Jane's Walk 2015: ScreenCap from JanesWalk.org of the city home page for Second Life

Dear Nadia Halim (Jane’s Walk SL)

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Hello Nadia!

We’re so excited to have Jane’s Walk SL be a part of Jane’s Walk 2015! Even though Jane Jacobs wrote The Death and Life of Great American Cities 8 years before I was born, I must confess, it’s taken me till 2015 to finally read it. I finished the book yesterday. As you already know, it’s a masterpiece. If she’d written it in 2015 it would have been profoundly insightful. It’s remarkable that she had so much clarity on so many powerful ideas so long ago. 11 years before the demolition of Pruitt-Igoe, she explained in great detail, why a well-intentioned project like that was doomed to fail. The book, even today, is revolutionary.

In recent times I’ve become a real advocate and lover of walking. Partly for the “Jane Jacobs” health-of-the-city, of it, and partly for the “Ernesto Ramirez / Sherry Pagoto” health-of-the-individual of it. On any scale you care to consider, walking seems to be one of the best things we have in this world. With these ideas very much in mind, we’ve launched Pedestrian Access, an installation across 4 Second Life “Regions” with a total land mass of 26 hectares. Each of the 6.5 hectare “regions” is a different installation by 4 different artists. 3 are individual artist installations and the 4th is Medici University, a new, virtual, non-accredited, arts university.

Jane's Walk SL 2015: screen cap of Second Life "city" page on Jane's Walk.org
Second Life “city” page on Jane’s Walk.org

We’re currently laying out the Medici University campus, and inviting Students and Faculty in to pick studio spaces and begin working. The campus plan has been enormously influenced by Jane Jacobs’ ideas. Much like the automobiles and expressways Jacobs critiques in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, in VR space, “flying” and “teleporting” are modes of transportation that are at once highly convenient, and destructive to the life of the virtual city. We’ve chosen to make MU a no-fly, no-teleport campus where you have to actually walk from place to place. We’re doing our best to mix neighborhoods of studio spaces with dance clubs, retail, and other activities.

Jane’s Walk SL #

Although virtual planner Penny Patton has been expounding on it for years, I think very few places in VR space are actually built to the scale or density of RL cities. 26 hectares is a nice chunk of land, but it’s far from city density. The 3 artist installations are large-scale, Marfa, Texas-like single installations. Medici University will be a lot more dense, with many different students and faculty working on projects, and performance, dance, and retail venues interspersed.

I think it makes sense for our 1st Jane’s Walk SL to be a tour of the 4 regions comprising the Pedestrian Access project. I think the ideas in the Pedestrian Access umbrella project, the concept behind MU and it’s campus, and the many different participants there, should make for a very robust walk. Since the focus of Jane’s Walks is residents, this should work well. However visitors are also welcome. They can make a free SL account and download the free viewer. Or, we’ll also stream the walk on twitch.tv/vaneeesab so anyone can also experience the tour in a simple web browser.

Beyond that I’ll begin to invite all residents to propose Jane’s Walk SL walks of areas they love. Off the top of my head, I have the sense that the neighborhood may not, for our case, be as fundamental as the particular tour guide. There are a handful of people with unique and powerful perspectives on the virtual city, and I’d love to invite some of them to lead walks of their favorite areas. One friend, RMarie Beedit, has a favorite activity she calls “Map Dragging,” which is her way of randomly picking an area on the map and investigating it. We might also have a Map Dragging walk with her where the tour leader is discovering a neighborhood at the same time as the tour participants. In this instance, the tour guide is not sharing her intimate knowledge of a particular virtual neighborhood, but her intimate knowledge of virtual neighborhoodfulness.

Warm regards,

Vanessa Blaylock's signature

About Vanessa Blaylock

I was the Choreographer at Vanessa Blaylock Dancers and the Artistic Director at Vanessa Blaylock Company. Today my work focuses on Public Art projects. I’m interested in the mediation of perception and mixed reality performance works. I’m passionate about community and civil rights in cyberspace.