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  • Pioneers like Jaron Lanier accept the immersion model of virtual reality,
    but add equal emphasis to another aspect that they see as essential.
    Because computers make networks, VR seems a natural candidate
    for a new communications medium. … Because users can stipulate
    and shape objects and activities of a virtual world, they can share
    imaginary things and events without using words or real-world
    references. Accordingly, communication can go beyond verbal
    or body language to take on magical, alchemical properties.


    One of my favorite places to hang out in the virtual 3-D world of Second Life is the wondrous Heart Garden Center. There are landscapes for all seasons and climates: tropical beaches, alpine pine woods, birch forests, coral islands, cherry blossom gardens.

    There are magnificent waterfalls and quiet pools, summer wildflower meadows and secret gardens. If I am feeling stressed out, I will sit by one of the waterfalls for awhile. Even though this is all happening in 3-D virtual reality, I find that I relax.

    There is the sound of water falling into a pool, and perhaps bird songs, and a gentle wind. It is easy to feel that I am actually in a "real" landscape, immersed in a shimmering natural environment.

    It is amazing what just a few minutes of being in this virtual, cyber-space can do. After awhile, when I come back to RL, the "Real World" as we call it, my body still carries the memory of the great rocks, the water lilies, the bright wildflowers, the splashing of the waterfall, I cannot help wonder at times which reality is real

    What if the waterfall garden is the reality, and the experience of sitting typing at my desk now is imaginary? What if?

    One of the astonishing benefits of playing in virtual reality 3-D worlds is that you can imagine something, and then set about creating a landscape or environment to embody your vision. A good example of this is how I go about creating the illustrations for my stories here in Cowbird. When I am writing a story, I will look for some idea which can translate into an image or symbolic "painting." You literally paint with 3-D objects, and participate directly in the creation.

    This morning, when I wrote FORESIGHT - 101, about thinking ahead 10,000 years, I saw the Gregory Bateson's story about the Black Oaks as the metaphor for the theme of the essay.

    Black Oaks! Or at least an oak forest... Where could I find one, or if I couldn't find one, could I create it?

    I wandered around Heart Garden Center to see what they might have, and miracle of miracles, Dolly and Lilith Heart had just, within the last few days, created a Giant Oak!

    Wonderful! I bought 12 of them, took them up to one of my islands in the sky, and set up the Oak Forest with a Unicorn, because, well, it was a dark forest and I thought a Unicorn would be fun. The illustration for FORESIGHT - 101 was the result.

    (First in a Series, VIRTUAL LIFE, about living and working in a 3-D virtual world)

    (Photograph by Alex in the Pine Forest, Heart Garden Center in the 3-D virtual world of Second Life, my home away from home.)

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