} --> Digital Altars / Spiritual.org

Digital Altars / Spiritual.org

Commissions Proposal for Rhizome 2010 Cycle by Daniel R. Leyva

Project Brief

 

 Creating three altars representing the top search engines (Google, Yahoo, Ask) as sacred objects for digital faith. The altars are visualized as deities through iconic formal religion in a tounge-and-cheek manner. An image-search script displayed from the respective main-page allows users' questions to be answered through digital projection in the individual altars. A website unites these “sacred objects” for online users. Further exploration can be created in a Second Life installation replica

GoogleTriForce

Project Intro

 

 The fundamental uses of the Internet for many include a source of information, a discourse tool, a forum for communication and even a sphere of identity construction. Amongst these seemingly practical uses, the Internet is increasingly being used for a spiritual connections and activities providing its users with information and access to like-minded believers of any religious pretense. According to the Encyclopedia of Religion, Communication, and Media, "for over two decades the Internet has been a space where spiritual rituals are conducted and traditional religious beliefs discussed." Beginning in the early 1980s, early Internet users began creating forums for discourse exploring ways to communicate faith. One of the first was called Usenet "net.religion" discussion list, a forum dedicated to dialogue on religion, ethics, and the "moral implications of human actions" in which overtime grew to other specified various diversions entitled "alt.philosophy," "alt.religion," "soc.culture," "soc.religion" and "talk.religion" (Ciolek 2004). Over time a numerous amount of religious forums continued to emerge, including cyber temples, online rituals, religious online communities and e-vangelism. "The Internet provides religious practitioners new opportunities to explore religious beliefs and experiences through a growing number of websites, chat rooms, and e-mail discussion groups dedicated to a variety of faith related issues."

 A study conducted by the Barna Research Group in 2001 indicated that "among the growing number of Americans who use the Internet, millions are turning to the digital dimension to get them in touch with God and others who pursue faith matters." This study also examines that by the end of the decade over 50 million users may rely solely upon the Internet to provide all of their faith-based experiences (Barna 2001). The main challenge online-based faith faces is its disconnect from real-life interactions and being part of a church of religious community. Many fear a "mass exodus" from pews and temples to relieve their religious desires through the screen of a computer (Campbell). The response for this case usually is that the Internet may act like a connecting forum, but in actuality it is just a supplemental form of religious practice (Katz). Face-to-face interaction and embodied worship experiences (such as communion) are absent from online spiritual forums; practicing religion online, through cyber church, prayer meetings, forums, or finding spiritual guidance online really only represents one arena for individuals to express their overall religious life.

e-monks

The Need

  Conversely, internet-based faith is growing continuously and so are its sources of forums, social sites and online-population. But what about those not interested in a truly established typical "religious" faith? Most of these sites are dedicated to the variety of religions that are typically "popular" outside of Internet sources. Faiths such as Extropianism, Singularitarianism, Transhumanism and Digitalism are newer breeds of philosophical views that not only challenge moral standards and values but some also challenge interdisciplinary approaches that evaluate possibilities for overcoming biological limitations. Often criticized as "fringe science" or pseudo religions, these faiths have tremendous following and their own supporting forums and net-based sources like the "normal" religions do. The Church of Google is one of the more ambiguous kinds of net-based religions, but unlike the previous mentioned, this religions is based on the existence of a website - Google - and not a pre-existing god, faith or theory.

 Googlism can be seen as a sort of mock faith, but the website offers nine proofs of Google being classified as divinity and has a heavy following; because of its omnipresence, omniscience, omnibenevolence, immortality, etc. the Googlists believe "Google should rightfully be given the title of "God", as She exhibits a great many of the characteristics traditionally associated with such Deities in a scientifically provable manner". Googlism has its own commandments, prayers, forums and even ways to become Googlist Ministers. One aspect The Church of Google lacks is the sense of a structured base, a meeting ground for those (like in "normal" religious movements) seeking fulfillment in their religious needs through an offline, real-life source. Bringing Google outside of its internet base could not only provide a fundamental arena for supplemental growth, but also elevate Googlism to a substantial belief. According to the Googlism FAQ on the site, other search engines provide the same kind of "answers" and divinity as Google shares, but to a lesser degree. Much like Westernized judgment, Christianity is thought to be the only religion and often seen as the "right" faith. Religious movements are just as varied as and comparatively different from one another, but a more generalized look at religion shows many resemblances between any faith. Philosopher William Alston provides "religion-making characteristics" as a few of the following: believing in a supernatural being (gods), belief of a moral code, prayer, a social group bound together by the beliefs, and ritual acts focused on sacred objects. The most interesting of these characteristics is "religious feelings (awe, sense of mystery, sense of guilt, adoration), which tend to be aroused in the presence of sacred objects and during the practice of ritual, and which are connected in idea with the gods". The sacred objects of Googlism is obviously absent.

godblessyou

Project Description

    Bringing these websites to the real world is as essential as formal religious movements bringing their faith online; altars are perfect examples of the essential structures lacking from these Internet religions. As Alston discloses in his list of religious resemblances, sacred objects are the focus of religious acts and offer the "characteristically religious feelings" in their presence. The idea to bring altars and sacred objects to Googlism would offer the final connection of this faith, as well as creating a new representation of how Internet-based faith has grown through the decade. As the Church of Google discloses, similar search engines (such as Yahoo! or Ask) can be represented as a faith because each offer the same ideas of omnipresence, omniscience, omnibenevlonce, etc. If these altars are created, these "mock" religions would be re-examined, having offered their missing crucial sacred objects, and most importantly provide the characteristic mystical, adorational feelings missing from these web-based faiths.

  The altars would be based through the sites popularity and created in relation to their "normal" religious counterparts connected with the top 3 Internet search engines. According to Adherents.com the top 3 religions are Christianity, Islam, and Atheist/Agnostic/Secular (non-believers) and would be represented by the top 3 search engines which are Google, Yahoo! and Ask. The altars would present their "deities" through their iconic main page sources and logos, and would allow users to interact with their associated search functions. Through the use of illusion and projection, the "characteristic feelings" of religion (mystery, awe, adoration) would decorate the altars and exhibit each religion/site as their own sacred place. Each altar would allow for interaction while having their own distinctive symbology, unique sounds, and votive offerings for their own characteristic feelings.

 The interaction would take place when users approach the desired altar; through the connection of the digital altar to their distinct website, users could ask for answers to their problems or thoughts. Unlike using the search engines at home, using the altars would provide an ethereal experience using only "image search" to provide the "answer" for each user. Users will type in their unique question from the wireless keyboard and the projection will display 5 image-search results and then return to its distinctive homepage. If the user asks too random or strange of a question, the display would be of random images from the coinciding site. Audio will be looped for each corresponding website to provide even more of the mysterious qualities the sacred objects hold.

Animated GIF renditions of sacred Altars

 

Sketchup 3D Renditions and examples of podiums/displays

 

Google Altar Drawing

 

Google "Spiritual" Version

 

Details

The Illusion

 The Illusion utilized for the Digital Altar displays is called "Pepper's Ghost". The illusion requires only an illuminated projection be set with a plate of glass (or plexiglass) at a 45° angle to "bounce" the image to another surface. More information and examples can be found on the Wiki page. Using this illusion further employs the feeling of obscurity connected to religion.

Audio

 On February 8, 1996, the Namgyal Monastery, the personal monastery of the Dalai Lama, offered a Blessing to Cyberspace with the Kalachakra Tantra, believed to have been first taught by the Buddha. This tantra emphasizes space itself, considered to be the sixth essential element (earth, fire, water, etc.). According to the Namgyal Monastery site, "the actual ceremony took about thirty minutes and consisted of the monks chanting blessing prayers from the Kalachakra tantra while envisioning space as cyberspace, the networked realm of computers, in their imagination." The blessing took place during the "24 Hours in Cyberspace" event in 1996. This is just an example of the tantras that could be utilized for the altars:

Blessings of Cyberspace Chanting, Part 1 WAV (392k)
Blessings of Cyberspace Chanting, Part 2 WAV (692k)

Website

 In addition to the sacred objects, users could log on to the "spiritual" version of the websites. These are just like the regular websites, but involve animations, sound and themes that coincide with the sacred objects on display. The sites would just be an alternate version of the homepages of the search engines, and would disclose the same search results.

Second Life Installation

 We can't forget about our other life! A digital installation within Second Life would connect the users with the altars from real life and the search engines from the internet, further connecting users to the net-based religions we've created. This is more of a "bonus" to the installation and wouldn't be completely necessary to fulfill the requests of the Digital Altars installation.

 

Project Timeline & Budget

 Digital Altars has many options depending on how much of the project will be funded to fulfill. In my proposal I suggest having three Altars for the 3 specific websites (Google, Yahoo!, Ask) but can you altered to fit only 1 altar. In this timeline I am proposing the creation of all three altars, the three altered search engines and the Second Life Installation online. The budget is estimated without desktop computers - these will be aquired by SCAD or through individual means - purchasing computers (and supplemental materials such as speakers and keyboards) would be unnecessary.



Timeline

Spring 2009 Website and script development for search engine sites and altar displays.
Summer 2009 Creating physical podiums and aquiring projection materials. Acquire gallery space.
Early Fall 2009 Launch sites (Spiritual Net) and Second Life Installation.
Late Fall 2009 Exhibtion of Digital Altars in a gallery space.


Budget

Altar Materials Physical Podium (wood/material) ≤ $150.0
  Translucent Shape Displays ≤ $250.0
Plexiglass ≤ $30.0
  Various decorative perophonilia ≤ $200.0
Gallery Space $200.0 (1 Week)
  Reception $175.0
  Promotional Material $75.0
Websites URL Registration $50.0
Second Life Installation (optional) Land ≤ $150.0
  Premium Account $72.0
  Building/Scripting Work ≤ $250.0
Total ≈ $1,602.0

Sources


Barna Research Group. (2001). More Americans are seeking Net-based faith experiences. Retrieved March 20, 2009. Link

Bochonok, S. (2002). Welcome to the wild, wacky and wonderful world of Internet spiritualit. Retrieved March 15,. 2009. Link

Campbell, H. (Routledge 2005). Encyclopedia of Religion, Communication, and Media. Retrieved March 31, 2009. Link

Ciolek, T. M. (2004). Online religion: The Internet and religion. In H. Bidgoli (Ed.), The Internet Encyclopedia (Vol. 2, pp. 798-811). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Katz, J. E. (MIT Press, 2002). Social Consequences of Internet Use. Retrieved March 31, 2009. Link

Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama. Resemblances Amongst Religions. Link

The Church of Google

Work Samples

Click on images to view video of the work on Vimeo.

Based on the Alan Lightman work Einstein's Dream and illustrated through the idea of string theory, "Cosmo House" works as an installation video with the shell of a miniature house encapsultating video output. The video is intended to creep-in to the senses and revealing - slowly - overtime these unseen energies. An intimate cross-section of an ordinary home reveals hidden energies and movements. Homes are connected to memories - smells, sounds, feelings ... homes contain these invisble forces from pasts and recent futures.
"Work In Progress" is a visualization and celebration in the passage of some of our favorite Björk characters into video game effigies. A combination of animation, game-sprite manipulation and glitch graphics unite to create a divergent and interesting music video.
Which identity will you pick? Who will you choose to live on? What will happen to the rest? Created for experimental film class, the project was to answer the question of Identity through video game ethics.
My portfolio page is an ever-growing site for interesting and intuitive interaction. Still in development, my site will eventually lend itself to more net.art related works, animations and experimentation. Take your time to navigate through the 3D space and enjoy!


Please visit my site at DanielLeyva.com for more work samples and resumé! Thank you!



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