>YELLOWSTONE > pondering parallel realities 


“…there will be two realities: the actual, and the virtual.
Thus there is no simulation, but substitution. Reality has become symmetrical.
The splitting of reality in two parts is a considerable event
which goes far beyond simulation. “

This quote by Paul Virilio was taken from an interview titled "Cyberwar, God and Television >Read interview

Virtual reality seems to have shifted its focus from being a means to an end (e.g. the simulation of certain situations in the context of research or education) to becoming an entity onto itself in which people no longer participate in a simulation but rather create for themselves a parallel life in a virtual place.

This idea of parallel realities becomes visible in virtual spaces when people build their virtual environments to mimic 'real' spaces they know as closely as possible. ActiveWorlds' Yellow or Yellowstone has attempted to recreate certain features from the realworld natural environment in virtuality. In this walk, you will look at images of the virtual and real Yellowstone side by side.

The photos from the 'real' YELLOWSTONE were found on FLICKR, a large online photo-sharing resource. For more info, click here.

As you explore Yellow, think about how your body differentiates between
inside vs. outside, urban vs. nature.

  • How does this 'disembodied' (=removed from your physical body) experience change your experience of space?
  • Which of the senses (sight / hearing / touch / smell / taste / movement through space) are activated in the virtual environment? Which are left out?
705N 1078E


If you have not yet teleported to Yellow -
follow these steps:

  • Open the AW plug-in (click the shortcut icon
    on your desktop - to start up the program)
  • Log in by entering a user name and your email address.
  • Teleport to Yellow
    Select Teleport from the AW plug-in window.
    Enter the AW coordinates listed in the box on the left.
Arriving in the Yellowstone visitor lodge

Set your avatar's visibility to >float

Have a look around the lodge.

  • What kind of environment is staged here?
  • What is the purpose of a visitor center?

Walk towards the doors.
Mouse click on a door to open it and exit the building.

Cross the road. Walk towards the 'Yellow' sign. Turn around your avatar to have a look at the visitor center.

The virtual Yellowstone visitor center


One of the 'real' Yellowstone’s visitor centers as photographed by Jasperdo - as posted on Flickr:


A virtual bull elk


Behind the Yellow sign, you may have discovered one of Yellowstone’s virtual bull elk.

Approach this elk to have a closer look at it.


Here is a link to a photo of ‘the real thing’:
Yellowstone Bull Elk as witnessed by Jeff Clow



Now it’s time to experience The Great Outdoors! Fly… look around… see the landscape literally unfold (or load) before your eyes… look for deer, bears, wolves... Explore!


  • Use the + (plus) key to move your avatar up. Pressing it several times will increase the lift.
  • Use the (up/down/left/right) arrow keys to fly around.
  • Use - (minus) key to move down.
  • Use the three 'virtual eye' buttons at the top of the AW window to look up or down or straight ahead.
    Pressing a key more than once increases the effect.
  • You can change your visibility if you want to get a better sense of what else there is to see. This does slow things down because more data needs to load to display the virtual landscape.


To visit particular destination in Yellow – From the menu along the top of the AW window select
>Teleport > (enter the coordinates provided with each destination listed below)


“The allure of this cyberscape was the impression that it was responsive to me, as if my gaze itself were creating (or performing) this world and that I was to some extent enunciating it according to my own desire”
(p. 182)

"...electronically produced virtual realms and induced experiences are only superficially about technology. They are about transcendence (even when in degraded forms of sex, shopping, highspeed driving, combat, and so forth).”
(p. 179)

These quotes by Margaret Morse were taken from her 1998 book
"Virtualities: Television, Media Art, and Cyberculture."

Transcendence literally means 'climbing or going beyond'. It refers to (spiritual) experiences of being completely away from or outside of this world.

  • As you fly through Yellow, do you feel that your gaze is '"creating this world"?
  • Do you think that experiences in virtual spaces are about transcendence?
    Why or why not?
Watching the landscape unfold before you
A virtual Ansel Adams?

World: yellow
Coordinates: 728N 1078E

Directing your gaze North, you will see some grey 'tiles' that indicate the location of Yellow's geysers. Fly towards the geysers and watch them unfold before your eyes.

You may want to increase your visibilty to 150-200 m. by selecting >Visibilty from the menu at the top of the AW interface window.

The higher your visibility range - the longer the scenery will take to load.


Yellowstone Geysers as seen by Markus Nixon:

One of Yellowstone’s geysers as photographed by renowned black&white photographer Ansel Adams:

Yellow Caverns entrance
The waterfall

World: yellow
Coordinates: 748N 1078E


Yellowstone Grand Cavern as photographed by Old Aunt Amy using her Holga camera:


World: yellow
Coordinates: 740N 1121E


Yellowstone Waterfall by “a walk on the wild side nature photography”


Aerial view of the Building Contest area
As they say... Starbucks is everywhere!
World: yellow
Coordinates: 727N 1151E

Explore some of the structures people have built here . A mouseclick on the door and it will open.

Like many other virtual spaces, Yellow is constructed of many repeated elements - animated animals like the bears, wolves and elk, sound loops of bird song or crackling fire, virtual objects like trees or doors or carpets, textures to make surfaces look like brick or wood...

  • How are ‘repeated elements’ integrated into your real-life environment?
  • How do you experience repetition in the virtual environment? Does it take away from the ‘reality’ of the virtual?
  • How do people give shape to their dreams, ideas, and experiences of daily life in the structures they build?
  • Do you think that virtual worlds operate like theatre stage props against which avatars perform their social role playing?

In the next part of our walk we will look at virtual spaces as theatres or theme parks in which its creators exhibit exotic collections of virtual objects ...



Virtual tours of the ‘real’ Yellowstone National Park:

Webcam of Old Faithful geyser:

> continue walk through BLUPEARL

> BLOG about your DATA TRAVELER experiences

>start >aw gate



>blupearl >blog
>start >aw gate



>blupearl >blog