Thursday, October 8, 2009

1939 World's Fair in Reaction Grid

Trilon, Perisphere
Location: Perisphere Interior, Overlooking Democracity

From the Code 1 orientation area at Reaction Grid, a quick teleport takes the visitor to a very impressive showcase of what can be done, at very low cost, in Open Sim worlds.

And how they hooked me with the one event I would attend in a time machine: the 1939 New York World's Fair.

I climbed to the interior of the Perisphere to look down on a perfected and logical city of the future, Democracity, and I clicked a device to have the 1939 script read to me in text-chat:
Only such men and women can make the World of Tomorrow what they want it to be...a world for for freemen to enjoy....
Later on, I did what many fair-goers must have wanted to do: go down and look at the perfect world from ground level.

Soon I'll have to tweak the Mac client for Open Sim to play media. The fair has audio from Democracity as well as FDR's talk at the fair.

The deliberate building of the Fair on Reaction Grid reveals the designers' belief in the positive role the virtual worlds of tomorrow--in particular user-built ones--might play in our lives.

Those who want to join in the building can find a notecard-giver by the bridge leading to the Trilon and Perisphere. There are regular meetings in Reaction Grid for enthusiasts and builders.

Democracity 1

Why this fair? And why am I an addict of the event?

I wrote a chapter of my doctoral dissertation about the fair, a moment of technological euphoria just as the stormclouds over Europe were about to break. There was, then, a race between vision and catastrophe that reminds me of our lives today.

The script for Democracity could well describe our virtual utopias:
The meaning is simple: Consciously or not, we are building the World of Tomorrow; creating the symbols of living; not each for himself, but all together.
Indeed. And from memory of an event I never attended, I'll quote the Fair's anthem. "Unfurl the flag, roll the drum! To the World of Tomorrow we come! See the sun through the gray! It's the dawn of a new day!"

Yes, I am a junkie of an event that occurred before I was born. My poor uncle, who shot himself because of nightmares spawned by his time as a bombardier in WW II, went to that fair. I have a cuff-pin, a little Trilon and Perisphere, that he brought back to his mother. Granny hoped he would become a well-known inventor. It was a time when that was possible; he sold the rights to a machine that sorted mail. Instead of building machines for a better tomorrow, he went on to ride in the nose of a B-24 Liberator and rain death down on European cities.

So much seemed possible when the fair opened its gates out in Queens. On eBay I scored the pin shown here. Every person who toured General Motors' Futurama got one.

They believed so hard in a brighter future, one where good planning and common sense would bring a technological utopia, that it saddens me today. Consider this description of the little suburban villages that would surround the sky-scrapered urban core:
Here it is...and we like it. It's attractive and sensible at the same time. It's pleasant because we've spent a lot of money to make it so....at a low-tax rate, too - because we haven't wasted money. Centerton has the main library, for scholars, while Pleasantville and Millville have their branch libraries.
While downtown:
No new religion has been founded...no old religion has been affected...In the hub of a city a great place of worship does not displace others...it is a center for prayer that unites all creeds....Certain things you've become accustomed too, you'll miss in Democracity. You'll miss the slums...and all the crime that breeds in the slums...and all the nervous discomfort of overgrown cities and the smokey air and the dark rooms and sunless streets and the noise....you'll miss these.
It makes so much sense, like some travelogue delivered in a measured pace at a Lion's Club meeting. No wonder so many dreamers love that fair.

How, then, did we end up with a pot-holed, polluted, and war-wracked version of that future? Ironically, in virtual worlds like Reaction Grid we might begin to ask some of those questions.

Get on over to Reaction Grid and have a look what what never could have been in real life, yet should have been.

7 comments:

MaggieL said...

One might even ask why the difference between the "City Of The Future" and the cities of the present so much resembles the difference between promotional Second Life screenshots and the actual mainland...

Alan said...

Thanks for sharing this, I am eager to try Reaction Grid now- I've been fascnicated about Chicago 1896 Worlds fair Worlds Fair after reading "Devil in the White City" http://www.amazon.com/Devil-White-City-Madness-Changed/dp/0375725601

Joey said...

Thank you for this write up. I am one of the primary builders for the Reconstruction Project, and it delights me to see a great write up about our endeavor. I certainly hope you'll come back to see more!!

Blogasaurus said...

Hi, really cool Iggy. When does that group meet?

Iggy O said...

Iggy Strangeland just logged in to have a look at when the builder's group meets on the first Friday of every month at 2pm, Pacific Daylight Time.

For your Map, you'll want to use:

World's Fair 1, WF1 (165, 89, 29)

I don't know if SLURLS work in RG.

I just met the organizer of the project--it's on 4 sims. I'll do an interview soon and have more information for all fair-fanatics.

Arielion said...

Looking forward to trying out the Reaction Grid & this sim in particular. As a boy my family had an antique volume of The Book of Knowledge from 1939 that had the same sense of excitement about the fair that your article has. I look forward to travelling back in time to a dream we can all be part of making a reality.

Brad said...

A big part of both 1939-1940 fairs was simple denial. Everyone knew that all hell was about to break loose in the world. I'm sure that the organizers knew that attempting to stop it was a fools errand. Nonetheless, history should give them credit for their attempt to suggest something better. Plus, the giant typewriter is HELLA cool! "Holy ostentation, Batman!"