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Virtual reality? Those small, vividly coloured, geometrical houses and trees in my computer. Somewhere in here I can do the banking, and then surf around with my buds from the States. In America, people have data helmets for this purpose. Those aren’t very comfortable, but you are right inside the three dimensional cyber world.

That’s it — isn’t it?

VR prototype

We wondered about the components a virtual world is basically made of. What about the inherent conditions? What is it all about?

That seems to be no problem with paintings. You take colour, form and composition. Mondrian or Kandinsky. And different points of view. Cubism.

The basic element of a virtual world is dynamic information. Events oh, someone is clicking on me!, data. Everything is moving and floating. How do you visualize all this? Which sensually perceptible events are available in a virtual reality?

You can’t really touch anything inside the world. But there are sounds and colours, processes, elements are changing. A visitor walks over minefields: flying along causes a loud bang, clicking changes colours. Objects have simulated material properties like weight or stability.

All in all, we find five categories of event:

• Animation (deformations and movements)
• Code (switches and sensitive fields)
• Colours
• Simulation (simulated material properties)
• Sound (acoustic signals)

With these components do I work designing events in a virtual world.

A fluctuating spatial pattern of sounds and images emerges, animated and interactive. Thus we left the mimetic tradition, no imitation of houses and trees anymore. I experience the world as a sinfony of events.


There is no Up and Down in an abstract world, no floor, no horizon. Everything changes according to my movement. What has just been above is now on my right. How do I find my way in the virtual reality?

With measure, street name and city map through the virtual space. A 3D modeling programme shows a carthesian grid for orientation, x-, y-, and z-axes. A virtual Internet world usually has a virtual Up and Down, a virtual floor and a virtual horizon. Orientation thus is only enabled by introducing an external reference system.

For our world, we dismiss the metaphor of real landscape, the mimetic spaces with all their limitations. We want to make use of the specific freedom of a virtual reality. Rules like »inside can’t be larger than outside« or »only one object in one place« loose their importance. Furthermore, to keep a grid constantly in mind, the measures, numbers, is more than annoying. What happens if no external reference system is provided? Is there an alternative?

We investigated this problem. How do I navigate walking through Berlin without using a city map? The bakery with those delicious bagels, and the tree where I first met a friend will be my points of reference. Having passed the bakery I see the tree. Finally! I’m approaching the supermarket.

Reference System

Every user creates his or her own personal reference system while exploring the world. He or she chooses a way through different spaces of experience which are organized as parallel universes: A big blue wave carries me away. Suddenly, red blinking pierces my conscience. Silence. Oh, by clicking I cause vibrations!

He or she experiences a personal concert of different perceptions. Memorized context and associations are used for intuitive orientation in space. He or she associates the experiences with specific objects which are recognized in all universes.

Up, down, forward and backward are no longer substantial. They are subsided by the experienced relations in space, time, and subject. Our virtual world provides an inner reference system which has to be created individually by every user.

A user’s way through the virtual world could be memorized by the computer. In numbers, x, y, and z coordinates. No information about the personal reference system is included. Different ways of perception, concentration on certain aspects, specific associations - this experience of space can’t be protocolled by the computer.

The virtual world has no memory for a user’s experiences. My experience is personal, and so is my memory.

©programm 5  p5@p5-berlin.de  lilian jüchtern  nicole martin  11/1998