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  • Writer's pictureMichael Jonsson

The Stories that outlive systems:

The end of an era and embracing the ephemeral nature of things.

The last virtual burn came on the heels of the recent announcement to sunset AltspaceVR and marked a poignant moment for a community of people who made friends, memories and even got married on the platform. It was quite an emotional moment to see the last man and temple burn for BRCvr on Altspace.

I started creating worlds on AltspaceVR for the virtual burning man when they went virtual in 2020, but it wasn't just a creative outlet, I found a community of like-mind people, other builders and creatives on a mission to create something meaningful. By creating and sharing my imaginary worlds, I got to make new friends, share thoughts, random moments of spontaneous comradery, deep conversation and silly adventures through weird and wonderful worlds.

The last virtual Man Burn for BRCvr on Altspace.

So it's with heavy hearts we are saying goodbye to the space where we shared all of these experiences.

Gavan Wilhite, one of the founders of AltspaceVR, gave an emotional talk as part of the 2023 virtual burn, sharing the stories and experiences that shaped the platform and made it what it is today including some of the synergistic encounters with key collaborators at Burning Man itself. Stories that live beyond the platform, the company, and the software. As Gavan stated, "stories always outlive systems," be they the physical systems that house our consciousness or the virtual systems we build, their legacies live on in hearts and minds.

Gavan Wilhites speech on his journey with Altspace.

What started with an obsession with transhumanism and visions of building cypher-punk worlds, something that would fit inside the matrix, soon turned into the realization, that when we are building a platform, we are facilitating human connection and social experiences: spaces where people from all walks of life connect and share transformative moments. Gavan shared stories about people about people from all over the world who would never have met otherwise and how AltspaceVR brought people together in ways that transcended boundaries and the limitations of the physical world.

A ride in an art car, the last stop on Daisy Shaw's world tour in Altspace.

The synergy between Burning Man and AltspaceVR, go beyond serendipitous meetings on the playa, but go right to the heart of the values and principles themselves, such as community, collaboration and self-expression. Both serve as spaces where people from all walks of life could come together and be their authentic selves, fostering a sense of belonging and connection. The same energy and spirit that fueled the creation of Burning Man also drove the creation of AltspaceVR. A shared ethos brought both communities together on intersecting trajectories and arcs of intent since their inception, creating a sense of continuity between them.

One of the core Burning Man principals is to celebrate the ephemeral nature of life through the burning of the man and other works of art and the principal of leave no trace. The idea that experiences are more valuable than material objects, an emphasis on shared moments and the creation of stories and memories over possessions are also reflected in our virtual experiences.

Artwork from the Playa at Burning Man, 3D scanned by the BRCvr

crew and displayed on the virtual playa.

Gavan Wilhite spoke about this newly found appreciation for impermanence through his journey with Altspace, gaining an understanding that everything has its own arc of existence and that the energy and intent that created something in the first place, can and will create it again: the same energy that built Burning Man and AltspaceVR, will undoubtedly rebuild in a different form. AltspaceVR may have been sunsetted, but its legacy lives on through the stories and memories formed there and the community of builders who continue to work towards a better virtual future. The platforms themselves come and go, but the stories and experiences they generate will always endure: we are not just building platforms and software, we are facilitating human connection and experience.

Altspace was just a platform - a centralized one at that, at the mercy of big tech and it's incentives. Many more will come and go, but the spirit of community and connection is by nature, decentralized, it will build and grow wherever there is a collaborative spirit.

The last temple burn in AltspaceVR for BRCvr.

Hazel Griffiths

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