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Cyber-Earth 1996

The Global Virtual Village

We are experiencing a veritable Cyber-Bang with unforeseeable consequences. The virtual economy is beginning to profoundly forge a new society, by accelerating the dematerialization of flow, increasing informational short-circuits, restructuring information processing markets, and generalizing "disintermediation", but also by provoking new cultural inequalities between the "info-rich" and the "info-poor".

All the ingredients of a radical revolution have been brought together: instantaneous, ubiquitous communication of information with high added value, infinite replicability of images and sounds at increasingly low cost, flexible, inventive cybernavigation interfaces blending virtual reality, interactive 3D images and networks, and powerful "intelligent" terminals. Being both planetary and synchronous, this technical revolution also announces unprecedented economic and social upheaval. Nations and states used to managing "real" territory have not yet worked out how to adapt to cyberspace. The radicalization of telework and the generalization of delocalized, virtualized cyberfirms will be a frontal shock for classical visions of the world attuned to centrality, territoriality, and materiality.

Virtual reality is going global and the world is virtualizing. Electrons defy frontiers and mega-octets scoff at laws. Cyberbanks are filling up with electronic money and cyber-cash, virtual casinos are opening in the Bahamas, "virtual lotteries" are being organized in Liechtenstein, and dream creatures are getting undressed "live" on Internet, while dialoguing with their clients. Computer graphics have become so realistic that they are henceforth indistinguishable from natural images. 3D clones perfectly simulate our appearance, and motors of knowledge surf intelligently across the oceans of cyberspace.

"Virtual" reality and "augmented" reality are henceforth on a par with "real" reality, and this situation is triggering an endless series of ethical and philosophical consequences. Our relationship with the "real" world is changing in nature, since in a sense the virtual world is becoming just as real as the real world. What "value" do things have in a world in the grips of virtual technology? What does "work" mean at a time where the virtual dumping of work has become a general trend? What of the derealization of social links? What of control ensured by the nation states? We are in the throes of painful labor, as is befitting: the civilization of the third millenary is being born before our very eyes.

Philippe Quéau

Imagina Program Chairman

A Three-day Conference on Computer Graphics, Virtual Reality, Special Effects, Cyberspace.

Auditorium Rainier III

Simultaneous translation into French, English, German, Italian and Spanish.

Opening Ceremony

Wednesday 21 February

First Session

10.30 am to 1.00 pm

Intelligent Interaction

To act better, we must know how to interact. In the world of networks and real time, it is no longer possible to be a loner: intelligence goes in numbers. By exploring the concepts of "artificial life" or "distributed simulation", virtual communities are seeking new ways of interacting collectively, more intelligently. Rather than the realism of "clones", what really counts is quality of the virtual encounter.

Second Session

3.00 to 6.00 pm

3D Animation

"Toy Story" is the first 3D computer graphics feature film in history. While this is obviously a milestone, there is already clearly a boom in animation productions and alternatives. Real time techniques allow companies to launch serialized sagas. Hyper-realist image quality virtually immerses spectators in narration. Artists are thus drawing us into their animated visions and dreams.

Thursday 22 February

Third Session

10.00 am to 1.00 pm

At the boundaries of cyber-existence

Telepresence, televirtuality and other forms of "cyber-existence" are characterized by an increasingly subtle dissociation of body, gaze, and action. Where is a tele-surgeon? Is he where his body is, or where he is operating? Cloning and telesimulation dilute boundaries between real and virtual bodies. Reciprocally, "ubiquitous computing" is stealing into the intimacy of our bodies, to innervate and stimulate them, and to hybridize them with the networks.

Fourth Session

3.00 to 6.00 pm

3D Navigation

Internet is a new America, and at the same time, the ocean separating us from this new continent: we shall have to learn to become the Columbus and Ulysses of the virtual world, and navigate between "sites" and "links". Along with other tools, 3D techniques are henceforth rallying the World Wide Web to provide us with more intuitive navigation interfaces, and to optimize groupware techniques. VRML and Java are showing the way. Will we be able to reach a timely agreement on open standards?

Friday 23 February

Fifth Session

10.00 am to 1.00 pm

From virtual banks to cyber casinos

Virtual money seems to be unavoid-able and imminent. Economic and financial transactions on Internet represent colossal stakes. But while there are numerous technical solutions, the crucial question is of a political kind: will nation states accept to be divested of their privilege to mint money? Will they accept to give up their role as a means of financial and social control, in an economy which is gradually being dematerialized? What will be done about virtual tax havens, cyber-casinos, and laundering of illicit gains?

Sixth Session

3.00 to 6.00 pm

Special spectacle

New special effects are constantly extending the limits of illusion and multiplying the pleasure we derive from things visible. Such effects are hilar-ious in Babe, spine-chilling in Species, more real than reality in Apollo 13, and shocking in Krakken. They are diversifying steadily, through deliberately discreet and indiscernable manifestations, or violently overwhelming forms. Faced with competition from the latest gener-ations of games and the impact of "reality parks", is digital technology the cinema's last chance?

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