In this week’s readings, Henry Lowood discusses events or history happening in virtual worlds. I wanted to highlight an example of an on-going event that might fit into this slippery catagory, “Kool-Aid Man in Second Life” by Jon Rafman. This on-going performance encompasses tours of Second Life given by Rafman’s in-world avatar, Kool-Aid Man, to any viewer who requests one by email.
Rafman, who also makes work using GoogleMaps, 3D Warehouse, and Cafe Press produces really stunningly beautiful videos of Kool-Aid Man roaming the landscape of Second Life as ‘trailers’ for his tours. Here is one from 2009.
The promo videos of Kool-Aid Man feel like a film trailer. Kool-Aid Man travels through vibrant and alien worlds, finding for a short time the company of fellow travelers. He dances atop Machu Piccu, goes to undersea and marvels at Sting Rays, he does Tai Chi with elves, sky dives, enters the spaces of more violent game play and makes horrified faces at the dead avatars, visits a stripclub and attends many, many dance parties.
From a preservation standpoint, what is to be preserved here? What is the ‘work’? It could be argued that Rafman’s videos could be considered “Machinima” or in-world movies. The crux of this project, however, rests in the one-on-one experience of guide and novice moving through space together. Can that interaction really be preserved?
In this Kool-Aid Man Interview (which took place in Second Life), Rafman says he gets “inspiration from individuals who struggle to represent their experience of modernity.” The artist goes on to state that “its not so much amateur technology that inspires me, but what amateurs are doing with this technology.”
It seems from this interview, that Rafman’s focus is the human element, not simply the landscape of Second Life. Might it be possible to create video documentation or even replays of Kool-Aid Man’s experiences with his tourists? Sure. But, like dance, perhaps this is a performance that is only intended to exist once. That each iteration is unique and ephemeral.
Throughout this week’s readings, I found myself thinking of the Borges story about the map the size of the world, On Exactitude in Science. In the story, the first generation of an Empire was obsessed with cartography, so only a map the same size of the Empire would do. But the future generations realized this was useless and let the map fall prey to the elements.
Borges himself was a librarian. Perhaps this story is a fable for librarians and archivists run riot. Are we not responsible for creating a perfect map of these digital worlds, but a curated set of important records? Is it possible to save too much. We cannot capture every event. Nor should we try. Unless digital curation encompasses selectivity and preservation, we may create a map that is useless for the future.