The Third Space

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Week 3: January 28 – February 3 (Adobe Connect)

Our first session in Adobe Connect will offer an opportunity to experience the concept of the third space, conducted in the medium itself: a shared electronic space with remote participants connected via the network. We will explore the psychological and conceptual dimensions of the third space, notions of distributed presence, the dissolution of the object, disembodiment, the immaterial, and the intimacy of the telematic embrace. We will discuss how performance draws from the collective experience of the Network, live media, remote location, mobility, transformations of geographical perception in time and space, and how the third space lends itself to artistic realization. A review of historical third space projects: networked art, satellite broadcasts,, leading to more contemporary works of cyber / networked performance art.

Schedule / Assignments

  • Tuesday, 1/28: Class meeting (8:00 PM – 11:00 PM, Adobe Connect)
    • Adobe Connect: the third space classroom as a visceral experience of the virtual: discussion of distributed presence, dissolution of the object, disembodiment, the telematic embrace, the collective experience, live media, remote location, mobility, geographical perception
    • Look at Student Sites in progress: discussion of WordPress practices, design, layout, widgets, etc.
    • WordPress Techniques: excerpt & the featured image
    • Presentation / review of Week 2: Between the Real & the Virtual
    • Presentation / discussion of Week 3: The Third Space
    • Review of micro-project 2: The Collective Body (OSS Flickr Group), set account Global settings/Who can access your original image files: anyone
  • Micro-project 3: Virtual Soundscape, post in WordPress (see Project Assignments) (due February 4)
  • Critique assigned work with short blog post (approx. 250 words with media) (due February 4)

Hyperlecture – Week 3: The Third Space

“The floating work of art is no longer the expression of a single individual. Neither is it the expression of a collective, but it is the stage of a “connective” – a web of influences that are continually reorganized by all participants.” – Soke Dinkla

Concept of the third space

The third space fundamentally represents the fusion of the physical (first space) and the virtual (second space) into a space that can be inhabited by remote users simultaneously or asynchronously. The hybrid notion of blurring the real and the virtual is expanded in the third space through distributed presence, in which the participants of the third space are in remote physical spaces. Essentially, we are referring to a shared electronic space, in which interaction takes place in space between the real and the virtual. As you can see, the third space extends the notion of the real and the virtual by creating a new kind of hybrid space that allows remote participants to interact both with the work, and with each other.

The third space is not a new concept: speaking on a telephone is a third space experience, or perhaps “phone space,” in which participants are joined together electronically from remote locations for purposes of communication. Watching a movie is not a third space experience, because all of the viewers are watching from the same physical space. However, Adobe Connect is a third space environment, as we use the shared space of the interface to interact, view one another, chat, and give presentations: all while remotely distributed. The third space does not need to be live, it can be realized and experienced asynchronously, such as a Web-based discussion forum or even email and texting, however, the experienced of exchange and participation is heightened when the interaction is live and in real-time.

For our study of the third space, we begin by holding our class in the third space in order to engage in what I like to refer to as a “visceral experience of the virtual.” Perhaps the best way to understand the concept of the third space is to learn, work, and create in this distributed space. Although we are all remotely “jacked” into the network (to coin a term from cyberpunk writer William Gibson), we can inhabit this space together: talk, exchange ideas, smile, laugh, and conduct a class that is nearly the same as one held in the physical space. While we are not physically present, we are in fact *together* in the third space. As the world becomes increasingly networked and digital, this is the reality of the future, and the future is here.

“Performance companies may use this virtual hole in reality not to differentiate the two realities but to combine them. Using the doubling of space synergistically to demarcate a new unified “mixed reality” space.” – Slavoj Zizeki, “Holes in Reality”

The following are artworks spanning over 30 years that embody the idea of the third space:

Hole in Space, Sherrie Rabinowtiz & Kit Galloway (1980)

Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz, founders of the Electronic Café in Santa Monica, California, were among the first artists to begin exploring communications art through satellite technologies. Their seminal work, Hole in Space from 1980, represented one of the earliest examples of live, networked media art. They setup two large projection screens: one at Lincoln Center in New York, the other at Century City in Los Angeles to connect two audiences. Conceived as a participatory event (much like the early Happenings), this unannounced project, setup for three consecutive days, enabled two groups of viewer to see the other live and in real-time across the space of the US, which literally collapsed the experience of the real and the virtual, the local and the remote.

Galloway, Kit; Rabinowitz, Sherrie «Hole in Space»

From Media.Art.Net: Hole in Space was a Public Communication Sculpture [for three days]. On a November evening in 1980 the unsuspecting public walking past the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City, and The Broadway department store located in the open air Shopping Center in Century City (Los Angeles), had a surprising counter with each other. Suddenly head-to-toe, life-sized, television images of the people on the opposite coast appeared. They could now see, hear, and speak with each other as if encountering each other on the same sidewalk. No signs, sponsor logos, or credits were posted—no explanation at all was offered. No self-view video monitors to distract from the phenomena of this life–size encounter. Hole–In–Space suddenly severed the distance between both cities and created an outrageous pedestrian intersection. There was the evening of discovery, followed by the evening of intentional word-of-mouth rendezvous, followed by a mass migration of families and trans–continental loved ones, some of which had not seen each other for over twenty years.

Telematic Dreaming, Paul Sermon (1993)

Artist Statement: Telematic Dreaming was originally produced as a commission for the annual summer exhibition curated by the Finnish Ministry of Culture in Kajaani, with support from Telecom Finland, in June 1992.

Within the third space, two participants lie on beds in remote locations, but together they share a bed in electronic space. Although they are not physically together, there is a strong sense of intimacy and shared presence between the participants. This piece directly questions the sense of intimacy experienced in the third space: the “telematic embrace” of individuals united via the network. When you “touch” another individual in the third space, why do you feel a connection as though you were physically present? Why is there a sense of intimacy in the third space, even though you are remote from the other person(s). Telematic Dreaming asks these questions while looking forward to how we are increasingly engaging with one another and forming relationships in the third space.

Artist Statement: Telematic Dreaming is an installation that was created within the ISDN digital telephone network. Two separate interfaces are located in separate locations, these interfaces in themselves are dynamic installations that function as customized video-conferencing systems. A double bed is located within both locations, one in a blacked out space and the other in an illuminated space. The bed in the light location has a camera situated directly above it, sending a live video image of the bed, and a person (“A”) lying on it, to a video projector located above the other bed in the blacked out location. The live video image is projected down on to the bed with another person (“B”) on it. A second camera, next to the video projector, sends a live video image of the projection of person “A” with person “B” back to a series of monitors that surround the bed and person “A” in the illuminated location. The telepresent image functions like a mirror that reflects one person within another persons reflection.

“Telematic Dreaming” deliberately plays with the ambiguous connotations of a bed as a telepresent projection surface. The psychological complexity of the object dissolves the geographical distance and technology involved in the complete ISDN installation. The ability to exist outside of the users own space and time is created by an alarmingly real sense of touch that is enhanced by the context of the bed and caused by an acute shift of senses in the telematic space. The users consciousness within the telepresent body is controlled by a voyeurism of its self. The cause and effect interactions of the body determine its own space and time, by extending this through the ISDN network, the body can travel at the speed of light and locate itself wherever it is interacting. In “Telematic Dreaming” the user exchanges their tactile senses and touch by replacing their hands with their eyes.

Desktop Theatre: Waiting for, Adriane Jenik (1997)

“Can drama still exist when separated from the body, voice and shared physical space? What new possibilities for language exist in this forum? Combining the allegory, pantomime and political insinuation of Morality Plays, with strategies culled from street theater, puppet shows, and Futurist Sintesi and Surprise Theater, Desktop Theater succeeds in creating an arguably different online (and theatrical) experience… The concern is no longer with the fourth wall (between “actor” and “audience”) but instead with the firewall.”  –Andriane Jenik

Desktop theater involves remote participants engaging in the third space via their avatars. The disembodied nature of the players, with only cartoon-like figures, does not disrupt (entirely) the quality of the drama, but instead gives it a new sense of play, comedy, and human tragedy: all vital elements of theater. Perhaps we sense the tragedy of the voice yearning for meaning and a sense of the real in the virtual space of the graphical user interface?

Playback of video

A country road. Evening. Two roundheads wander within a gif in a state of anticipation. An adaptation of Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett.

Steve Dixon: “A wholly contrary theoretical position is taken by Adriane Jenik and her Desktop Theatre, which takes advantage of the new generation of visual chatroom environments (online chat spaces using avatars and computer graphic backgrounds) such as Time Warner Interactive’s The Palace, as creating environment of her own. In (1997, with Lisa Brenneis), (based on Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot) users play the tramps, typing dialogue into speech bubbles above the fez-wearing head icons (like green tennis balls with dot eyes) of Didi and Gogo; or we can enter as other avatar/characters not in the play, including Godot himself.’s main appeal is its remediation of Beckett.”

When live performance takes place in the third space, with performers stripped of their physical presence represented only by their avatars and speech bubbles, what is left? When audience members can insert themselves into the drama? When new characters are formed by the viewers? How does this form of “remediated theater,” in which the media of the stage is replaced by the media of the screen, impact our relationship to the performers, when even the audience can situate themselves on stage and participate in the performance represented by their own avatars.

Bodies in Flight, Doubplehappiness2 (2000)


Steve Dixon: “British multimedia theater group Bodies in Flight’s collaboration with Singaporean company “spell#7 performance,” Doublehappiness2 developed a fictional Internet love affair on a website and brought it to its denouement in a live theater performance. The charming and cerebral live performance follows the structure of a Singaporean wedding and mixes theater with onstage webcams and digital projections (what the groups call “sampadelic digitalia”). Its cool and knowing take on cyberlove and intercultural relationships is caustically drawn, and its pre-publicity machine was equally laconic:

Publicity: “Shygirl7 met 6wasabe9 in a chatroom. Fluffboy visited hunny.bunny’s website…  Visit the virtual romances on the website as they blossom long-distance, then come and see the lovers perform in the flesh… Doublehappiness2 distils WAPness into a distinctly wet-ware double-take on tweny-first century sex… Who cares if she’s on the other side of the planet, when your text-message finger gets twitchy? Cancel the hotel room; just stay online. Real life’s messy. Do you know where he’s been? Does he? Across continents where differences of language and culture, shoe-size and resistance to disease create turbulence in the flow of information and capital, Doublehappiness jacks into the body that braves time-zones and economy class to get fleshy with another.”

In Doublehappiness2, the transition from the third space to the physical space (or vice-versa) produces interesting distinctions in terms of relationships, love, sex, and marriage. “Real life’s messy,” it states, what does that tell us about life in the third space? Do we prefer the sanitary nature of our third space interactions to the “fleshy” ones in the real world?

An interview with members of Singapore’s Spell#7: Paul Rae, Kaylene Tan, and Evan Tan:

Second Front, Grand Theft Avatar (2008)


From the project Website for Grand Theft Avatar: Second Front robs the Linden Treasury acting as the “currency liberation army.” In a live performance at the San Francisco Art Institute as part of the “From Cinema to Machinima” panel, we impersonated the members of the panel, walked in on Patty Hearst, the receptionist, grabbed the loot and freed it. In a final act of desperation, we rode H-bombs, Slim Pickens style (Stanley Kubrick’s film Dr. Strangelove) into the sunset.

Since the graphical antics of the Palace, Second Life has set the stage for performance events that create nearly believable worlds. While still in the realm of simple animation, Second LIfe provides a multi-user environment for dramatic action, character development, unusual gestural movement, spoken lines, sound effects, and lavish set design. In Grand Theft Avatar, the Second Front company of avatar-actors sabotages Second Life’s monetary system, by robbing the “Linden Treasury” of virtual dollars, the currency actually used commercially by those who inhabit the space. This work is an example of artistically critiquing game structure, in which artists stage counter-narrative that undermines more traditional game structure, while at the same time, commenting on the social and political nature of game strategies.

Second Front is the first performance art group in the online virtual world of Second Life. Founded in 2006, Second Front quickly grew to its current seven-member troupe that includes Gazira Babeli (Italy), Yael Gilks (London), Bibbe Hansen (New York), Doug Jarvis (Victoria), Scott Kildall (San Francisco), Patrick Lichty (Chicago) and Liz Solo (St. Johns).

 Annie Abrahams, Shared Still Life (2010)

telematic Installation télématique,  screen capture 12 2 2010

Artist Statement: Shared Still Life, the central work in the exhibition “If not you not me“, is a telematic still life for mixed media and LED message board. Visitors to HTTP Gallery are invited to communicate with those at Kawenga – territoires numériques a media arts space in Montpellier,  France by arranging objects in the still life and sending messages to one another, with the results visible in a projection in both galleries.

This work explores the idea of the “telematic embrace,” a concept discussed by theorist Roy Ascott in terms of qualities of engagement in networked space. Here, cyberperformance artist Annie Abrahams explores the integration of two physical spaces as sets for a “still life,” in this case: a third space still life since the integration of these elements is only possible in this hybrid electronic space. As the performers combine their telematically connected bodies in the third space, they attempt to reach through the digital divide, to explore a kind of extended human presence across the network. Is this what we experience when we are engaged in a Skype conversation?

From Annie Abrahams essay, “Trapped to Reveal“: Earlier telematic projects such as Sherrie Rabinowitz and Kit Galloway’s Hole in Space (1980) and Electronic Café International (1984) [5] or Paul Sermon’s Telematic Dreaming (1992) [6] did explore relational possibilities in machine mediated environments, but paid little attention to it’s moments of failure or it’s messiness as integrated parts of the relation. I felt it was time to explore the relational conditions and behaviour of humans living in an increasingly technologized society again.

In works such as Shared Still Life, according to Maria Chatzichristodoulou from the exhibition at the Futherfield Gallery in London, “the work is commonplace, messy and malleable. It is about the ‘banal’ reality of everyday life, time passing by, people crossing paths in fractured, desperate or indifferent attempts to communicate. This everyday quality opens up Abrahams’s Shared Still Life to movement, dust, miscommunication, and shared absence.”

Some questions to consider at the close of our study of the third space:

  • How does this work predict future life in the third space?
  • Are we increasingly attempting to navigate this space as part of our everyday lives?
  • Is the third space becoming a replacement of so-called real life in the physical world?
  • Do we prefer life in the third space to life in the first space?

For those students who may be considering a third space performance, here are some interesting technical / conceptual questions to consider, when performers are alone together, from Trapped to Reveal:

  • They are connected, using a webcam, to a shared interface where they can see images and hear the sounds from all the other performers and themselves.
  • This interface has the form of a grid.
  • They share image boundaries and can interact spatially with the other performers.
  • The sound the performer hears is a mix of all the sounds from the other performers.
  • Because of network delays the way the interface has been constructed, no two performers receive the same images and sound at the same time.
  • To avoid delay – difficulties while speaking, performers cannot hear their own voices, and cannot judge their participation in the total sound environment.
  • The performers must wear a headset to avoid feedback.

In closing, a performance by Annie Abrahams, Huis Clos / No Exit – Tout va Bien
for the “Self-Reflexivity and Cinéma Verité” session curated by Martine Neddam
Studium Generale from 2011 “Cinema Clash Continuum – Film & History in the age of Godard”
30 March 2011, Rietveld academy, Amsterdam
With Balthazar Berling, Lola Bezemer, Rozemarijn Hermans,Tirza Kater, Alexander Laurie and Anna Orlikowska

What does a work such as Huis Clos / No Exit – Tout va Bien suggest for the future of cinema in the third space? How might we construct cinematic structures in the third space? Instead of cinema articulating a singular vision, how can third space cinema create a mosaic of visions, a grid of point of views, a composite of cinematic ideas?

Margaret Wertheim , author of The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace, announces that with networked cyberspace, “We are witnessing here the birth of a new domain, a new space that simply did not exist before.”

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