If I Were U / Si j'étais toi
If I Were U / Si j'étais toi (IIWU) is a game environment that explores an "economy of the gaze" for collective use on the Web. Plunged in darkness, this environment materializes the gaze of each user into a luminous projection. Each user perceives the gaze of the others and sees what they see. In this way, the gaze is materialized as a sensorial vector (the light beam is used to see) and becomes a "resource" to facilitate exchanges. The management of gazes is tallied in the currency of "points of view" or "POVs" and is the basis of IIWU's playful aspect.
Jacques Perron © 2004 FDL
On the Web, the IIWU environment is shared between the various players who meet there. The architecture of this environment is modular and made up of a variable number of "rooms." Each room identifies a player and symbolizes his or her "home," which can be constructed and manipulated. Taken as a whole, these rooms, which lead from one to the other, constitute IIWU's game environment.
Like building blocks, these rooms are exclusively built and furnished from a single module common to all: a small black cube, which is a sort of 3D pixel that has no texture but has properties of reflection and absorption of light. Starting from an elementary three-dimensional system, the users can engage in a type of construction game where they assemble these cubes to furnish or lay out their rooms and set POV traps. Totally black and plunged in darkness, these rooms are revealed by the light of the gazes: the players' light beams embrace the forms resulting from the arrangement of cubes.
While the visual environment in black and white tends toward abstraction, the sound, on the other hand, allows the player to find his or her bearings; it also completes our visual perception and stimulates our imagination, much like a branch snapping in the deep of the night. The various noises constitute the sound of both the environment itself and of the different players, particularly when they move about. Rather than being redundant with the visual elements, the sound intervenes off-screen in a way that continually rekindles the desire to see more. This desire goes hand in hand with the necessity to be active and make progress in the environment in order to obtain POVs; ultimately, these allow each user to develop his or her room and take part in this economy of the gaze. It is this economy that draws on the materialization of the gaze in order to increase our understanding of it and to present a very real situation today - the "pay per view" concept and audience ratings could soon become the determining factors of any media paradigm's viability.
The art project IIWU led to the development of two softwares distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License:
- "Muon3D," a multi-user 3D engine, developed under the supervision of Yann Creac'h;
- "FluidSynth," a synthesizer software for interactive, multi-user sound design, developed under the supervision of Peter Hanappe (http://www.fluidsynth.org).
IIWU was technically supported and financed by the fondation Daniel Langlois pour l'art, la science et la technologie, and has received financial support from the French Ministry of Culture (the Dicream program), and from the Société Civile des Auteurs Multimédias. IIWU is produced by the Dispothèque association.