Open Source Museum of Open Source Art
Founded by Deborah Abramson, Kiera Feldman, and Davis Jung
OSMOSA is an acronym for Open Source Museum of Open Source Art. By "open source," we mean that the museum is entirely in the public domain. Anyone can add, modify, or remove art from OSMOSA. Likewise, anyone can add, modify, or remove elements of the OSMOSA building. Our goal is to reimagine definitions of art, artist, curator, museum, culture, and open source. This project is underway in a virtual reality called Second Life (located at Eson 30, 235, 63). The OSMOSA blog (http://osmosa.blogspot.com) is a public archive of the museum's evolution.
In the song "Everyone's an Artist," one character asks, "Don't you know what art is?" to which the other responds, "I'm just a stupid guy/I don't know what to buy." Here, musician Jeff Gordon links consumption and status, critiquing the idea of "high art." The titular chorus conveys a populist message: people can, and already do, make art in their daily lives.
If OSMOSA had a theme song, "Everyone's an Artist" would be it. Yet, we take that sentiment a few steps further. What if everyone could be an artist and a curator? In Destination Culture, Barbara Kirschenblatt-Gimblett writes, "In the museum of the life world, everyone is a curator of sorts" (259). This is to say that we all make judgments of taste, carefully "curating" the commodities with which we surround ourselves to convey class values and community identifications. A virtual reality called Second Life presents the perfect opportunity to explore these assertions about art curating and production.
In "real" life (also known as "first life"), class is a determining factor in the ability to define culture. We are interested to see if a virtual environment (a "metaverse") can offer a populist model for cultural production and regulation.
The term "Metaverse" was originally coined in Neal Stephenson's novel Snow Crash in which the Metaverse was the virtual reality-based successor to the Internet. The book was very popular, especially among gaming and science fiction audiences. As a result, "metaverse" has now come to mean any virtual space in which humans interact socially, competitively, and economically by using an "avatar"---a character in virtual space.
The first virtual reality spaces popped up in the in the late 1970's with applications called MUD (Multi-User Dungeon, Domain, or Dimension). These were text-based Internet programs that created simple fantasy worlds where players could both fight computer generated "monsters" or interact socially in chat groups.
The MOO evolved out of the MUD. The MOO was also a text-based program but one in which the Internet server could perform object oriented programming. This allowed players more control and creativity. The MOO then developed its own scripting language, allowing users to not only create objects that would be stored in the server (so that other users could use them), but also change the interface of the server itself, creating a world that was constantly evolving.
The concept of user-driven and user-created virtual worlds drove metaverses to become 3-D platforms. Perhaps because the original MUD's and MOO's were entrenched in the gaming community, the first real emergence of these 3-D metaverses were known as MMOG's (Massively Multiplayer Online Games). This movement was spearheaded and popularized by its sub-genre MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games). With such online games as Diablo, Ultima Online, and Everquest, humans had access to a persistent, 3-D virtual reality, where they could build houses, join other players to slay monsters, and collect in-game treasure. Following this development, people started to buy and sell in-game goods in real life.
Metaverses have evolved further away from their gaming roots. These platforms, known simply as "virtual worlds", contain virtual economies that interact with real economies. Virtual worlds enable users to socialize, create, conduct business transactions, produce knowledge, and explore.
Second Life is a 3-D Metaverse that has been the subject of much hype recently. Some celebrate Second Life heralds as the Metaverse imagined in Snow Crash: the replacement for Web 2.0. While it may not be the first Metaverse, Second Life has had the most success in creating a 3-D Virtual World where the main purpose is simply to live. While the OSMOSA group project is mainly focused on the art scene in Second Life, it should be noted that unprecedented works in all fields have begun in Second Life, from geography to geometry, evangelicalism to advertisement.
Possibly more so than any other field, Second Life has opened doors in the way we think of and approach art. By virtue of its "virtuality," Second Life makes possible things that could never happen in "first life." Giant, geometric spheres that hang from the skies, sculptures that interact and change to your "verbal" commands, performance art that involves choreographed flying--all such feats are not only possible, but relatively easy to do in the medium of Second Life.
Consequently, the art scene in Second Life is bustling. Galleries spring up every day and art stores are cluttered. SL's art scene is not going unnoticed in "first life"---dozens of SoHo Gallery owners have already created virtual galleries in Second Life and both big businesses and wealthy celebrities have started to collect in-game art (some which can sell for thousands of U.S. dollars or millions of Linden, the in-game currency).
As we explored this art scene, we began to realize more and more that artistic value was inextricably linked to economic value. This is not unlike "first life," yet it was even more pronounced in Second Life. Second Life boasts hundreds of boutiques and galleries that sell kitschy decorative objects. Yet, by comparison, there are few museums that exist for the sake of exhibition alone.
Still, in a community that was renowned for active participation in such matters as Intellectual Property (many organizations such as Creative Commons and Freeculture.org have huge chapters in Second Life), we were a little shocked to find such limited spaces for art for art's sake. Not only that, but we were intrigued by the copyright "code-laws" in Second Life that enabled artists to place unbreakable "no copy/no mod" rules on their words, effectively removing them from the public domain permanently. In fact, there was no public domain in Second Life! We thought then to fill that lack with something that could only really be created in Second Life- an Open Source Museum of Open Source Art. A museum that would act not only as a public domain in holding art that is "CAN copy/CAN mod", but a space that would be open source itself, in a constant state of flux and evolution as controlled by the museum visitor.
In talking about open source in the medium of Second Life- many issues arose. Many claimed that an open source initiative in a program controlled by one company was impossible; the basic building tools could not be changed. We argue that in open source computer software, the basic computer language of binary also cannot be changed. However, we realized that the definitions and details of open source are fluid and differ according to one's background. This is a working definition of "Open Source" as used in OSMOSA ("rules," if you will):
1. The OSMOSA Building itself will always be "CAN copy/CAN mod". All visitors will have builder's privileges and will be able to change all or any aspect of the museum as they choose to do so. Such changes include but are not limited to deleting and adding objects and changing textures, sizes, and shapes of objects.
2. The regulations for any object/artwork that is placed in OSMOSA must be set with the copyright code-laws "CAN Copy/CAN Mod". Any artwork, regardless of medium, that has been set to these copyright code-laws can be placed in the museum at any time by anyone. Vice-versa, they can be removed from the museum by any time and anyone as well. Any artist who places artwork not under these copyright code-laws will be contacted and asked to comply with such; if not, the object will promptly be removed from the museum.
Second Life is currently experiencing a huge boom in terms of population, exploration, investment, and land development, much as the United States did during the 19th Century. More general parallels with the world-wide colonialist explosion of the 17th through 19th centuries also exist, but, to me, the experience of being in Second Life feels most akin to a postmodern Gold Rush - an every avatar for him/herself free for all pushed along by strong currents of financial speculation and anarchy.
In addition, the popular mythology of Westward Expansion as occurring over "unpopulated" land is more similar to the Second Life development of unpopulated virtual continents and islands and the supposed racelessness of avatars than of the more conflict-ridden human exploitations of colonialism, in general. Of course, slavery, the large-looming story of U.S. in the 19th Century, has no parallel in terms of avatar bodies.
Second Life allows white North Americans to live out our deeply-rooted fantasies of Manifest Destiny guilt-free, in a world without Native Americans, African slaves, or real-life environmental degradation . Those of us who cut our teeth on the computer game Oregon Trail have long been familiar with the allure of repeatedly playing out the pioneer role.
The museum arose as a cultural institution during the 19th Century, with the dual functions of providing authoritative, encyclopedic archives of nature and culture and of allowing people to have proto-virtual travel/tourism experiences without traveling too far from home. Museums, then, directly relate to the struggle for cultural authority in an expanding world. Thus, our interest in experimenting with the museum form in Second Life: how will people interact with this structure, traditionally vested with cultural authority based on the authenticity and rarity of its collection, when such a structure is translated to a world in which no "object" need be scarce and the very notion of authenticity has been collapsed? How will the virtual public, both artists and non-participating visitors, behave with respect to the art displayed? Do the works cease to be objects of contemplation and become more like raw materials for manipulation? Might they be both or neither? We hope that our extensive documentation will shed some light on the variety of experiences people have with the museum and its art, as well as the transformations undergone by the museum space. We hope to create a sort of 'museum mashup' that is the authorative version of itself at any given moment but transformed again in the next.
In an effort to be transparent about our origins, this is how OSMOSA came to be: We began the development of OSMOSA by seeking land for our building. We posted an inquiry on a SL educators listserv called SLED. We received several responses and ended up forming a collaboration with an avatar named Kenny Hubble, who is affiliated with Loyalist College in Ontario and is very involved with a Marshal McLuhan group in SL. He agreed to provide us with a parcel of land for one month and technical support. Much to our surprise and delight, this technical support included a team of interns who created the initial OSMOSA building. Although we provided some basic ideas about the look and structure of the building, the interns designed and constructed the building. The avatar Soupcan Tomsen seemed to be the lead intern. We interacted with him frequently, and he left us with extensive documentation on how to manage and restore the building's structure.
We researched and solicited art from a number of SL artists, including __ and ___ (Eva and Franco Mattes), Gazira Babeli, Wirxli Flimflam, [Davis's Sculptor ___] and Dancoyote Antonelli.
While the museum was under construction, we began publicizing OSMOSA. We emailed bloggers and newsgroups related to Second Life, as well as bloggers who cover general art and open source topics.
The museum took about one week to build. We opened OSMOSA on April 24th. Problems with object permissions persisted: people placed objects in the museum that were not editable or were for sale, parts of the building were not editable, and we lacked permission to return
items that violated OSMOSA's open source rule to their owners (on account of the land being deeded to Kenny Hubble). However, most objects in the museum did meet our open source criteria,and art was created and transformed even during the opening party. Because of the ongoing permissions problems, we continue to IM people with requests to change the permissions on their work when necessary. These problems should be ameliorated by our upcoming move to One Space--an parcel of land in Second Life owned by Jon Stone. One Space will serve as OSMOSA's permanent home.
In "The Cathedral and the Bazaar," Eric Raymond writes, "The Linux community seemed to resemble a great babbling bazaar of differing agendas and approaches." Raymond is discussing the specific development of open source software, but this is very similar to what we are attempting to create with OSMOSA. A bazaar is ultimately a place of negotiation. In OSMOSA, price is irrelevant; rather, definitions and power are that which is negotiated. What is art? What is a museum? Who can be an artist? Who can be a curator? And who has the power to define these terms? These questions are struggled over in any artistic endeavor. Yet, in Second Life with an open source museum of open source art, they become questions that anyone can answer. Whereas a real-world museum privileges the curators in answering these questions, OSMOSA opens up that dialogue. This is made possible because everything about OSMOSA is in the public domain. In Second Life, this means that the restrictions on objects (of art and otherwise) are set such that users may copy and modify them. As such, the lines between and among artist, audience, and curator are blurred.
In getting OSMOSA off the ground, we have already seen the beginnings of this dialogue about definitions and power. One group member was banned from OSMOSA by Kenny Hubble--the Loyalist College contact who lent us Second Life land and student architects to build the original OSMOSA structure. The group member had placed art in OSMOSA, while Kenny Hubble interpreted the work as "litter." Through instant messages in Second Life they clarified two things: one, that the piece was intended as art, and second, that no one should be banned from an "open" museum. Another member of our group debated with well-known Second Life artist Dancoyote Antonelli about the conditions under which he would contribute work to OSMOSA. The artist wanted to contribute work that was copyable yet restricted to "no modification." He argued that his work was open source even though it did not follow OSMOSA's "Can copy/can modify" rule. In Antonelli's mind, interactivity was the defining quality for open source art. Ultimately, the artist decided agreed with our definitions (which, of course, will not always be the case with OSMOSA). Both exchanges are instances of struggle over the definitions of "open source" and "open source art."
As these two exchanges reflect, this open source project has managers. OSMOSA will not (and has not) developed on its own like a creature set off into the world. Chuck Connell interprets Raymond's bazaar model to mean that open source projects "manage themselves." Raymond responds by arguing that Connell is mistaken in his reading of the bazaar model; open source projects always have "managers," he says.
Similarly, we have no utopian fantasies of OSMOSA being a project devoid of power relationships. While anyone can technically create and move/remove art (the basics of curating in Second Life), in practice, those with the most vested interest in an institution will do so. Similar to the development of open source software, we predict that status and (hopefully) community improvement will be the motivating factors in OSMOSA's development.
In the interest of fostering a sense of institutional history, we created an archival room in OSMOSA. If OSMOSA visitors wish to exercise curatorial judgment by removing pieces, they are encouraged to move artwork to the archive instead of simply pressing "delete." Ideally this will be a way to build upon previous discussions about the definitions of art, artist, curator, and open source. Additionally, the OSMOSA blog (http://osmosa.blogspot.com) will be a way to collaboratively construct institutional history. The login and password are publicly posted, and participants are encouraged to post before and after pictures, explanations of changes made to OSMOSA, and things of that nature.
Our first big plan for the future is our move from the Eson land that we are currently on to the land on OneSpace offered to us by Jon Stone. By moving, we hope to get rid of pesky "estate privileges" bugs that were handicapping how open-source we wanted OSMOSA to be. In effect, by moving, OSMOSA will be able to contain at least double the amount of objects (which will be more than enough) and allow visitors to finally "return objects to user".
Another exciting aspect of the move is that this will give OSMOSA a chance to respond to the criticism of creating a "first life"-like architectural space to hold artwork that is distinctly Second Life. Although the founders still enjoy the concept of appropriating a style of museum architecture that was appropriated from a factory (the Dia Beacon), we agree that the new architecural opportunities allowed by Second Life will give even more life and vibrancy to the museum. To that effect, we plan to have the artist Dancoyote Antonelli build the new OSMOSA, employing what he calls his "stealth architecture" to do so. We are very much excited to see the final outcome!
This collaboration with an artist that has been very much interested in OSMOSA brings us to another aspect of OSMOSA's future. As founders, we see ourselves involved in OSMOSA's future, yet we do not want the project to rest indefinitely on our shoulders. We have designed the "OSMOSA Resident Advocate" position to ensure an ongoing supply of new voices in the project. The job duties include the actions we as founders have taken in these first stages of the project.
The OSMOSA Resident Advocate is a one month position. The person(s) holding this position will be responsible for maintaining a vibrant atmosphere in OSMOSA. Vibrancy is broadly defined, but generally speaking OSMOSA should enjoy a constant stream of visitors. The main role of the Resident Advocate is to ensure that OSMOSA is always evolving. Essentially, stagnation would mean the end of OSMOSA.
To achieve vibrancy in OSMOSA, the Resident Advocate may solicit artwork, post to relevant blogs, create events, or take whatever actions they see fit. The Resident Advocate will foster continued activity in the museum, remaining open to and supportive of the potential for chaos inherent in this project.
The Resident Advocate will update the OSMOSA blog, creating documentation of the museum's evolution and giving the non-Second Life community news about OSMOSA developments. The Resident Advocate will also encourage others to post to the OSMOSA blog.
The OSMOSA Resident Advocate will have one responsibility of a regulatory nature. This entails checking on all new artwork and additions to the OSMOSA structure to make sure that the restrictions are correctly set to "can copy/can modify." If an object has incorrect restrictions, the Resident Advocate will contact the artist/architect and kindly request that they change the restrictions to "can copy/can modify." If the OSMOSA participant fails to do so after one week, the Resident Advocate will delete the object.
At the end of one month, the Resident Advocate will post a statement to the OSMOSA blog. This statement could summarize their work as Resident Advocate, changes that have taken place in OSMOSA in the previous month, and any concluding thoughts. The Resident Advocate will then appoint a successor. This appointment will be made in consultation with the OSMOSA founders (Deborah Abramson, Kiera Feldman, and Davis Jung).
We've created two accounts for you all to use to visit OSMOSA and enter the world of SECOND LIFE
First name: OpenSource
Last name: Babenco
First name: MCMHipster
Last name: Bracken
Wirxli FlimFlam's Second Life Blog
open source, open genomics, open content
[PUBLIC] _____ curating
Fwwixli Swindlehurst and Wirxli FlimFlam
Living with the me...
Second Life Art News
w h o l e t o n e
The Secondlife Newspaper EVENTS
NEW WORLD NOTES
YASMIN Your Art Science Mediterranean International Network
OPEN SOURCE CORNER
MUSEUM LAB http://www.museumlab.org/
SECOND LIFE EDUCATION WIKIPEDIA http://sleducation.wikispaces.com/educationaluses
Tropico- Guia de futilidades e utilidades http://p.php.uol.com.br/tropico/html/textos/2861,1.shl
Bathsheba Dorn: http://brooklynrail.org/2007/4/artseen/secondlife-art
Sasun Steinbeck, Dancoyote, Eva and Frank Mattes: http://secondlife.reuters.com/stories/2007/04/16/artists-struggle-but-dont-starve-on-second-life/
Cubist Scarborough: http://184.108.40.206/search?q=cache:LzYezV0mA1YJ:www.slnn.com/index.php/print-article/articleID/378.html%3Fsid%3D2Q7cIQWNiSEChtex+cubist+scarborough&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=8&gl=us
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