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Open House

Myself and Patrick LeMieux have been working on a project called Open House. It involves a "distressed" home (ie, one that is under threat of foreclosure) here in Gainesville. You can read more about it at the website, but the point of the work is to draw a parallel between a virtual representation of reality and "reality" which, it turns out, is equally virtual. The housing market in the US (particularly in places like Florida, California, Nevada, Arizona, etc) is a virtual construct that has real world ramifications. Homes are deemed to have a certain value and people buy them trusting that this value is somewhat based in a logical, trustworthy system of value-determination. The US "housing crisis" illustrates that this system is a sham, that values are created by an elite to support the goals and desires of that elite. Housing prices in areas where people would especially like to live (or needed to live in order to work) were inflated to maximize corporate profits. Realtors, appraisers, mortgage companies, banks, investors, speculators and others drove prices so high that to purchase a modest home in one of these markets families had to commit to huge loans. This created a "bubble", otherwise known as a pyramid scheme, where those at the top profitted immensely as long as no one got wise. Of course, the bubble burst, and families at the bottom (especially those who purchased property in one of these markets in the 2006-2007 time period) were left with mortgages that were two and three times the actual, post-bubble, "value" of their home. If they needed to sell, say for a job change or loss of employment, or simply couldn't make the payments because of the resulting economic collapse, they quickly found that selling was an impossibliity.  The greedy banks, despite receiving trillions in tax-payer bailouts and having profited in the trillions through the securitization of mortgages, refused to adjust mortgages to reflect "real-world" conditions. Instead, the largest transfer of wealth in human history (from the middle-class to the rich) has begun, as they take property and force families into bankruptcy.


More info HERE

Building on some of our work on Game-Space, the we simulate the physical home in a video game environment and distribute it as a computer application. The virtual representation of the house is overlayed with real-time streaming video of the physical home. To support our concept that "real" and "virtual" are not so distinct, we worked hard to make the virtual environment as photo-real as possible. We also wanted to highlight the idea that the "virtual" can have real-world consequences. Using a series of relays and an Arduino tied to the game engine and a network server, we gave the viewer the ability to open the front door to the home, as well as open the blinds and turn on/off a light. So, those are the basic concepts. I'm really happy with the way it turned out.