Is it any wonder, I reject you first?
There are (as one may have it) a number of things which strike me as an oddity of juxtaposition within my life. Through situational awareness, it can be said that I am suddenly surprised by how people react to my presence. It isn’t to say that I suddenly just now became surprised, but it is something that I consistently forget and then am reminded of.
To this end, the topic of this blog (journal rambling) is that of perception and (for lack of better word) fame.
I’ve never considered myself famous in the more common sense, but more often than not I am treated as a sort of celebrity depending on the circumstances. It seems to rear up when I least expect it – for instance when talking to actual celebrities and while I find myself flattered that they take the time to speak with me, I come to find out that they are actually a fan of me.
That takes a while to sink in, to be honest.
I don’t think it ever really does sink in to my conscious mind too long, but it does just long enough to make me go “Oh... wow...” and then in a few days it wears off and I somehow manage to repress that memory like it never happened.
But somewhere in the back of my mind, I know it is still there lingering. I didn’t actually forget that I’m a celebrity. I just seem to do a really good job convincing myself that I’m not and acting like I’m not. Maybe (despite opinions to the contrary) I am actually a bit humble. I know in my persona I act like I’m hot stuff but like Andy Warhol it’s really just a front.
I am (to the public eye) mostly just a persona. A fabrication of intellectual bad-ass propped up by perceptions of genius and brilliance. The problem is, I’ve never seen myself like that, even when I know it is true... it could be said that I am highly intelligent (MENSA level) and I wouldn’t deny that, and I’ve had an interesting, if not illustrious, career involvements that have had me in the right place at the right time.
Despite my disastrous luck in life, I’ve been an exceedingly lucky individual. My whole life is an ongoing exercise in polar opposite absurdity. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, really...
I’ve seen the after parties for MTV, hung out with actual celebrities and rock stars, and found myself in the company of some of the brightest and most talented minds in the world. For all of that, I find myself feeling honored to be there, and almost always surprised when I come to find that I’m usually the man of the hour. Celebrities and high-powered people acting like they are the ones who are honored to meet and get to hang out with me.
I’m still kinda weirded out by that...
Did I mention I’m not entirely a fan of Hollywood? They always came across as hollow and fake to me. No wonder David Bowie sang about it in his song Fame (for which the title of today’s post borrows a line). I’m not against celebrity and Hollywood... I just see past the smoke and mirrors and get right to the authentic people aspect of it. Which tends to either endear people or scare the living bejesus out of them. One of the many benefits of being an INTJ personality...
I see through the facade and they tend to relax a bit and stop putting up a front. That’s all Hollywood really is, just a bunch of smoke and mirrors. The ultimate of sustained persona versus sincerity.
All the while I play it cool and just try to stay down to Earth (and usually am). Approachable and an “everyday” sort of guy you could just hang out with. That’s how I see myself in my own mind. But my reputation precedes me in most cases and what I think of myself is rarely what others see in me when I enter the room.
This (in and of itself) is the crux of what being famous actually is. Meaning millions of people have the wrong idea about who you actually are, and no amount of contradiction can change their mind.
Of course, that internal image of myself goes to hell in a hand basket when I suddenly get a text message from an actual celebrity just to say “Hi” and to let me know they’re heading out for the next week and wanted to let me know.
I mean... at first I’m like “Hey, have a wonderful trip!” but then (about thirty seconds later) it really hits me.
I’m like: Wait a minute. Millions of adoring fans worldwide, television interviews, globetrotting, the whole nine yards... and you specifically think it is important to stop and let me (of all people) know that you’re heading out to Sweden for a week to visit family and you’ll be back soon?
I’m actually really speechless about that.
There is the understanding that this isn’t an isolated incident, either. I mean, somebody else (who I won’t disclose) took the time to let me know they were going to Hong Kong next month (visiting the wife’s family) and wanted to let me know ahead of time. Again, a really well known person worldwide... taking time out of their day to let me know they were going on vacation but would be back in a month.
As I sit here and think about it, I’m a bit flabbergasted. At what point in my life did that transition actually happen? But what blows my mind most is that while I’m sitting here thinking that I’m flattered and honored that they thought of me in all of this (enough to take the time out to let me know personally), I come to find out that they are fans of me.
All the while as I’m thinking they are the celebrity, they are thinking I’m the important celebrity to know.
That’s about the moment I realize (once again) that I actually am (sorta) a celebrity in my own right. Though I consistently try not to be, people treat me like I am and it never ceases to baffle me.
Sure, I can say that I’ve accomplished quite a lot in my life (so far). Been there and done that sort of mentality. I’m not entirely certain if the inner image of myself and celebrities has reached a point where I take it for granted or if I’m just in denial that I’m a celebrity as well.
Maybe it is a little bit of both?
When I spent a lot of time in Second Life, that persona had a chance to really take hold in the virtual sense. It did help that I had a PR department behind me, and that started the snowball rolling. I did interviews, photo shoots, a research paper, book chapter, and even spoke at virtual events.
My last “appearance” was as a panelist for the previous Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education conference, whereby it never ceased to amaze me what amazing people I was sharing a stage with.
But there I was, just as large as life (maybe larger).
One could say that I voluntarily made an exit from that scene in the virtual sense, but in reality it never stopped. All I managed to actually do was to lay low and go off the radar a bit for some peace and quiet. More or less I took the Johnny Depp route and moved to virtual France.
This can be evidenced by the continuation (even today) whereby a lot of SL folks are like “I’m a huge fan of you!” when I’m saying I’m a fan of them... But while I’ve scaled back the public appearances portion of my persona aspect, it only seemed to apply to the virtual world. In the real world that celebrity mentality continues unabated and completely to my surprise.
The actual reasoning for my absence in Second Life has been more along the lines of a recurring theme in virtual worlds users that I refer to as Groundhog Day Syndrome. Named after that wonderful Bill Murray movie, it is a perfect symbolism for just having total ennui and a loss of motivation/tolerance for something.
It comes and goes, so don’t think for a moment that I’m suddenly never going to be passionate about virtual worlds again. It’s just that after... I’d say about twenty years now, it all just gets repetitive and boring. You log in and see the same old things, that pattern recognition kicks in and you start to think “Why bother?”
Or maybe I’m a virtual God?
Of course, not the God. But, ya know... a god by the definition of Bill Murray in Groundhog Day? Maybe just a guy that’s been around so long he seems like he knows everything (but doesn’t)? Nothing is “new” and so everything (most things) are expected and seen coming a mile away.
I think maybe in the bigger scheme of things, a lot of us are gods in that manner.
And just like a “god”, when I get bored of something I want to make something better and create something amazing. Something totally new.
I could sit around and talk about the virtues of Oculus Rift and all the great things it’ll do for the industry, but to be honest it is merely an over-hyped stopgap between virtual reality and mixed reality.
The real evolution and future of virtual worlds, and ultimately the Metaverse as a whole is in mixed reality/augmented reality space. So much so that even Neal Stephenson himself was recently hired by Magic Leap. So it’s not really an uneducated opinion I’m putting out there, but pointing out that the godfather of the Metaverse itself and a huge name in Cyberpunk is involved not in virtual reality but in advanced Mixed Reality.
Of course, I already knew this was coming. Not that I’m tooting my own horn, but I have been saying for the past few years now that the future is in Augmented and Mixed Reality, and that Virtual Reality is just the Gartner Hype Cycle to get us there.
Right now, Virtual Reality is back at the Peak of Inflated Expectations, and by the time Oculus Rift leaves the gate officially, it’ll likely be overshadowed by things like Magic Leap and similar mixed reality systems, which will dropkick VR back into the Trough of Disillusionment. Or maybe not... seeing as Oculus recently bought out 13th Lab, which is a company that specializes in augmented reality and has their own SLAM algorithm for real world mapping.
I think Oculus sees the writing on the wall already and is looking to shift gears to a headset that can do AR/MR before they launch so they’ll potentially have an “all in one” sort of headset.
But still, that sort of mixed reality system is still very limited in the bigger scope. It is localized and effectively tethered to smaller spaces and publish model experiences. The same can be said (ahead of time) for Magic Leap technology, and although their display technology is actually really fuck-all impressive, they still only have one piece of the bigger puzzle for the future. They (like Oculus) are (to me) considered just enabler technology in the stop gap to the future.
Which (of course) brings us to that all important question:
What the hell have you been up to, Will?
Whereby the reply is going to be that I’ve been focusing on the technology forecast concerning advanced mixed reality systems and how to actually build one that would meet my stupidly high expectations. I started drifting out of the VR sector and into the MR sector awhile ago, but keeping in mind all of the stuff I’ve learned from VR in the past twenty years. Not surprisingly, it applies to the mixed reality sector quite well.
After all, I think I’ve said pretty much all there is to say about Virtual Reality and The Metaverse. Though I am still the Vice Chair for the IEEE Virtual World Standard Group (P1828) and likely for a rekindled standard initiative stemming from P1828 at IEEE, I want to think bigger than that.
My general philosophy has always been that if the whole damned world is looking at something and it’s collectively “the future”, then I’m not looking far enough ahead at the trends. So that’s pretty much why I transitioned my attention from VR to Mixed Reality systems.
In the bigger picture, there’s a guy formerly at the Nokia Mobile Life Centre who was (is) working on his PhD thesis and project (Kim Nevelsteen). An avid fan of The Metaverse overall for the past ten years, he always wanted to focus on Pervasive Games and Mixed Reality. As per his update, he moved on to just being at Stockholm University in the Immersive Networking group but has had the opportunity to change direction and focus on pervasive games and mixed reality like he originally wanted (finally!)
“Your paper was a pivotal point because it just made me burn (pun intended) even more for working on the Metaverse. It also puts in black and white lots of things I have been thinking about before.”
He and I have had wonderful conversations on and off about the state of the industry and where we think the future is at, and it’s nice to know that he is finally able to pursue that future.
In all honesty, it is flattering to know that I am able to inspire people in the industry like that, and have a positive effect. I wouldn’t say I was the only thing that drove him in that direction, but instead (as it apparently wasn’t clear before), I see myself as one of many pivotal parts of the whole conversation and part of that inspiration and culmination of many things.
In and of itself, I am still amazingly flattered and humbled that I could have even the slightest effect in the industry.
Editor’s Note: Part of the problem with writing a blog as a stream of consciousness with little (or no) editing is that a lot of the time I miss things that I think are implied when they come across as meaning something else. Happens sometimes when you’re writing far into the morning, and so I’d like to make that clear on behalf of Kim in what will probably one of the first edits to this blog. He’s an amazing guy and highly intelligent, definitely check out what he’s up to via the link above.
Other than that, I’ve been tied up with a NASA project called Deep Space Blue about the experience of being a near future Mars inhabitant and replicating some of that atmosphere for the real world participants. Hashtag #JourneyToMars if that’s your thing... Which in turn has landed me smack dab back where I was before with the whole “dealing with Hollywood and celebrities” thing.
Except a lot bigger than before.
As part of the Deep Space Blue initiative, there is a major Hollywood agency involved (the people who represent the celebrities and talent), as well as a big production company. And so, I’m back at the center of that maelstrom again as the intellectual celebrity bad-ass of the group.
Without even giving it a second thought, we send out best wishes and condolences to Melissa (Rivers) while congratulating Ben (Affleck) on getting the green light on his recent indie collaboration. This is the sort of normality I’ve come to take for granted in my life. I’m just not surprised by it any more...
I suppose I’m an intellectual celebrity versus famous for simply being good looking and an actor... though I’m sure a lot of ladies out there will correct me about the whole “being good looking” thing... I’ll take whatever I can get on that front. Flattery is always an acceptable currency.
It never ceases to amaze me just how many fan girls I actually have, or the various things they are prepared to do to and with me if only I’d give them a chance.
It’s enough to make me blush, and that says a lot.