Hybrid Event

Material World - Collaborate with Julianne Weiss, Scott Liao & Hye Mi Kim
The Hybrid Screening was designed to show a film in virtual and actual space; it was an initial experiment by our group. The screening took place on Saturday, February 6, 2010 at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA and on Sense Island in Second Life. Our event was designed to create a seamless sense of camaraderie, uniting an actual audience with a virtual one as they viewed the same film.

Our event was inspired by the traditional movie-going experience in combination with time spent experimenting in Second Life. In the dark glow of a real theater, viewers are bonded through shared experience. Strangers sit side by side like family for the length of one film; they share an intimate moment by emoting together and when it's through, each group goes their separate way. In this instance, The Hybrid Screening brought people together across digital and physical space. They were able to interact across platforms in real time.

We took up a Samurai theme and chose to show Basho, a film made in SL.

for actual/virtual life environment. Posters were placed around Art Center and also in Second Life, inviting people to attend.

In order to set up this hybridized space, we chose an open classroom in the Art Center Wind Tunnel where we could host the physical crowd and project a film. That was relatively simple. We built a V-Shaped Screen by stretching seamless white paper across three metal trusses and using rear projection to show the Second Life Audience. The movie was projected on the opposite wall, but instead of streaming straight from our desktop, it was pulled from the screen erected in Second Life. (Not quite as simple). The Second Life setup was actually rather complicated. Our intention was to project a live stream of the SL audience in real space and vice versa in the SL space, but we could not stream live video into SL. The virtual audience did, however, make it onto our real screen.

To build our Second Life theater, we were required to purchase Linden Dollars with real US currency and use those to secure land. Then, in order to build, we would need permission from the landlord and a group invitation. When our permissions were set, we began the impossible task of navigating Second Life technology. Second Life is difficult to navigate as a whole.

Being exposed to event promotion in both Actual & virtual environments.

Audiences were able to consume snacks in both Actual & Virtual environments.

Actual & Virtual Screen

The process of building and showing media in SL was complicated - embarrassingly complicated. The biggest difficulty of the event arose as we tried to stream video in SL. This ate up a lot of time and energy and though it worked in the trial run, the system failed for the real event.

We improvised. The SL screen refused to play our intended movie, so we watched an old Sci-Fi film available on SL TV. It was...dry.
The audience grew restless (both of them). This was a happy accident, as the avatars began to fly back and forth across the screen.

Conversation sparked in SL; the avatars began to send instant messages through the local chat function, while the actual audience watched on. The chat field was visible via our POV of the screen. As messages popped up in front of the movie, the physical audience would laugh and react. This created an interesting tension between physical and virtual boundaries. We were able to interact with each other across those borders. After some time, we called it quits with the Sci-Fi film and projected the intended Samurai movie, Basho, in real life only.

There was a definite blurring of borders between Real Life and Second Life. Though you have access to many places and people in SL, the rules of interaction are not clear as they are in the physical world. It required effort to meet avatars, erect posters and gather an audience. There are many rules and restrictions to online living; the virtual space feels free and fantastical in many ways, but some of the simplest tasks were difficult to accomplish. Technology, privacy and beaurocracy were very challenging for our team of SL avatars. In addition, it became a struggle to exist in both worlds - to host an event in two places at once. Despite these difficulties, it was a very interesting experiment. We learned a lot about human tendencies and the differences in behavior between physical and virtual personas. Actual people are much more reliable but the digital world affords you many more freedoms in terms of who you may befriend and how you may behave. Still, the rules and restrictions of SL as a business were constant reminders of the real world and our social constructs.

In the end, the most stimulating aspect of the event was when physical and virtual personas connected with each other. The screen became a portal through which these people could pass, despite the constraints of their surroundings. In the future, if we were to organize another hybrid event, we would create more outlets for this sort of cross over. The local SL chat and the live stream projections were one way, but there are likely other ways in which people can interact with avatars and experience the freedom of digital space.