Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Of Snow Crash and Shakespeare & Co.

Michelle Pauli has a fascinating piece at the Guardian about book-themed cyberspace and the Second Life virtual reality platform.

I was having an uncharacteristic virtual reality fantasy last night: in the hallway where I work is an object that I have a sort of love-hate relationship with, on the one hand it is something that would have absolutely delighted my childhood self and on the other it basically should have been put in the trash years ago. It's a rather ancient (I'm guessing it was built in the 1950s) scale model of the Globe Theatre on a plywood base about, oh, six feet across (it's big in other words, and it's just sitting there outside the gender-neutral bathroom on the fourth floor) with a hilarious plastic bubble over the top, like the ones on those childhood games where you press the plastic bubble and the dice shoot loudly around inside (or like the bubbles that astronauts wear in children's books--I once saw Laika in her little dog suit complete with goldfish-bowl helmet at the space museum in Moscow, it was cool but very sad also). For some time now chunks of the base have been falling off, pushing it more firmly away from "cool but shabby artifact" towards "trash," and I was meditating on it as I often do while waiting to use the bathroom and thinking that one day I was going to lose patience and just put it in the trash without authorization. And then a favorite colleague of mine walked by and told me that mice have been spotted in the Globe Theatre! Isn't that amazing? There should be a Beatrix-Potter-style children's book about the mice in the Globe Theatre at Columbia University--or indeed (now I got back round to the main point) a virtual-reality environment, I have absolutely zero talent for drawing or painting or anything and what I was thinking as I gazed at the bubble was that there must be some way of using, oh, a Polaroid and doing very close-up and slightly blurry color-saturated pictures and superimposing the pictures of the mice on top, but that really what I wanted was a virtual-reality model--not of anything pretending to be the actual theatre, that might be an interesting teaching tool (is anyone working on anything like that?!?) but a bit over the top, just a virtual reality you could enter of a modest little funny old-fashioned scale model with mice dressed in little outfits conducting their business as usual, i.e. getting excited when there are pizza crusts in the trash after the MA Colloquium.


  1. This sounds like 'New-York Ghost' material!

  2. This is amazing. I am caught between shared annoyance at that bizarre thing and sheer fasincation at the notion of mice in it... a virtual reality probe into that nasty glass bubble would be hilarious indeed if populated by early modern mice. I hope they don't get out and start running amok. I also love that you locate the thing "outside the unisex bathroom on the fourth floor." What a strange object! --CV