"Home"screen is a three-dimensional, modeled representation of the Microsoft Windows XP desktop home-screen, created in the massively-multiplayer online game world Second Life. The project began as a plan to reskin or redesign the Windows desktop in accordance with the utopian design ideals of the modern architecture movement (an architecture and design movement which began in the early 1900s and ended in the late 1950s) - particularly the principles of Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright. However, the artists soon discovered that much of this work had already been done for them - it seemed as though, through its several iterations over the past decade, that the architecture of the Windows operating system had adapted many of the principles of modern architecture. Whether or not Microsoft's programmers consciously decided to apply the ideas of the modern architects, or simply stumbled upon these inherently aesthetically pleasing forms, it was clear that the original plan for the piece needed to be reworked. The artists decided that, rather than make the Windows desktop look like modern architecture, they would make modern architecture look like the Windows desktop. The building chosen, Le Corbusier's Domino House, was a sketch that Corbusier drew that formed the archetype for his architectural ideals. Corbusier's famous "Five Points of Architecture" are all simplified to their purest forms in the Domino House: "piloti" supports, roof gardens, free design of the ground plan, horizontal windows, and the free design of the façade. Corbusier described his ideal dwelling, "If we eliminate from our hearts and minds all dead concepts in regard to houses and look at the question from a critical and objective point of view, we shall arrive at the "House Machine," the mass production house, healthy (and morally so too) and beautiful in the same way that working tools and instruments which accompany our existence are beautiful." Thus, the Domino House served as a perfect structure in which to create our new desktop - both a living space and a machine, both beautiful and functional. "Home"screen is not only an art project, but, perhaps, could be a model for operating system desktops of the future.
"Home"screen was created in Second Life for several practical and artistic reasons. Second Life features a powerful and relatively easy-to-use built-in object creator, which allowed the artists freedom and creativity in designing the project. In addition, the vast amounts of user-created content in Second Life gave the artists a nearly infinite amount of resources on which to draw in order to create the work - several of the objects in the house were purchased from or donated by other Second Life players. Finally, the massively-multiplayer online nature of Second Life provided for an interesting way to model both the present realities and potential futures of the internet. Just as computers are connected to a persistent world-wide online network, which allows their users to instantly communicate and access information from across the globe, "Home"screen exists in a virtual world, wherein any other user could visit its occupants in order to communicate or exchange information. Taking a helicopter from the roof of "Home"screen to visit a store, museum, or friend in Second Life is a physical (yet still virtual) representation of the power of the internet. To access "Home" screen, sign into Second Life as MC75 Munro with the password "mc75".
"Home"screen is both a model for a future operating system desktop and a piece of art.
On the one hand, it re-imagines how computer users could interact with their homescreens, much in the same way the cartoon Futurama imagined the internet as a virtual reality shopping mall. "Home"screen is an actual idea for an operating system desktop that could be realized in the near future.
Yet "Home"screen also functions as a piece of art. It is a commentary on the role that computer desktops and the internet have come to play in modern life. Indeed, on its most basic level, by placing the 3-D homescreen in a house by Le Corbusier, the work asserts the notion that operating systems have their own form of architecture, and questions the role that that architecture plays in structuring how users access and understand information. Ironically, "Home"screen defamiliarizes the desktop and the internet by placing them in the most familiar environment of all - the home. By placing "Home"screen in Second Life and giving users a helicopter with which they may fly to any other site in the game, the work addresses the awesome power of the internet, which literally allows users to leave their houses, cities, and countries, and instantly travel to visit any other location on the globe and meet any other internet user.
"Home"screen also addresses the continuing move towards simulation and realism in computer and multimedia technology. Although most operating systems have yet to create a virtual home for their users, they have increasingly sought to simulate reality with features like realistic physics, filetabs, better graphics, etc. "Home"screen takes this trend to the furthest extreme, offering a complete desktop simulation of a home and the ultimate in what Jean Baudrillard called "hyper-reality." However, at the same time, it is important to note that "Home"screen is, in fact, less convenient and efficient than the typical Windows operating system. Clicking an icon is far easier than walking through a house searching for a certain item. The piece reminds the viewer that, in fact, as computer technology seeks to mimic reality, it also reproduces reality's inconveniences. Rather than the simulation increasingly taking over and supplanting reality, "Home"screen demonstrates the ways in which "the real" manages to retain its power over virtuality.
Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation.
Corbusier. Towards a New Architecture. New York: Dover Publications, 1985.
Five Points of Architecture www.lesterkorzilius.com/pubs/ma/vua_vs/09.htm
Futurama. Cartoon Network.
Kurt Vonnegut's Last Interview Recorded Live in Second Life on the Infinite Mind.
Manovich, Lev. The Language of New Media. Cambridge: The MIT P, 2001.
McPherson, Tara. "Reload: Liveness, Mobiity and the Web." The Visual Culture Reader. Routledge, 1998. 458-470.
Wikipedia article on Corbusier
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Catherine Dutton, Second Life Education Officer