In Three Dimensions: Art, Machinima and the Virtual University

By Sarah Higley and Jegatheva (Jay Jay) Jegathesan.

Published by The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Communication

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Frank Popper’s 2007 book “From Technological to Virtual Art” makes an important distinction between modern and postmodern technical art and “virtual” art. The latter, he insists, invites participation, and both celebrates and “humanizes” technology. He examines holography, computer art and the Internet, but ignores the socially engaged three-dimensional art made in Second Life, which has slipped below the radar of academic scrutiny. This article attempts to remedy that omission by drawing attention to three communities that come together by means of the University of Western Australia and its virtual art gallery: 3D artists, the filmmakers that take their art as inspiration for their films, and the outside sponsors and judges of the regular challenges the UWA offers. Machinima (film made in “real time” in games and virtual worlds) is emerging as a hot critical topic, but almost nothing has been said about the mutual dependence of Second Life filmmaker and artist that is fast becoming a genre of its own. We explore the combination of play, aesthetic, representation, and virtuality as these are fostered in a participatory environment meant for users to experience together as “avatars.” We also address the ephemeral nature of art in a digital era, and how machinima films preserve and re-present its impact on outsiders. Finally, we address the relevance of this phenomenon to external study and the importance (and difficulty) of making it known to those who regard Second Life as a play-ground only and not a site for artistic experimentation and participation.

Keywords: Machinima, Virtual Worlds, Film Theory, 3D Digital Design, Second Life, Participatory Culture, YouTube, New Media

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Communication, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp.43-57. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 4.798MB).

Prof. Sarah Higley

Professor, Department of English, Film Studies Program, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York, USA

Sarah Higley is Professor of English at the University of Rochester, New York, where she teaches courses (and has published her research) on medieval literature and language, machinima, film, creative writing and cultural studies. She is herself a Second Life artist and an award-winning machinimatographer, and in the early 1990s she wrote briefly for a television series.

Jegatheva (Jay Jay) Jegathesan

School Manager, School of Physics, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia, Australia

(SL: Jayjay Zifanwe) is School Manager of Physics at the University of Western Australia, Crawley, and the owner of the UWA presence in Second Life. He won the 2008 Google Earth ‘Build your Campus in 3D’ Challenge and was shortlisted in the top ten for the 2010 Linden prize. He and his team have been driven by expanding the UWA focus on Teaching, Research, Art and Architecture in Virtual Worlds.