nmc virtual worlds

Ball State Digital Artists Showcased on NMC’s Ars Simulacra

published 21.Aug.08 by Alan Levine

Imagine flying over a pyramid shaped boat as a variety of tones from the engine combine to create a melody. That is just what visitors will get when they interact with the new virtual art collection created by Ball State University faculty in Second Life.

John Fillwalk, Ball State associate professor of art, and director of the Institute for Digital Intermedia Arts and Animation (IDIAA), is the lead artist on a project that will be showcased in Second Life beginning Sunday, Aug. 24 2008, and run through September.

The NMC offered Fillwalk and the IDIAA the chance to transform an entire Second Life island with interactive virtual art. The collection, which will be up for a month, is part of a series of installations hosted by NMC throughout the year.

Fillwalk (SL Name: Mencius Watts) and Jesse Allison, Ball State faculty fellow and research specialist (SL Name: Taggert Alsop ), worked for three months with help from SL resident Media Hax to create a series of interactive exhibits that will be featured on the NMC’s special Second Life arts showcase island, Ars Simulacra

“The experience is compelling. And while the background technology is complex, visitors to the exhibit can easily engage with the art,” Fillwalk said.

Visitors to the island can interact with exhibits, which incorporate video, sound and still photos, via their avatars. One exhibit features a live connection to Flickr, a photo sharing Web site. Individual visitors can choose the subject matter and customize their viewing experience.

On entering the exhibit, the panels are blank, but throb with some pulsating ambient sounds.

By touching the device in the middle, your avatar is prompted to enter a ketword via chat that is used to search flickr for images. Is there any surprise that I tried a search on “dog”- the images are fetched and begin to appear on the panes surrounding you, and they alternate without a clear pattern, creating a search result you are immersed in.

Fillwalk says this collection of interactive virtual art showcases and expands upon IDIAA’s expertise in building virtual reality applications for simulation, and visualization environments.

“We’re positioning the business profile of IDIAA to work with external clients to build significant research, well as showcase Ball State’s emerging media prowess,” he said.

Ball State has received recognition for its work developing hands-on, experiential, project-based learning environments. Its virtualized film studio won the first Greenhouse Grant for Virtual Worlds and an award in the 2008 Campus Technology magazine Innovator competition. Another Innovator award went to Ball State’s Digital Corps.

Learn more about the Institute for Digital Intermedia Arts at