Thursday, June 28, 2007

Hermeneutic World's Fair Avatars

I am at a conference.

I'm in a large meeting room space. People mill about, waiting for the session to start. A series of PowerPoint slides are shown on two large screens at the front of the room.

According to one slide, this a conference on Race and Class Issues in the Hermeneutics of Genomic Virtual Spaces.

It is being organized by my employer. My boss is supposed to give the first presentation, but she isn't there.

She has given me a copy of her PowerPoint slides so that I can give the presentation. But I am also aware that she has given the slides to six other people and told each of them to give the presentation as well.

I stand at the back of the room, rather uninterested and uninvolved in the whole thing.

An administrator from the university stands up and brings the crowd to order. As people take their seats, she begins to speak, going through my boss's presentation.

The crowd becomes restless, shifting in their chairs, coughing and looking over the program.

A couple of people in the crowd float away.

Then a few more. And a few more.

Soon, only five or six people are left in the room; the rest have floated away through the ceiling and disappeared.

I notice that the people in the room are strange - some are real people, while others are Second Life avatars.

The administrator stops the presentation, a little unnerved, and announces that the conference is canceled.

I walk out of the conference room. It appears that I am in some kind of high-tech hotel. There are little Internet kiosks scattered here and there and a few people - both real and Second Life avatars - wandering around or chatting with each other. Some have devices resembling iPhones or laptops; others have devices that look like something out of the 1960s version of 'Star Trek'.

Both the "real" people and the avatars have little "bubbles" that appear over their heads as they chat, indicating what they were saying, sort of like instant messaging.

There are walls made out of glass or some other material, from floor to ceiling, that allow me to see outside. The hotel is part of some type of large complex with futuristic buildings. Outside one wall, I can see something that looks like the Biosphere; going down the hall further, I can see buildings that resemble the Trylon and Perisphere from the 1939 New York Word's Fair. Beyond that is a structure that looks like the Eiffel Tower.

I continue walking and come to a large door with a space on it to place my hand - I put my palm on the device on the door and it beeps and blurps, opening automatically with other assorted technology noises.

I walk into a large, multi-story hotel suite as the door closes behind me. The place looks run down and dilapidated, much like it hadn't been remodeled since the 1980's. There are people there, but they don't seem to pay any attention to me. They look like tourists and have eighties hairstyles and clothing.

I walk up a flight of steps to the second floor of the hotel suite. I go around a corner and suddenly find myself in a small, dimly lit room.

"This way," a man says.

The man is dressed in a kind of uniform. There are other men around me.

We are all dressed in older-style suits and ties. We wear fedoras with a small card in the headband of the hat that reads "PRESS".

The man in the uniform is conducting a tour.

He directs our attention to a window on the wall. But it isn't a window - it's a one-way mirror that allows us to look into a large auditorium filled with people.

There are dozens and dozens of people in the auditorium - men, women and children of all ages. Each is dressed in 1930's clothing. They sit in the audience, listening to a man on stage addressing them. He is dressed in modern clothing.

The tour guide explains that these people all went to sleep in a kind of suspended animation at the end of the 1939 New York World's Fair. They are being updated on what had happened in the world since they had been asleep.

The guide notes that this group of people first went into suspended animation at the Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in the 1890's and they wake up during each world's fair.

For some reason not understood by scientists, they slept through the New York 64 World's Fair, Expo 66 and the Knoxville World's Fair.

The speaker in the auditorium shows them objects and technology of 2007, explaining how the things worked.

The audience seems interested, but not very animated.

The speaker tells them about advances in television - that there are now over 500 channels available and that there are big tv's that look like movie screens that hang on the wall of the average American home.

The crowd seems surprised. They talk to each other excitedly and enthusiastically applaud.

And then I woke up.

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