Experiencing The Gathering in Second Life

The Gathering
The Gathering

Bryn Oh’s new installation The Gathering, will be formally opening at Immersiva on Tuesday, December 1st. However, she has invited a number of people – myself included –  to experience it a little early. And “experience” is precisely the right word to use here; not only is The Gathering typically immersive and engaging installation by Bryn, it also makes used of Second Life Experiences.

The landing point provides some notes on how to set your viewer, using Firestorm as an example. For those using other viewers, and who can manage it, the optimal set-up for the viewer is to have Advanced lighting Model active, and Shadows set to Sun/Moon + Projectors. It is at the landing point as well that you’ll be asked to join Byrn Oh’s Experience. It’s important that you do if you wish to enjoy The Gathering to the fullest.

Doing so grants the installation certain automatic rights to act on your avatar – notably to animate you and teleport you; these rights will be automatically revoked when you leave Immersiva (and will automatically re-apply themselves whenever you run, unless you remove the Bryn Oh Experience from your list of allowed experiences).

"Mrs. Almere felt he had quite the nerve, when he struck up a conversation with her H'ors D'ourve - The Gathering
“Mrs. Almere felt that he had quite the nerve, when he struck up a conversation with her hors d’ouvre – The Gathering

The central element of the installation is the gathering of the title – a private party, somewhat gate crashed by a strange individual with some odd habits. This is told as a series of stanzas from a poem, accompanied by a hand drawn image of the scene each stanza describes, as shown above.

To get to this, however, you have a pass through a landscape offering both distractions in the form of several static and interactive builds, and danger, in the form of huge balls or spheres, which periodically roll down from higher slopes, and which will throw you back to the landing point if they collide with you. These can be avoided in a number of ways – running out of the way, climbing the steeper slopes away from them or otherwise using the landscape to your advantage, or touch one of the small static sphere scattered around the installation.

The Gathering
The Gathering

The latter will animate your avatar, whilst also allowing you to walk. more to the point, they’ll allow you to climb any nearby walls or other elements of the installation, letting you climb nearby walls and escape the dreaded rolling (bowling?) balls. You’ll be able to keep climbing for as long as you “wear” one of the animation spheres, and can walk on the ground using one, but things can take a bit of getting used to. When you stand, you’ll be returned to your normal walk mode.

The builds within the installation include character motifs and other elements which may resonate with those familiar with Bryn’s work, such as the house that constructs itself as you move through it, a concept Bryn used to huge effect in Keep the Streets Empty for Me, a part of Ux Hax and Romy Nayar’s July exhibition Distrito Disinto at MetaLES, which you can read about here.

"He walked to the punch and proceeded to pour, half in his hat and half on the floor"
“He walked to the punch and proceeded to pour, half in his hat and half on the floor” – The Gathering

The Gathering requires careful navigation and a sense of fun – as Bryn notes in her invitation, it can be something better enjoyed when watching other interact with object or as they try to escape the giant balls.

However, it loses not of its engagement when visiting on your own: just be sure to accept the Experience invitation and then run / walk, look, poke, prod and climb! Do, as well, keep an eye out for the projectors play room, and if you’d like some of the sketches from The Gathering, as well as other Bryn goodies, try the Gacha machine at the landing point.

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HealthlinkNY: health education through Second Life

HealthlinkNY: using Second Life for healthcare education and patient welfare since 2008
HealthlinkNY: using Second Life for healthcare education and patient welfare since 2008

New York state’s Health Information Exchange (HIE), is an initiative intended to gather patient records from across participating healthcare districts and make them available to doctors, hospitals and healthcare specialists – and the patients themselves – as and when required, in order to greatly improve patient healthcare and treatment in all situations, including emergencies.

However, getting people give their consent to having their personal records and histories to be electronically stored and available isn’t easy. There is often a natural distrust of “big brother” type record systems, even when they are intended for the betterment of those whom they serve.

So how do you persuade people to give their consent to having their records stored and shared at the push of a button? HealthlinkNY has chosen to do so by in part using an infomercial filmed entirely within Second Life.

At under three minutes in length and produced by Pooky Amsterdam’s Pooky Media, with graphics support by Skylar Smythe, Consent and the HIE clearly and concisely spells out the benefits of the HIE programme and how it works. As you can see for yourself here.

Why use Second Life for a project like this? Because it is a proven, cost-effective means of presenting to facilitate qualitative patient education to those who might otherwise be unable or unwilling to access that information due to mobility or other difficulties. This work has been spearheaded under the HealthScape NY programme, initiated by Southern Tier HealthLink New York (now a part of HealthlinkNY) and which has been in operation in Second Life since 2008.

Over the years, this programme, which centres on a 20-region presence in Second Life representing various locations in New York State, has not only allowed HealthlinkNY to produce a range of videos on a number of healthcare issues, but also to reach out directly to patients by staging presentations on chronic illnesses, fitness events, and health assessments, and even interactive, health-based quest.

You can find out more HealthScapeNY and the New York regions in Second Life by reading my articles from June 2011, and January 2015.