[ISEA97] Paper: Carl Francis DiSalvo – VRML: Writing the Space of Identity on the WWW


As artists, designers, theorists and scientists we have before us an opportunity of mythical proportions. We have before us the opportunity to create worlds. Worlds to explore and learn through, worlds in which to discover and create new aspects of ourselves, worlds in which the greatest limit to the extent of our existence is our imagination.This opportunity is now made possible to us on such a scale through the introduction of the Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML): a computer language which will allow anyone, with a bit of effort, the potential to create a distributed multi-user virtual environment. Along with this opportunity tomes a responsibility:the responsibility to use this enormous potential to its full extent. In this paper I will propose a paradigm for understanding the vast potential available to us, so that we may accept that responsibility with integrity and insight, and create worlds which defy and transcend our very existence as we know it.
I am going to discuss understanding and creating distributed multi-user virtual environments, specifically VRML environments within a linguistic paradigm. This paradigm is based upon the communicative, gestural, and social aspects of language, partrcularly a pragmatic view of language and its role in the gestural construction ofselfand society (Mead). My point of view is that in the case of a VRML environment language is experientially and existentially active. Unlike other gestural modes of communication the aspect of virtuality produces grammatically anarchic and nearly immersive experience, and as such provides the opportunity to create a profound grammar, which manifests itself in unique spaces of experience, identity, being, and self.
At a fundamental level in linguistic communication, and I will propose inVRML, we are dealing with the transference and signification of signs. It is through the process of signal to sign with signification that we have both the act of communication and the process of the creation of meaning in language (Eco). Witthin this semiotic framework the sign that is transferred need not be verbal or textual, it can take an infinite variety of forms. Within the concept of a sign we can even begin to include such modes of expression as those involving the body and the construction ofand interaflion in space. Specifically of interest here is the movement of the body throughout both space and time as the signification of something particular. With the conscious inclusion of the construction of space and the interaction of the body within that space as a form of linguistic communication we begin to develop a sensory rich form of language that returns us back to ourselves, rather than utilizing a more arbitrary system of codes such as alphabets and phonemes for the creation of meaning.

  • Carl Francis DiSalvo, USA, is an artist, designer, and theorist living in St Paul, Minnesota. He received his BFA from the University of Minnesota in 1994 and is currently complet­ing his Master’s in an inter-departmental program in Liberal Studies. His area of interest is in the experience of knowledge, specifically abstract knowledge, through computational mediation. As such he is constantly designing tiny research projects in a variety of forms of interactive media. In addition to such research he writes on the nature of technology, knowledge, and being. His current works in-progress includes a web-based piece on George Bataille’s Theory of the Impossible for The Leonardo Electronic Almanac Gallery. and the completion of a writ­ten piece, On The Nature of The Virtual-Self, for his master’s thesis. Carl Francis DiSalvo works as an interactive media designer and consultant for Bitstream Underground, Minneapolis, MN.