The SLENZ Update – No 48, February 25, 2009

Missed Conversations

in Urban Spaces

An RL-SL experiment/experience


Dancer and arts lecturer Mike Baker (SL: Rollo Kohime) believes in a “real” life of departures – involuntary departures leading to   “a state of  ‘ leaving’ which co-mingles with and unerringly erodes our efforts to engage with another in the here and now.”

This belief  in on-going alienation has led the senior lecturer in the Degree in Arts and Media programme in the School of Arts and Media at Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology, Nelson, NZ-Aotearoa, to explore the idea as part of his  AUT Masters in Art and Design project (majoring in dance and video), ‘In the Company of Strangers’. (Full text of presentation available on  (

“Indeterminacy as a force, responsible for sustaining in us the dynamic of the stranger, is explored in encounters between people in urban spaces,”  he said in a paper recently delivered to the   intercreateSCANZ Symposium, at New Plymouth, in Taranaki, New Zealand,  a presenation which took place with audiences both in real life and in  Second Life at his urban railway station on the NMIT island of Koru (

Baker ( is  investigating concepts centering on disjunct-conversations and departure  through his research-practice which, as a scrutinising lens, attests to the contemporary theories which reside in the states of ‘becoming’ evidenced in selected writings of  Henri Bergson and Brian Massumi.
The Baker project posits the formation of a new “Urban Myth: Experienced through the vehicle of the roaming body, our engagements, meetings and encounters in urban spaces frequently manifest as disjunct, ‘missed conversations’.”


As part of the project he critically explores – both in the real world and Second Life – the forces of indeterminacy which he maintains are responsible for the dynamics which create the personna of the ‘stranger’ in encounters between people in urban spaces.

“I am asserting that this is due to the inevitability in our existence of indeterminacy occurring as a significant mediator of our behaviour,” he says. ” Indeterminacy implies motion and emerges, as Massumi so ably asserts, through ‘… an unfolding relation to its own nonpresent potential to vary …’.

“We, all of us, are constantly being drawn away – always either approaching or embracing involuntarily, a state of ‘Leaving’ which co-mingles with and unerringly erodes our efforts to engage with another in the here
and now,” he said.

He uses interventionist dance strategies to prompt and then interrogate the formation, nature and parameters of encounters in designated public places. The experimental movement frameworks employed are informed by the discipline of Contact Improvisation Dance. The working process is documented using a range of video narrative and internet blogs. Joint real life-Second Life performances have been staged with audiences/participants interacting from both sides of the screen.

Besides the New Plymouth conference Baker  has  had papers on his Masters project accepted for the PSI15 Performance Studies International Conference, in Zagreb, Croatia, and the SDHS Society of Dance History Scholars: Topographies: Sites, Bodies, Technologies, at Stanford University, USA. He has  also been named to an international panel to deliver/discuss the paper of Isabel de Cavadas Valverde: Envisioning virtual cartographies for corporeal interaction: dance and performance convergent applications of Second Life 3D Metaverse social environment, at the SDHS Conference at Stanford.

Baker  has danced and worked with: BodyCartography Project, (USA/NZ) Wilhemeena Gordon, (NZ) Nancy Stark-Smith, State-of-Flux Dance Co, (Melbourne, Australia) Martin Keogh (USA) jzamal Xanitha (USA) and Catherine Chappell – Touch Compass Dance Trust (NZ).


2 Responses

  1. This is a fantastic build!

    Walking through the visual and audio landscape in the railway station on Koru was a powerful experience that has left me with many ideas to integrate RL/SL immersion and dialogue in blended learning environments.

  2. […] The latest Second Life Education in New Zealand blog has an interesting update on a NZ-based Second Life creative project that’s exploring issues around public urban […]

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