Electronic musician and artist Donald Baynes, aka FSK1138, spent 10-12 hours a day exploring 3D virtual worlds in 1996 and 97. But now he spends less than 3 hours a week online. He spent an hour of his weekly Internet time chatting with me from a park to tell me why he decided to unplug.
Klint Finley: You say you were “addicted” to virtual reality in the late 90s. How did you get started with VR and what were you doing with it?
FSK1138: During that time – I was what you would call cyberpunk – I spent days plugged into a body suit, data glove, and HMD [head mounted display]. I explored virtual worlds and was surfing the web in 3D. Searching, always searching, for others and A.I out there in the sea of information.
What sort of equipment were you using?
Virtual io HMD, Nintendo Powerglove, dual cpu pPRO.
Did you have broadband back then or was this on dial-up?
I was using dial-up but I moved to Toronto because there was faster Internet – this thing called ISDN.
I remember ISDN. Basically it was using two phone lines to achieve faster speeds, right?
Yes. It was a dream – so much faster. It made 3D surfing VRML [Virtual Reality Markup Language] a reality.
So you were surfing VRML sites then? What were those virtual worlds like back then?
Low rez – like Quake or the first DOOM but at the lowest settings. There was a whole underworld of VRML BBS sites at the time.
And what did you typically do on the BBSes? Chat, socialize?
Chat, socialize, share data – much like what people are doing right now but like the Sims or SecondLife.
Are you still using VR?
No – I think it is a very bad thing. Even back then 3D was considered bad for your eyes and brain. I don’t think we were made for this type of input.
What makes you say that?
The reaction of any one who has seen avatar – when people who have seen it talk about it they always seem to have a smile on their face – the same smile…
He later sent me this article mentioning health concerns surrounding prolonged 3D gaming in children
You say now use the Internet for less than 3 hours a week and do not own a TV, phone, or stove. What brought you to the point that you decided you had to unplug like that?
I lived in Guyana for 4 years. You can have days when you have no power, and I survived. I feel that people think that the Internet will always be there. I feel it will not and the day is coming soon. I have seen the Internet change over the years – it has changed alot. The day is coming, I feel, that the can not remain a free utility.
Life really is not hard without technology if you learn to live without it. But if you’re addicted – what then?
When did you decide to cut back your use of technology?
When I realized it was taking up so much of my time – 2007 – I started closing down websites that I was using. I cut back to Myspace and YouTube – there were so many. And I cut my surfing – I use RSS now, I do not surf. By 2008 I did not have a landline or cell or Internet at home.
Above: Video FSK1138’s “Catch the Man,” a cover of Front 242’s “Headhunter.”
It looks like you use a lot of technology to make your music – have you thought about going towards a more low-tech approach to making music?
I am in a way back to where I started with making music. When I could not get a sampler or computer I used found objects – metal and glass and things you could bang together to make noise.
So you’re not using computers for music music any more?
I am using computers still – I just did a track for The 150-Years-of-Music-Technology Composition Competition.
Do you have any opinions of augmented reality? Have you used any AR applications?
I think is a cool concept. I just hope it doesn’t become the next form of spam.
Above: Video for FSK1138’s “Digital Drug”
June 5, 2010 at 7:09 pm
great story but I disagree completely that we aren’t “made” to perceive a digital 3D reality. Our perception is based on depth and time, and transposing as real-world environment onto a digital one makes little difference – it’s all information stimulus to the neurons. I also don’t subscribe to the concept that we’re made at all, we evolve, and that entails adapting to survive, even in a reality of our own design.
Very interesting stuff.
June 6, 2010 at 7:43 pm
the framerate on reality is too effin’ slow!
June 21, 2010 at 9:54 am
very interesting, nice one yet again Klint!
July 19, 2010 at 6:51 pm
As a VRML developer (CosmoWorlds 2.0)in the ’90’s I spent years trying to convince my Usability clients (mainly financial organizations) how to visualize & explore data in 3+ dimensions. I see no real quantitative improvement of the way we view infomation since the BBS days. We’re limited by seeing URL destinations as ‘pages’ and not as ‘doors’. The simulator sickness is more related to hardware & perception limitations in my opinion. A 65 year-old would have convulsions trying to keep up with a HALO or other MMO’s, which are the true heirs of VRML technology. We just have to adapt our perceptions to view that much data.
July 20, 2010 at 5:44 pm
It seems that he has made the is-ought mistake; that is, saying, this is the way things are (we are not built for technology), therefore this is the way things should be (we ought to not use technology, i.e. VR). It seems to me that some of the problems he outlines are not insolubale problems (i.e. VR can be displayed in ways that do not conflict with the way we ‘naturally’ view the world), and neither should the onus be placed entirely upon technology to conform to our presuppositions about and our evolved tendancies/capacities in regard to what is ‘natural’.
March 5, 2011 at 2:20 am
I like the comment: re: Internet will one day be extinct. Maybe soon. Every second now is a memory.