues of places and unplaces are examined in the physical world in  the different countries. Students select appropriate media which best meet the project’s needs. Those projects become learning objects through discourse and will be presented and discussed through the Internet as well as in the environment of Second Life (SL).

In a second phase the participants will undertake the research in the digital community environment of Second Life. Second Life is the famous virtual 3D community space in which a variety of interactive inhabitants (avatars), objects, and space constructions co-exists. A variety of styles of urban space, architecture and landscapes as well as venues imaginable are to be found navigating the environment. Furthermore diverse sorts of interactive avatars cohabit in the public space mirroring concepts of aesthetics as well as social behaviour of the physical world. A specific kind of aesthetic has evolved from the putting together of styles, forms, colours and last not least behaviour of the interactive entities. However, since the big hype of SL in the mass media in 2006/7, only little research has been undertaken from an artistic research perspective (cp. Reimann/Biazus, 2007). In the project, students research the environment, the concept of the aethetics and "anaesthetics" (Welsch, 1990), idylls as well as anti-idylls created in SL by the users. A concept of artistic research is applied, art projects are developed using machinima, public interventions, collections, screenings and the like.

Media and technological realisation

In the project, the Internet as well as the community world Second Life serve as the overall learning space for the dispersed groups of students. SecondLife is part of the so called  Mixed Reality learning space (Reimann, D., 2006)  to be explored by the participants. They use the standard functionalities such as avatar development, control for representation as well as the chat and navigation tools. The aim is for the students to get familiar with the environment and reflect on first impressions as well as for art practice.

In the last phase of the project, the students will use Web cams, Quick Time Broadcaster software on the Mac as well as a Darwin Streaming Server (OS clone of the QuickTime Streaming Server) on a Linux server which will constitute the technical basis of the system. The video streaming can support the following processes: 1. Students can appear online via video streams; 2. Videos of the community environment will be developed, e.g. in the form of machinima, that is, to develop movies in virtual environments using particular tools provided in SL. The term of machinima is a neologism which brings together machine cinema or machine animation. 3. Videos are projected online in SL. Additionally the videos produced by the teams of students will be published in YouTube.com, streamed and discussed in the SL community world. The documentation and exchange of ideas will be realised through Web blogs and Wikis.

Research methodology and project evaluation

The first pilot meetings were realised in the framework of a pilot seminar with a group of students. Online meetings have been held in SL. The project will be evaluated by a series of semi-structured interviews realised between the working groups themselves online as well as by using surveys. Further, the research books will be presented online in SL as well as on the Web/Vlog.


In conclusion the paper looks at the challenge to further explore how the concept of sense of place serves as a an educational model to link the physical and virtual space. Second Life is perceived a metaphor for a new educational environment for both learning and artistic processes. It leads us to question of extending traditional classroom settings. The SL world might also facilitate the process of applying new pedagogical models in education, that is, a new collaborative learning culture. The technologies to develop such interactive environments exist. The challenge is to further explore the nature of the concept of virtual Internetworlds, namely SL, and to co-develop with learners new educational models for art.

School teachers and their pupils as well as educators at university level and students can use, shape and construct such technology collaboratively. From an education perspective, a variety of learning contents are being supported, such as knowledge about the technical construction in SL, the public space, and its interplay in synchronous commnication space. The medium of interactive space becomes the central object of the learning content supporting a new level of  media literacy which goes bexyond the simple familarity with an interactive technology. The latter can be perceived as an act of co-construction of knowledge and design, which is mediated through design and aims to initialise processes of understanding of the media. At the same time through the process of interacting with the technological environment learners themselves can construct and shape the processes within the learning space.


  • BIAZUS, Maria Cristina, REIMANN, Daniela, 2007, Comunidades Virtuais em 3-D: espaços multiculturais multimídia nas aprendizagens em arte, to appear 2007, conference paper, in: proceedings of anpap, 16° Encontro Nacional da Associação Nacional de Pesquisadores de Artes Plásticas Dinâmicas Epistemológicas em Artes Visuais – 24 a 28 de setembro de 2007,  Florianópolis
  • POHLKE, Annette (2007): Second Life. Verstehen, erkunden, mitgestalten, Hannover: Dpunkt Verlag
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  • REIMANN, Daniela, 2009, Die 3D-Internet-Community-Welt Second Life – Schnittstelle zwischen Medienpaedagogik und aesthetisch-kultureller Bildung, in: PH-FR, Zeitschrift der Paedagogischen Hochschule Freiburg, Schwerpunkt "Kulturelle Bildung", PH Freiburg, 3/2008, University Press, PDF online: http://www.ph-freiburg.de/webdoks/presse/phfr/ph_fr_08_1.pdf  [20.9.09]
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  • Oberhausen: Athena
  • WELSCH, Wolfgang,1990,  Ästhetisches Denken, Stuttgart
  • WEIBEL, Peter, ed., 2007, YOU_ser. Das Jahrhundert des Konsumenten. Ausstellungskatalog (Paperback), Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie, Karlsruhe: ZKM.

Internet resources:

  • Second Life, software for free download at: http://www.secondlife.com
  • Meeting point in SL ZKM You_niverse:
  • SLURL: ZKM: http://slurl.com/secondlife/ZKM/232/46/35

Acknowledgement – Non derivates- (cc-by-nd 3.0 or any other later)