The lab was abuzz last night as second-year Culture Analysis and Museum Studies students in the Culture and Media department presented their work in the form of films and exhibitions made in Second Life, a persistent 3-D virtual online world in which users interact with each other via their graphical representations, or avatars. The significance of using Second Life is that the interaction in its world enables the relatively easy constitution of representational forms, such as films and gallery exhibits, which may be created by students and, in so doing, become learning tools in themselves. Indeed, the point of last night’s exercise was precisely for students to give form to the theoretical ideas which they have learnt in their course, such as stereotype formation, gender theory, relations of power etc. The result is not only a demonstrated deeper engagement and thought with theory but also an impressive outlet for creativity and graphic skills.
Introduction by Stefan Gelfgren
After brief introductions by Kerstin Smeds (Professor of Museology) and Stefan Gelfgren (Research Co-Ordinator, HUMlab), the Culture Analysis students presented three films made in Second Life: (1) I huvudet på en student; (2) Gud och Hela Nationen; and (3) Another Love Story (the three films may be viewed via imovieHUMlab’s Channel link here – the first two are in Swedish; the third is in English – and are also being streamed in Lindehallen/HUMlab’s site in Second Life (teleport via here)). Generally, the films are nuanced reflections on gender, sexuality, difference and classifications, all set in diverse contexts. For example, Gud och Hela Nationen discusses homosexuality by way of a father’s memory when he was in the army, a context interesting also in terms of the role and exhibition of machismo in the military, while I huvudet på en student considers the definition and perception of the Other by a contemplative student sitting in a cafe. Another Love Story takes on issues of race and sexuality with humour, including a highly amusing twist in the end.
The screening of Gud och Hela Nationen
Taking into account that the students have had no formal training in film work or editing, I found the films enjoyable, inspired and unexpectedly polished. On a separate note (and in line with my own academic interests in film theory), this was also my first look at films made in Second Life, and I experienced in them a profound amalgamation between “live” action and animation. Obviously, the first phrase has to be qualified, as neither body nor lens were involved in the process, yet there is an undeniable palpability in the control and direction of an avatar, an element which I have been pondering over the last few weeks in the course of my own research and way out of the scope of this current blog post, but on which I hope to write more another time. The look of SL films are also interesting – a mix between animation and video games (albeit the two have now intersected so much with each other!) – and the aesthetic results, to me at least, are reminiscent of avant-garde work, such as film scratching or found footage, which works over, underscores and even fetishizes its medium-specificity.
All in all, another interesting evening in the lab! With crisps and drinks (very kindly brought by Professor Bo Nilsson and other faculty in the department), the event was a convivial one, with plenty of discussion and mingling between the film presentations and the exhibits. With thanks to all students and staff who made this such a fruitful and successful evening!