Media Theory for the 21st Century

February 12, 2008

CSI: NY & Second Life

Filed under: Discussion — reneehudson @ 8:12 am

My presentation will focus on a recent CSI: NY episode, “Down the Rabbit Hole.” In the episode, Detective Mac Taylor, the leader of the team, must explore the virtual world of Second Life in order to track down a killer. The show presents a complex relationship between play and embodiment which I think will be useful to look at in relation to Professor Hayles’ piece we read this week. While I will show relevant clips during my presentation, here’s the gist of the main plot: A janitor discovers the body of a woman named Cheryl Miller, who is dressed as her Second Life avatar, Venus. The CSI team eventually learn that an assassin tortured Cheryl Miller in order to gain her username and password for the game. The assassin then killed her and used Venus’s popularity to lure the avatars of various politicians into real-life dates, where they were promptly executed. The assassin is not caught at the end of the episode (though the team comes close to it), which is intended to direct viewers to The CSI : NY Virtual Experience. The Virtual Experience allows users to BE the show (according to the preview) by solving crimes within the virtual world of CSI: NY.

Using this episode, I will explore the relationship between pattern and presence as described by Professor Hayles. I am also interested in what people think of how simulation shapes reality on multiple levels – the effects of Second Life on the “real” life murders in the show, the show as a simulation of real life which creates real life communities (as evidenced by the fact that the creators clearly saw there was a market for the game) which then return to Second Life.

I’m not sure if there will be time for me to discuss spectatorship comprehensively as it pertains to the show, but perhaps that’s a conversation that can continue to develop on the blog. In the meantime, it would be awesome if you thought about how playing the game might alter how you view / participate with the show. It’s rumored that the game will play an increasing role in the show – yet another feedback loop where the show caused viewer interest in a game which will in turn create heightened interest in the game. I think that’s about it for now – contemplating all the feedback loops is about to make my head explode.

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