Rhizomatics – Cheating?


Thoughts on cheating for the Rhizomatics class…

To be clear, cheating in the context does not mean “cheating on a test” cheating, or “plagiarizing from Wikipedia” cheating.

I’m not sure yet what it does mean.

But here is my cheat for the first week of class. It is an image I made, a collage composed of several images shot in Second Life, and then composed in layers in GIMP. I added a real world image of a Greek manuscript.

It’s a cheat because I did not make it for this class. I am repurposing earlier work. I created it to illustrate a blog post on Sudden Spoon, a close reading of Adrienne Rich’s poem Diving into the Wreck. You can see that whole post here:


and Rich’s poem here:


And here is why the photo is significant to me…although I am not entirely satisfied with its composition. Something is lacking.

It’s part of my own art. Second Life photography (and the manipulation of it) is the visual medium which has given me the most success and satisfaction.

It is layered, in both creative method and in content. There are four images of the mermaid, who is my Second Life avatar in a mermaid costume. I think I used two different diving/swimming down poses, from different angles, shot in an underwater sim with a shipwreck in the background. Somewhere in the layers there is a shipwreck, but I am not sure I can pick it out…hmm…looking…I think in the upper left there are some ribs, right at the edge. There are amphorae. There is lots of dark floating hair. There is a layer of Greek text from a manuscript of Hercules, courtesy of Wikimedia (in the original, you can make out little drawings of the hero between the lines).

Although putting all the elements together in a way that pleased me was entirely my own work, it is a product of community. The avatar shape, skin, and hair, and mermaid costumes: each was made by a different SL creator, either as a business venture or just for the love of it. So was the shipwreck. The amphorae. The poses that allowed me to pose my avatar as a diving mermaid, then circle my camera around myself for to take pics. Also involved: The friends who answered me when I posted the message: “Hey, anyone know any good underwater sims for photography?” And my Second Life partner (now my real life husband) who put up with my popping in and out of our home in mermaid dress for an afternoon and sending messages like “still shooting.” Even the creators who worked up different lighting schemes for photographers to use in SL. And certainly my SL mentors in both photography and GIMP.

GIMP, by the way, is sort of another cheat for me. And I don’t mean that I am cheating by using it instead of shelling out for Photoshop. I cheated in learning it. Instead of continuing to learn the hard way, beating my head against the incomprehensibly geeky wall of the manual, experimenting, playing with menus, asking friends, reading blogs, watching Youtube videos….

I cheated. I broke down, shelled out $40 (a lot of money for me), and took a class titled GIMP for Second Life. An actual ten week course, with homework.

It is an image that speaks to me of exploration, danger, mystery, myth. I hope it resonates with Rich’s poem.

Dang it. Sharks. It needs sharks. That’s what’s missing. Or maybe a good manta ray. (I stumbled across a great manta ray avatar recently. A freebie. I wore it one night to teach my photography class, on a night that we went to an underwater sim for a field trip. With a big pool in the classroom for the lecture portion of class.)


Comments RSS
  1. jaapsoft2

    In arts cheating is the way, if i am playing in a small band, and lost trace, it is important to cheat until i manage to go with the band again. Nobody must know one of us failed. The show must go on.
    dave Cormier has another story about cheating, read his p2pu comments or his blog davecormier.com is it i think

    • Elizabeth Evans

      I like your explanation, Jaap. I used to attend a church that had a very open policy about who could use the mic at the front… it was common for the band to settle down to quiet chords to let someone speak, or for music to meld into a word from the pastor. The pastor himself often played guitar in the band, and he had a cheat for these times… a recorded loop of a chord progression that he would kick in to play. He didn’t use it all the time, but gave himself a rest sometimes and activated it. If you weren’t WATCHING him on the guitar you wouldn’t notice him suddenly moving from playing chords himself to resting while someone spoke at the mic.

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