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Berkeley Big Bang 08

Virtual Embodiment and Myths of Meaning in Second Life: Hubert Dreyfus




June 2, 2008; 41 Minutes; Video

Berkeley Big Bang 08 was three days of new media and art hosted by BAM/PFA and the Berkeley Center for New Media, timed to link with 01SJ: A Global Festival of Art on the Edge, a new media art biennial taking place June 4–8, 2008 in San Jose. Occurring together for the first time, these two events combined to create one of the nation’s largest gatherings of new media art, a virtual “big bang” of innovation and creativity.

The Berkeley Big Bang program included a two-day symposium on new media, art, science, and the body in partnership with Berkeley Center for New Media and Leonardo: The International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology; a campus media lab demonstration and open house; and an alternate reality game. Berkeley Big Bang was presented in tandem with BAM/PFA exhibitions of work by media artists Trevor Paglen, Jim Campbell, Lynn Hershman Leeson, and Scott Snibbe.


Keynote by Hubert Dreyfus, Professor of Philosophy, UC Berkeley

Second Life is a popular networked 3-D virtual environment where millions of online visitors control avatars that interact with each other, build structures, visit shops, and engage in a variety of social and economic activities. Dreyfus analyzes Second Life from a philosophical perspective, exploring how thinkers such as Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Heidegger would respond to the virtual embodiment enabled by such systems. Dreyfus argues that the explicit conscious indirectness inherent in how responses and emotions are conveyed in Second Life is distinctly Cartesian, dualistic, and fundamentally limited. Drawing from Existential Phenomenology, Dreyfus suggests that maximally meaningful human experiences require an intuitive shared sense of vulnerability, mood, and emotion that is currently lacking but may be possible with future technological advances that would directly link the bodies or brains of the participants in Second Life with their avatar bodies in the virtual world.