Augmentology"...is a concise manual of reality for our digital age."

Mark Hancock,_Augmentology: Interfaccia Tra Due Mondi_

[Sponsored by The Ars Virtua Foundation/CADRE Laboratory for New Media]

“There are many worlds and many realities in our universe. When one reality, or one world-view is superimposed on another, it is inevitable that social, economic and cultural problems arise. Hierarchies of worlds are constructs of a bygone era. Ecologies of worlds should guide us in considering our future… We can begin by designing environments that can respond to physical, environmental, or social needs. Not only the needs of human beings, but also of the organisms and elements with whom we share the Biosphere.” – fo.am

Rezzing occurs in the space in-between worlds. Rezzing happens in the moment we switch from one reality to another: where the structure of synthetic worlds is unveiled. We see these spaces appear gradually – textures, alpha channels and audio appear in layers. Forms start as simple grey patterns that morph and evolve via emergent detail. These patterns resolve as final forms that adhere to in-game physics and flop into “place”.

Rezzing 1

When I begin rezzing – and am between avatars – my body disappears. Then, the simple basic shape beneath is exposed with pitch black skin and bizarre proportions. Finally, my body parts materialise.

I stand naked: staring ahead as my clothes begin to appear, one piece at a time. As the textures of my skin are downloaded, my blurry body is redrawn in photorealistic detail. In Second Life, Linden Labs has added a feature where rezzing avatars are surrounded by a cloud whilst forming. This cloud presumably covers the moments of nakedness while an avatar’s clothes are appearing and bare pixel genitalia are exposed.

There is no geophysical equivalent to the act of rezzing. The closest phenomenon is the act of awakening from – or falling into – dreams. When an object or avatar is rezzed in a synthetic environment, its data representation is downloaded from the database into the local client. On screen, a visual “something” is created from synthetic “nothing” – an ontological novelty out of the pure void. This act reveals a flaw in the materiality and persistence of these worlds or a type of virtual ontology similar to Deleuze’s Spinozan plenty without void.

After encountering the whooshing sound that indicates teleporting, I am dropped into an incomplete world. Often during this phase, my avatar manifests in a falling animation. First, all is sky and water which faithfully glistens with the sun (according to environment settings). Then, distant objects appear. In complex areas this can take minutes as particle scripts initialise and begin to swirl and glow before the details of architecture appear.

555 KUBIK | facade projection |

During the rezzing process, as a user’s body begins to form they step into a swirl of affect. This affect may induce feelings of identification with the avatar or a revulsion from it. This emotional polarisation may produce a sense of pleasure in seeing or a sense of disjunctive discomfort. The activity of the database creates its own unreproducable order dependant on the speed of the bytes transferred. Hair or pants/skirt may take minutes to download, with the avatar blinking into space with a bald head or exposed thong in the meantime. At this juncture, the avatar hover-stands in an unfolding environment and waits for the expected transactions of the “normal” synthetic world to begin.

How do we come to understand the resonances, affects and effects of rezzing into synthetic environments? With augmented reality making headline news, can we think of other ways of entering other realities which are not limited to visual modes? What about pain? Sound? Smell? Can Mixed Reality Performances be used to develop and explore these methods of realityshifting? If we can think of ways of finding spaces between realities, then can we think of the space between realities as similar to the space between genders and sexualities? Could entering a space between realities free us of certain rules, be a strategy of liberation and transformation? Part 2 will explore these questions.

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e) Information Deformation: akin to process centering, this Social Tesseraction involves a shift in the very definition of information:

Information may be defined as the characteristics of the output of a process, these being informative about the process and the input. This discipline independent definition may be applied to all domains, from physics to epistemology.”

These deformed systems of data are constantly in flux and available for perpetual revision. Examples include:

Users are able to simultaneously modify, update and adapt their input in real time:

This type of liminal practice results in a deformation of current information architectures. Although traditional information construction may be flexible over time, it still demands unitary data snapshots for knowledge formation. Deforming such data in real time acts to fundamentally alter meaning production. Socially structured input is the keystone of such a dynamic, perpetually fluctuating system:

Here the notion of Social Froth takes on a new level of importance: information becomes a constantly shifting construct with variable endpoints.  Rewiring information in such a way radically changes its cohesive nature. This in turn effects:

In this deformation system, facts can be reality-edited* in real time:

Information becomes pliable in ways that challenge the perceived authority of institutions. The concept of narrative deforms as:

Narrative progression repositions the representational towards the freeform [think: paidia as opposed to ludic]. An instance of this information deformation in action is troll play [or uncontrolled play]. A social example of troll play is found in the wiki Encyclopedia Dramatica which:

satirizes both encyclopedic topics and current events, especially those related to or relevant to internet culture. The wiki has been the subject of media attention given its focus on trolling and use of shock value, as well as its criticism of other Internet communities. It is also associated with the Internet subculture Anonymous.”

_Encyclopedia Dramatica_ – and the affiliated imageboard/meme propagation site 4chan - showcase the challenge faced by narrative frameworks.  Platforms like _Encyclopedia Dramatica_ encourage troll-based comedic intent. Users remix absurd, and sometimes taboo, content. In particular, invasion boards like _4chan_ utilize shock networking*: where social content attempts to subvert social codas through deliberate agitation. In comparison with established narrative conventions, platforms like _Encyclopedia Dramatica_ offer an experimental system which bypasses strict censorship and ethical constraints. These platforms cater for unfiltered interactions that operate via immediacy-of-response. They are highly idiosyncratic in execution and linguistic formation: censorship and moderation may be limited or non-existent. The output is propagative, with contributors encouraged to riff and rip-off, replace, and even delete content. Narrative is deformed beyond a sequential structure whereby the climax or pay-off event becomes the spectacle:

An example of such modification is Copypasta, which consists of repeatedly copying and pasting blocks of text designed to evoke a heightened emotional response:

A time-tested classic. This ending usually comes into play at the climax of a very troubling or exciting situation. Rather than resolve the story, one of the characters will abruptly say something to the effect of “I had Reese’s for breakfast.” At this point, the other character will completely forget about his/her worries and jump into the corresponding commercial dialogue, enamored by the peanut butter and chocolaty goodness that is Reese’s Puffs cereal. “It’s Reese’s… for breakfast!”"

_Copypasta_ derails notions of story or plot progression, resolution or dénouement. It embodies context-counteraction* and meme perpetuation. Dramatic intent shifts to reiterative moments containing affectivity spiking which ignores the rigors of institutionalized framing [think: morality, hierarchy or ownership]:

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f) Attribution Modding involves an extension of Stewart Brand’s iconic phrase “Information wants to be free” to “Identity wants to be freeform”. This category describes users focused on mobilization rather than individual recognition.  The group Anonymous* projects attribution modding via collusive identity constructions. The collective’s title is based on the method _4chan_ uses to brand all contributors “Anonymous” by default:

As making a post without filling in the “Name” field causes posts to be attributed to “Anonymous”, general understanding on 4chan holds that Anonymous is not a single person but a collective (hive) of users.”

Anonymous is a social-tesseractivist group who perform raid actions [think: the immediate action to halt the abuse of Dusty The Cat and Project Chanology's DDoS attacks]:

The collective broadcasts non-attribution ideologies where members are viewed as units of a social mechanism with a deemphasis on individual identification. Attribution modding illustrates the rise of collective identity cognizance and the accompanying shift from expert-centric disciplines.

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g) Decline of Silo Ghettos: as information deformation impacts knowledge formation, there’s an increasing need to provide social tesseractors with comprehensive dimensional engagement. This type of borderless interaction deforms monostreams into cross-channelled productions. Social tesseracts assist in addressing the somewhat restrictive walled garden approach to software and platform production [think: the frustration levels encountered whilst experiencing the locked door syndrome].

Google Wave is one system that removes such constraints and allows users to input directly into previously distinct arenas. Other instances of interoperable systems that require the reorientation of Information Silos:

  • augmented applications that encourage a pairing of geolocative and geophysical needs:

Information Deformation, Attribution Modding, and the Decline of Silo Ghettos are paradigm-shifting markers that highlight socially directed trends. One significant user-centric challenge involves ensuring a smooth migration into a Social Tesseracted future. Such transitions should lessen future shock and encourage a type of overlaid meta-comprehension which promotes the seamless recognition of synthetic conditions.

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* Shock networking, reality editing, context-counteraction and Anonymous will be discussed in upcoming augmentology entries.

In _Social Tesseracting_: Part 1, we learnt that:

1. Dimensionality defines working concepts of reality.
2. Theoretically, dimensionality can also expand to define a spectrum of nascent social actions.
3. These particular social actions encompass communication trends defined by synthetic interactions.
4. Synthetic interactions create social froth that can be produced geophysically or geolocatively. Both connection types depend on relevant electronic gesturing:

5. This mix of synthetic interactions and electronic gesturing provokes a descriptive framework of this aggregated sodality. This framework is termed Social Tesseracting.
6. In order to adequately formulate Social Tesseracting, contemporary theorists need to extend “valid” reality definitions based currently on the endpoint of the geophysical.

In assessing the growing ethological importance of Social Tesseracting, the following markers demand examination:

a) Social White-Space: Just as with the convention of white space in graphic design, social tesseracts manifest in habituated actions performed routinely over a substantiated period [think: responding to smartphone emails during geophysical-based discourse]:

Social white space exists in synthetically mediated consciousness via overlaying reality clusters. These clusters may exist outside of the geoloaded end of the Reality-Virtuality Continuum [ie the locatable "real person"]. Conjunctive or intermediary areas of connectivity mediate this “primary” reality state [think: Information Shadowing, the Network Effect and Warnock's Dilemma]. Social white-space is currently effecting educative goals and is altering engagement within the workplace.

b)  Immediation: the instantaneous modification of remote events via the removal of geo-specific time lag. Immediation highlights the impact potential of synthetic connectors. Examples of Immediation in action:

c) Regenerative Comprehension: indicated by rapid shifts in the nature of content creation and absorption. A primary example is Twitter’s chronologically-reversed tweet reading order acting to modify awareness. Other examples include:

d) Process Centering: Social Tesseractions are marked by fluid, process-oriented engagement rather than rigid procedural structuring. Process centering prompts a re-evaluation of data formation and alters the entrenched importance of institutionalised categorisations. An emergent example of process centering is Google Wave. Google Wave uses an algorithmic variation of “operational transformations” [live concurrent editing] which occur through a process called transformation:

  • The server transforms the client’s request, resulting in the client manifesting the same transformed output.
  • The notion of concurrency is invariably important as it mimics geophysical conversational states.
  • Utilizing the server as a point of relay [when more than one client's output is involved] assists in providing scalability and reliability.
  • The playback feature allows the server to present the document as a stream of operations that have occurred thus far in a particular wave/state.

Transformation relies on continual modification via process centering. This accent on process acts to rewire the notion of documents as statically defined “objects” and [by proxy] any information contained within. This has enormous implications in regards to such institutionally-governed categories such as literacy, media, the professional/amateur divide, narrative, and information construction.

_Social Tesseracting_: Part 3 will expand on these indicators through examining: Information Deformation, Attribution Modding, and the Decline of Silo Ghettos.


Dimensionality is a concept that attempts to define reality through scientific framing. Dimensionality refers to the theoretical construction and quantification of fundaments. These fundaments, or dimensions, act to define the:

…parameterization of the conceptual or visual complexity of any geometric object. In fact, the concept can even be applied to abstract objects which cannot be directly visualized. For example, the notion of time can be considered as one-dimensional, since it can be thought of as consisting of only “now,” “before” and “after.” Since “before” and “after,” regardless of how far back or how far into the future they are, are extensions, time is like a line, a one-dimensional object.”

Just as the idea of dimensions can be applied to non-concrete elements in order to frame theoretical states:

…the principle can expand to encompass aspects of emergent social actions. These actions are evident in shifting social dimensions/states. These states [collectively termed "Social Tesseractions"] emerge from certain communication patterns displayed through synthetic interactions. If you’re a user of augmented technology in multiple forms [think: MMO/Mobile gaming, iPhone or Android apps and social networking sites] you will inevitably become part of engagement procedures that promote a type of “social froth”. This froth manifests via electronic gesturing:

These gestures are created through:

The important factor for both connection modes are the resultant patterns a user creates through social inscriptions/gestures:

These gestures create complex interpersonal streams that provoke additional connections and accompanying interactions. Sending remote tweets is considered an example of a synthetic interaction [via electronic gesturing]. As this incremental data melds with other user-streams and crossmodal platforms, aggregative patterns emerge. These combined patterns may be considered as a parameter space blueprint that produce, and are in turn produced by, synthaptic communication tides. Examples of such variables include information traffic patterns or “hot” social tracts [when certain users are active according to time zone variations].

Social Tesseractions assist in shaping contemporary notions related to Sociorelational information. Just as raw geophysical encounters evoke varying psychological and communicative responses [think: Communication Accommodation Theory], Tesseracting engenders similarly relevant synthetic loadings. In attempting to establish a conceptual structure surrounding Social Tesseractions, contemporary theorists display a pervasive tendency to shrink all synthetic interactions to a geophysical/biological endpoint. In order to establish whether Tesseraction can be considered a tangible phenomena, this assumed standard of endpoint interaction should shift from a reductionist angling towards more appropriate markers. These markers will be discussed in _Social Tesseracting: Part 2_.

February 2, 2009

Synthetic

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