Hocus Opus

Meet Hocus Opus, my Second Life avatar.

It’s not that I don’t already have too much to do in my first/real life, but I confess that I’m rather excited about the possibilities for virtual, multimedia interactions — especially in the realm of ethno/music/ology — and SL seems to have the energy, resources, and critical mass to make such an experiment a “reality” (of sorts) at this point.

I hope to persuade any willing early adopters out there to join me for some music-centered events in SL in the near future, including some exclusive — and hopefully fun and edifying — interactions and listening parties with some of my (and your) favorite DJs and producers.

But I’ll be kicking things off this Thursday with a slightly more academic gathering. Coinciding with Becca’s class (which meets on Berkman Island on Thursday evenings) and with the annual meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology (which happens to be in Honolulu this year), a couple of colleagues and I will be sharing some sounds and thoughts w/r/t music, copyright, and virtual worlds.

Allow me to share Becca’s announcement of the event with you, which puts the experiment into greater context:

Yesterday in CyberOne we had guests Mike Fricklas (General Counsel of Viacom) and Wayne Marshall (Ethnomusicologist and digital musician) in class to try to make empathic arguments to each other about the thorny issue of digital music production and consumption and copyright. They were wonderful. I recommend the video to you: http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/cyberone/wiki/Weeks_Pages/Week10#Lecture_Videos.

As a follow-up event, we are holding a Music & Rights Forum at Berkman Island this Thursday evening at 9pm EST/6pm SLT. Music Professor Anthony McCann (University of Ulster), will lead a panel at which Wayne Marshall (University of Chicago) and Clifford Murphy (Brown University) will present some current research in ethnomusicology on the subject of music production/consumption and copyright. Wayne will be discussing the emergent genre of mashups — mashups usually combine the vocals from one song with the music from another — as a way of discussing current digital production methodology and its relationship to the law. Cliff will be discussing the “mothballing” of old and non-commercially viable music by companies that own the rights to that music.

This event is an experiment in two ways. First, we are experimenting with the idea that presentations about music might be very effective in SL because the audience can both listen to the music and “listen” to the speaker at the same time. Second, we are experimenting with the idea that an academic panel discussion of the sort that usually happens at academic conferences could take place in SL. The purpose of the second goal is to consider whether we might lighten the carbon footprint caused by academic conferences by, at some point in the future, transitioning to holding some of them in a virtual world that would not require airplane travel.

Please feel free to join us if you’re interested in checking it out. No doubt it will be a learning experience, but that’s the idea.


ps — If you want to learn more about SL, I highly recommend Camille Dodero’s Phoenix piece, as well as New World Notes, which regularly covers and uncovers the wonders of this weird new world.

pps — I recognize that SL is a far from perfect metaverse, but you gotta start somewhere.