“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Need Something Strange? Put an Avatar in Your Life

Avatars make all things possible. Click me.

For a new concert experience, get a second life
By Geoffrey Norris Telegraph
Last Updated: 1:21am BST 15/09/2007

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra can now be experienced in the computerised world of Second Life. Geoffrey Norris reviews it from his virtual seat in the virtual audience.

This is seriously spooky. Decades ago, when new technology was in its infancy, I forecast, facetiously as it seemed at the time, that the day would come when we would go to concerts without leaving home.

Now here I am sitting in front of a computer showing a 3D mock-up of the inside of Liverpool's Philharmonic Hall. This is not ordinary internet streaming. I am part of a virtual audience, resembling one of those stiff-jointed images on an aeroplane safety video.

Using the computer's keys, I can walk, jerkily, around the foyers and the auditorium, and I can chat (through text messages) to other caricature concert-goers who are on line for this opening programme in the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra's autumn season. We are avatars.

This is Second Life, the vastly populated internet zone that allows you to forge a different identity in the virtual world.

You can pretend to be what you are not, or maybe just see whether your real-life persona has any mileage on the worldwide web.

Some of us have difficulty enough dealing with the first life, never mind another one, but, in this limitless age, the RLPO has pioneered the idea of pitching a genuine concert within Second Life's imagined realm.

The concert had an audience in the actual hall as well, but Second Life extended it worldwide. As an avatar, I could acquire a virtual programme and buy a virtual drink from the virtual bar.

During the concert (of Ravel, Rachmaninov and two premières by Kenneth Hesketh and John McCabe, by the way, conducted by Vasily Petrenko and with the soprano Kate Royal), I could observe the foibles of my fellow browsers.

One read a newspaper more or less throughout; another danced exotically in the aisle.

And to my shame I contributed a diversion of my own: for technical reasons, my avatar was a woman, and by the unintentional click of a mouse I managed to remove her dress. Perplexed text comments ensued.

All this was quite fun, but did not help concentration, and the sound quality and visibility of the orchestra were not up to much. The first life still has much to commend it.


  1. I'll be in my bunk.

  2. You know they make naughty Second Life movies movies don't you?

  3. Wha Hoppened? We were racing along in first; and, the next thing you know we're running "Second."

    Was it somethin I said?

  4. Whoops, back to the bunk :)

  5. It might have been something you watched:)

  6. I change order of issue on occasion.

  7. We will never get back into the library again.

  8. There is no greater boost for new technology than sex.

  9. It sure sold a lot of polaroid cameras, VHS, video cams, DVD players and AOL subscriptions.

  10. Not to mention "Chevy" convertibles:)

  11. Where are the ho, ho, ho lights?

  12. That's gotta be the niftiest tattoo I've ever seen.

  13. I wouldn't push her in front of an oncoming subway car!

  14. I chose the photo for artistic drama.

  15. Huh, I would have bet that that Pooter had sometin to do with it.