[ISEA2008] Paper: Jean Ippolito – Words to Avatars: Expressing Place in Cyberspace


If we relate hardware, circuitry and wiring to the computer – a physical machine – then the Internet is superfluous, existing on the fringes of computer systems. The Internet itself is made up of electrical impulses, transmissions, and conceptual data. How does one convey the importance of one’s physical place in fictitious cyberspace?

In 1996, Victoria Vesna addressed the emotional concerns of travel in cyberspace without a physical body, in her website entitled Bodies, Inc. Edouardo Kac utilized the Internet for soliciting a collective global effort from multiple physical locations to funnel nurturing light to a single plant in a darkened room – another physical location. That same year, multi-positional interactivity moved forward with Masaki Fujihata’s Global Interior Project. Layering the concepts of physical reality and virtual reality, Fujihata used a physical “Matrix-Cube” kinetic sculpture to map out the virtual space of his interactive program. Images of the physical matrix were texture-mapped onto surfaces in the virtual space, which facilitated “shifting dimensions” as users moved from one “room” of the matrix to another. The virtual environment could be accessed via kiosks located in different places. The virtual presence of the user was acknowledged by an image captured via Webcam and mapped onto a moving avatar in the virtual environment. Fujihata’s more recent work utilizes Global Positioning Systems to gather together fragments of character from an existing social body spread over a specific region via randomly conducted interviews. These are stitched together in a framework according to their intersections in time and space.

The issues of how physical place has been transferred to conceptual space since the advent of the Internet, along with an analysis of the evolution of the expressions concerning character of place in web art will be discussed in this paper.

  • Jean M. Ippolito, Ph. D.,¬†University of Hawaii at Hilo, USA

Full text (PDF) p. 240-242