As we mentioned earlier, there’s a surprisingly high number of chairs, sofas and other furniture in the game Second Life allowing one’s avatar to sit down in different positions. The first observation a new Second Life player makes, is usually a non understanding of the use of a chair in the virtual environment. The body of an avatar doesn’t get tired therefore there is no need for it to rest, so there’s no understanding for the sit down button in the menu either. But exploring the game for a longer time allows for another observation and that is, the avatars actually are sitting down on many occasions. Stephan Doesinger makes a very important point that “sitting in a chair, real or virtual, communicates a commitment to the space; a seated person is settled in, not likely to leave, and engaged with what’s going on in the space. In contrast, people or avatars that are standing feel transient. They’ re just observing until they sit down. In Second Life sitting down sends a similar message as taking off a coat or setting down a purse.
” (2008, 70)Understanding this, the importance of the act of sitting in the virtual environment, there’s a need for a change in criteria judgment. The way the critics (mozno najst este nejake priklady na to), the new game users, some designers are calling objects such as furniture in virtual reality obsolete might be in some cases unprecise.The way that the virtual reality is presented in the mainstream and the way a user thinks about it is hopefully about to change. The misunderstanding and the seeing of no purpose reminds of the critique that is directed towards some of the Peter Eisenman’s architecture.Case study of Peter Eisenman’s House series with help of Umberto Eco´s Function and sign: The semiotics of ArchitecturePeter Eisenman’s work received critique from other architects “Architecture is something for living, not a language.
My mother wants a house for living, not a language. It isn’t possible to live in a language,” (Zumthor, 2010) and clients as well, mainly for the House VI for Mr. and Mrs. Richard Frank. The main concern was with livability, where Eisenman ‘ purposely ignoring the idea of form following function’ placed a ‘glass slot in the center of the wall in the bedroom continuing through the floor that divides the room in half, forcing there to be separate beds on either side of the room so that the couple was forced to sleep apart from each other’ (Perez, 2010).
There is however a different way of analyzing the design of this house and that is semiotics, where Eisenman’s architecture ‘serves as a meaningful text rather than functional machine’ (Scherer, 2012). The thesis takes this example and discusses the possibility of replicating it in the analysis of virtual architecture and suggests a change in criteria of judgment that could lead to a change of the view on architecture in virtual environment. What happens if we stop perceiving virtual reality as means to represent physical worlds, but start to see it as a possibility for new ‘virtual architecture’? This example perfectly illustrates how different point of views can impact the result of one’s observations and will serve as a precedent for the semiotic analysis of the chair in the virtual environment which will ultimately lead to an analysis of architecture in the virtual reality. Before jumping to the new definition of the virtual architecture which is the goal of this thesis, we first need to better understand the ideas and principles of semiotics in both architecture and virtual reality.
Semiotics and architectureThe most basic definition of semiotics, as a British visual semiotician, Daniel Chandler, puts it is the study of signs. (2017, 1). The Umberto Eco’s definition is very similar: “semiotics is concerned with everything that can be taken as a sign” (1967,7). So what we need to do is to look into what could be considered as a sign and how do we interpret it. The two most important figures involved in the forming of the semiotics were Ferdinand de Saussure and Charles Sanders Peirce. They both developed their ideas in the early 1900s.
Even though Saussure was based in Switzerland and Pierce in America, there were a lot of significant similarities in their studies. (Crow 2016, p.13)Saussure centred his studies around the idea of a sign, which as he explains consists of a signifier and signified. In Hattenhauer’s words “The signifier is that which conveys meaning.
The meaning is the signified.” or even simpler “The signifier is the form; the signified is the message.” (1984, 72) In our context, the chair consists of a signifier, the legs, the backrest and a a seat; as well as the signified, it suggest sitting and resting your body. He also makes another very important point, which Umberto Eco also explains in his essay Function and sign: The semiotics of Architecture (1997) a that is, in order to understand what a signifier signifies one must be able to recognize the code. (1984, 72)Eco explains this theory on the example of an ‘idea of the cave’ where a cave gave a prehistoric man shelter against weather.
This and the shape of the cave would then stick in his mind and so he would be able to recognize other caves no matter the different location, shape, condition; the abstract idea of the cave would be codified. (1997, 175)This principle is very important in the case of learning a new technology because of a very simple reason: the meaning of its elements has yet not been codified in our minds. This understanding brings a whole new light on the subject of skeuomorphism, that we talked about in the second chapter, and will be crucial to the creation of nowadays definition of ‘virtual architecture’ since we are still standing only on the beginning of the architecture in the virtual environment. There are another two key principles we need to explore before proceeding to the final chapter and these could be expressed in these two questions: Why does a throne signify a different meaning than a regular kitchen chair even though they both have the same signifiers (the legs, the backrest and a a seat)?