Meccsa Conference Paper (WIP — SEPT 2022) The virtual reality rave scene : How VRChat has transformed how Generation Z experiences EDM music.

The virtual reality rave scene : How VRChat has transformed how Generation Z experiences EDM music.

Abstract 250 words

The virtual reality rave scene : How VRChat has transformed how Generation Z experiences EDM music.

Electronic dance music (EDM) has influenced youth counter culture movements and given disenfranchised communities a safe and empowered place to meet, play and dance for over four decades.

Born in the late 1980s as an underground club music scene called Chicago House, through to the ‘Super Club’ mainstream surge of the 1990s and 2000s — EDM’s popularity as a genre within nightclubs such as Cream (Liverpool, UK), Pacha (Ibiza) and Ministry of Sound (London, UK) helped grow EDM into a multi-million dollar entertainment industry.

This industry continued to grow to greater dominance within 2010s festival culture, sound tracking events such as Tomorrow land (Belgium) and hosting superstar DJs such as Tiesto, as resident DJs in Las Vegas.

What started as an underground counterculture movement is now in the 2020s a Billion dollar industry of club nights, brands and influencers.

But in March 2020 — as the Covid-19 Global pandemic forced a global lockdown, EDM and its global community were silenced.

This paper explores via a netnography methodology how virtual reality technology (VR) and the virtual reality platform VRchat created a safe, diverse and virtual way for a variety of youth global counter culture communities to continue to listen, dance and freely express themselves inside a VR based EDM scene.

The Goal of this paper is to explore how this might affect how Generation Z participants in the VR rave scene might consume popular music in the future and to better understand how this might change the Music Industry beyond 2022.

Keywords

EDM
Generation Z
Virtual Reality
Netnography
Counterculture
Dance Music
House Music
Music Industry
Covid-19

Outline

RAVE AND COUNTER CULTURE IDEOLOGY (notes to author)

To Understand the VRChat rave scene, we need to see how the Psychedelic counter culture of the 1960s, morphed into Cyberian culture of the 1990s, which then leads us to the VRchat rave scene of 2020 — its a continuation.

To understand Virtual Reality is to understand where Virtual Reality came from — and with this, I mean the term — those two words ‘ Virtual’ and ‘Reality’ they were coined by Jaron Lanier (Lanier 2018). But this phrase was not uttered in a vacuum, it came with a decade of ideological development, as I shall explain.

as Lanier say’s in his book ‘Dawn of the new everything’

‘I am sometimes called the Father of VR. My usual retort is that it depends on whether you believe the mother of VR. VR was actually birthed by a long parade of scientists and entrepreneurs’ ( Lanier 2018)

‘Virtual Reality’ To put these words into context into how they were summoned into being, and in which place they where spoken, is to understand not only the creator of this dictionary definition — but also the time, space and place in which they first were spoken out allowed, and found an audience — for its this audience, which are central to our research, and its this audience which can be found in the various psychedelic community's of the west coast of California, USA.

Jaron Lanier’s early career, his latter will be mentioned in detail later, began in his own words…

‘What finally prodded me to go over the mountains to visit Silicon Valley was not a job recruiter, but the weird hippie visionary lecture scene.

The California coast in those days was filled with even more self-proclaimed visionaries than it is today. it was easy to be invited to an event in an amazing home, perhaps a renovated old prospectors shack by a stream up high in the redwood forests, to hear tales about flying saucers, chanting, LSD, unconventional sex, or other exotica that would save the soul and the world. A fair number of these events had a technological fetish, even so long ago.

This was the circuit in which I started to give talks… From about 1980 to 1992 I gave versions of my talk about VR thousands of times in every imaginable circumstance’ (Lanier 2018)

The term Virtual Reality therefore, has from time to time, become to mean many things, Jaron Lanier explains,

‘ I called a type of computer-user interface technology ‘Virtual Reality.” Two qualities, social and somatic, together created something different from a solitary virtual world. VR functioned as the interstices or connection between people; a role that had previously taken only by physical world. The term ‘reality’ was appropriate.

A ‘World’ results when a mind has faith in the persistence of what it perceives. A ‘reality’ results when a mind has faith that other minds share enough of the same world to establish communication and empathy. Then add the somatic angle: A mind can occupy a world, but a body lives in reality’ (Lanier 2018)

But it would take 30+ years for there to be a groundswell of connections between minds in VR, brought on by affordability of a $299 VR headset by Oculus / Meta which would bring realisation to this statement.

Jaron Lanier went on to found VPL Research in 1984, and his patented technology would be used in the medical, defence and entertainment industries, Virtual Reality therefore was originally associated with this company and Lanier (Lanier 2018)

This brief introduction to the context that birthed the word Virtual Reality, enables us to better understand the cultures and tribes that have adopted VR as the space, which is the enabler for their culture, community and society to grow and could only do so, in a VR space — these VR spaces where at first only a space for a privileged few, in the 1980s this would be those connected with the VR demo scene associated with VPL Research — Headsets and gloves would be demoed at corporate events, and clients and celebrities would drop by the VPL offices to experience VR (Lanier 2018).

As the VR scene began to expand in the late 1980s and early 90s, access to the technology of VR headsets and gloves was still confined to research institutes inside corporations and university's — but the underlying philosophy of the culture of virtual reality was slowly expanding across the counter culture.

Movies like Tron (1982) and Lawnmower man (1992) and later the Matrix (1998) which coincided with Tim Berners lee’s ‘world wide web’ protocol, gave mainstream audiences a glimpse of what the West coast was thinking and working on, behind closed doors, and it was these techno fetishes, that enabled the idea of VR to go viral.

These popular culture signposts are mainstream well known pieces of VR pop art media, but they are built on the ideas from the so called Cyberia scene, which sprang up in the 90s, and was also the name given to the very first internet cafe (citation).

Its this scene, which brings together a community, which are early adopters of an idea and philosophy which surrounds computer hardware. Its in this space, that the computers and its power becomes a kind of deity, a symbol of a possible future, a bringer of peace, a central piece of hardware for a utopian ideal, and this is in turn made possible because the computer becomes personal, as ownership became more widespread and early modems became more common place, these personal computers start to become connected via networks, in the same way social media connects our mobile phone.

The early bulletin board systems, the precursor to the world-wide web, which in turn these bulletin board systems where based on the ‘whole earth catalogue’ a bible for the hippie counter culture, which aimed to hold a catalogue of useful things a culture on earth would need (we now have google) — all this is taking shape, at the same time that Electronically created dance music, computer created music was becoming common place in Detroit and Chicago, which later would blend into acid house — this merging of technological driven music and a technological driven network of personal computers, with a person sat by the terminal evolved into a new human space / or state of mind, Cyberia.

Cyberia and Rave Culture.

lets now focus on and take a look at the contrasting youth movements of San Francisco, USA Silicon Valley tech scene in the early 90s and the UK movement of Megatripolis parties during the same period in London, England, to enable an understanding of what Cyberia is and how Rave culture became a part of this ideology.

Megatripolis was an innovative, underground London nightclub created by Encyclopaedia Psychedelica editor and founder of the Zippie movement Fraser Clark. The club combined New Age ideology with Rave culture to create a vibrant, festival-like atmosphere presenting a wide variety of cross-cultural ideas and experiences. Club nights ran regularly on Thursdays from 1993 until 1996, being the focus of much of the Zippie movement. The club and its related activities also helped to popularise ideas such as cyberculture and the Internet between those years. ( https://en-academic.com/dic.nsf/enwiki/3192717 )

Fraser Clarks Megatripolis is built on two ideological understandings, the first that the ‘Zippie’ movement is an evolution of the Yippie movement, which was born out of the 1960s San Francisco Hippie movement.

Yippies are politicised hippies and wanted to change the ruling system that they had used psychedelic drugs to initially escape from, not just because of the conflict in Vietnam but also because of the destructive effect of capitalism on the human psyche and the environment (Rushkoff 2002)

and the second ideology is that of the Neopagan — From 1993 Megatrpolis party’s played host to a growing subculture charactised by pagan ethics, which had a reliance on technology, and interconnectivity through vast networks. This Neopagan incorporates ancient and modern skills in a free for all sampling of whatever works, making no distinction between occult magic and high technology. (Rushkoff 2002)

Frazer Clark speaking in 1994

‘Ever since they managed to blackball the hippy to death, the correct mode of youth (as hope and conscience of the culture) has been systematically schizophrened from its historical roots. And were talking about roots that go back through the punks, hippies, rebels, beats, bohemians, socialists, romanticsm alchemists, the shakers, the quakers, witches, heretics and right back in the roots, pagans. (Rushkoff 2002)

Fraser via his Megatripolis nights has dedicated his life to the spread of pagan consciousness, specifically through the youth culture. (Rushkoff 2002)

Making in the process, Megatripolis a real life outpost for Cyberia, a melting pot of new age thinking, spread by the use of personal computers, its own bulletin board, and a soundtrack of computer generated music and visuals, broken up by educational lectures and discussions about the scene.

But there is a definite contrast in the UK and USA scenes, and varying different aesthetical differences which I should point out.

Whilst the UK Cyberia Rave Scene epitomised by Fraser Clarks viewpoints, has an English pagan heritage as its foundation, the Americans in San Francisco focus on the techno side.

Jody Radzik explains

‘In a really good house experience, you want to create something like the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. You've trying to create an enviromement where people can get outside of themselves. There gets to be a certain point in the night where people can just cut loose, the party just reaches a kind of critical mass. A synergy of shared consciousness occurs and boom’

So what is the soundtrack that is driving these shared experiences, what are the devotees of Cyberia tuned into at a rave and why does music matter?

The soundtrack for the first wave of raves, was the genesis genre of rave music, Acid House.

Its from the early days of house music, and Acid house, which we can now track this counter culture movement, throughout the ages, as if this music and what it represents was this communitys DNA.

And its this DNA which is present in the foundations of todays 2022 VRChat Rave scene.

Acid House

Acid House music clearly derived from two American sources. Firstly , Detroit ‘techno’, which is hard edged and digitally computerised dance-beats, and secondly Chicago House, which was known for its soulful harmonies. Both of these forms of music derived from unlicensed and under-age clubs in ghettos, where alcohol was not sold, therefore creating a market open to drug pushers. English raves started out in a similar fashion, with no alcohol or bar sales and leaving little option but to dance for 6–8 hours (Readhead 1993)

As many of these English raves started in the north of England, around Blackburn, Manchester and Liverpool, later being exported by the way of Ibiza to inside the M25 and London. The North in a way, had a head start, the tradition of ‘Northern Soul’ all nighters was already known, and the use of amphetamines to dance all night was passed down from one youth culture to the next.

Drugs of any sort would therefore, be more likely to go hand in hand with Chicago and Detroit house — as long as they promoted danceability. Most forms of house are based on a heavy 4:4 drum beat which is often used to create a repetitive and hypnotic effect. Ecstasy and LSD also promote similar sonic interpretations so their effects fitted well with House music. (Readhead 1993)

This leads us to the Development of Cyberia — douglas Rushkoff writen in 1994 Cyberia : life in the trenches of hyperspace

Rushkoff says ‘ We may soon conclude that the single most important contribution of the 1960s and the psychedelic era to popular culture is the notion that what we have chosen our reality arbitrarily. The mission of the Cyberian counterculture of the 1990s, armed with new technologies, familiar with cyberspace and daring enough to explore unmapped realms of consciousness, is to re-choose reality consciously and purposefully. Cyberians are not just actively exploring the next dimension; they are working to create it. (Rushkoff 2002)

The first cover story in the Wall Street Journal about the emerging VR scene referred to the technology as ‘Electronic LSD’ (Citation) which is inline with Rushkoff’s observations, and remember as discussed earlier, Silicon valley hippie culture which was obsessed with the idea of ‘Consensus reality’ (Lanier 2018)

Rushkoff in alludeing to what Lanier said about the ‘Consensus reality’, along with the Youth movement being propelled forward by Fraser Clark and his Megatriplosis nights,

If we take away the Acid house, the dancing and the drugs, what we begin to see is a ideology which underpinned a movement, a movement which has gone by many names over the decades, and for one reason or another has been silenced by a dominant established order.

it was the gathering of these hippies and new age thinkers, that Lanier gave his lectures on VR to for over a decade, without headsets being present. The idea of ‘Consensus reality’ would evolve and carry on through new age teachings and find its way passed on throughout counter culture and passed to the Cyberian counterculture of the 1990s, Even at these gatherings Virtual reality headsets of the like used by Lanier and VPL were not present, instead they had Brain Machines, which were goggles, and strobe lights which tuned into the brains frequency and helped create a medative or altered state in the user — and so VR was conceptual, a what if, and the computer imagery of the techno psycedlic visuals, flyer art, posters and clothing, was merly a representation of what this could be, based on what direction the scene was creativly in tune with at the time, and of course the computer based music of 4:4 beats and samples created an immersive and hipnotic soundtrack to dance for long hours to and reach medative and trance like states.

Michael Benedikt in his book Cyberspace first steps (Benedikt 1994) says in 1991 , 3 years after the 2nd summer of love ‘Cyberspace holds an immense fascination, it is not simply the fascination of the new. Cyberspace stands to thought as flight stands to crawling. The root of this fascination is the promise of control over the world by the power of the will. In other words, it is the ancient dream of magic that finally nears awakening into some kind of reality. (Benedikt 1994)

and it is this view point that cyberspace and ancient magic, and the ability to alter reality to our will is the view point of ‘Consensus reality’

The Urban Neopagans. Like both their own ancestors, they have abandoned organized rules of logic in favour of reality hacking — riding waves, watching trends, keeping an open mind, and staying connected to the flow. Its not important whether the natural system is a forest, an interdimensional plane, a subway or a computer network. For the neopagan, exploration itself is a kind of understanding, and the process of exploring is the meaning of life. (Rushkoff 2002)

What this research demonstrates in my opinion is that there is a thread which begins with the hippie movement of the mid 60s, which went on to define that era’s counter culture — this thread has a continuation which can be seen on the underground lecture circuit upon which Lanier finds himself speaking on for over a decade — this ideological underpinning then slowly finds its way into the field of computer science, as the birth of the computer industry in the USA is situated on the same streets, as the counter culture hippie movement of the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s in the Bay area of San Fransico and Silicon Valley — a techno fetish for an alternative world born out of the ability to create an alerted state of consciousness which can be accessed via a drug educed state, or better still, by the use of computer technology (perhaps this is safer, and could one day be free), which can create a virtual state of being and perhaps replicate the best of humanity, which humanity might not be itself be aware of, by accessing the subconscious spaces in our mind.

Its this pursuit of Cyberia, or Cyberspace, or Virtual Reality or the Metaverse which appears to be a youthful pursuit in the world of psychedelia, and it seems to be something that each generation tries to make there own. It would be interesting to look at how surrealist painters of the 1920s used available technology of oil paint and canvas to express their escapist worlds, was this there virtual reality?, an escapist creative act brought about by witnessing the horrors of world war one in Europe.

Maybe Acid House was the ultimate form of Psychedelia, in that it was generated by 100% technology? The fact that many people danced and tripped on Ecstasy and LSD led to similar forms of dance appreciation that had first appeared on a mass scale during the late 60s — due to the liberating effect of drugs and music. (Readhead 1993)

What is a central pillar here is human belief in expression of ideas, both pagan beliefs and what technology can do, these two items, Paganism and Technology are two of the main constructs on which Cyberia are built, Megatripolis as we have seen clearly use this as the basis for their club night, and people a re drawn to it, ready and willing to explore, these spaces, coupled with the writings of science fiction as a blue print for what the future could be, feel like, be experienced and to some extent look like.

Benedikt continues ‘But since it is technology that promises to deliver this dream , the question of ‘how’ must be confronted. Simply stated, the question is, what is the technology of magic? for the answers we must not turn not only to computer science but to the most ancient of arts, perhaps the only art : poetry. It is poetry that we find a developed understanding of the workings of magic, and not only that, but a wise and powerful knowledge of its purposes and potentials. Cyberspace is poetry inhabited, and to navigate it is to become a leaf on the wind of a dream. (Benedikt 1994)

Jaron Laniers third definition of Virtual Reality is to hope for a medium that could convey dreaming. (Lanier 2018)

What both Rushkoff and Benedikt are saying, in both 1991 and 1994 respectively is that the promise of Virtual Reality and the Information Superhighway the Worldwide Web once combined and accessible by those that choose to explore it, they will be taking on the role of magicians in a realm that can be created by their sheer will — in a way, they could become Gods of a virtual space, create it, set the rules and govern it — which they do, as they program it.

The biggest problem with a utopian society which is to be built on technology, is cost.

For the democratisation of a community and for this to function, without a highroachy, because a Highrarchy which creates a form of digital serfdom.

What needs to happen is that the cost to participate needs to be equal, and this in reality, the cost to participate needs to be free.

Therefore in the 1980s, Virtual Reality was confined to VPL Research who coined the phrase and led the research, the 1990s saw more research labs and corporate companies pick up on the technology as a means to increase revenues, while at the same time, the counterculture began to create a philosophy around a virtual world free of the politics of the real world and a utopian ideology fuelled by the free party scene at which these ideas where eulogised — ideas which found themselves in popular culture, and into mainstream Hollywood (Matrix) — but at this time, this Cyberian community had no access to the Virtual Reality technology which they could use, to drop out of one reality and step into another of their own networked creation.

its as if the formation of the ideology without the hardware to actually create what was being proposed, was beneficial to the creation we are about to explore in VRchat — by having several decades of disscusion, ideological debate, and to be able to test networked communties, and develop social media technologies, its as if this was training for what was to come in 2020, and the global lockdown in our homes — there is an almost inevitability of it all, as a community of technologists and neopagans took what has gone before and placed it into a low cost / free virtual space, with an evolved soundtrack of EDM, which has the DNA of Acid House within its 4:4 structure.

Its in the VRchat Rave scene that we hear the past and experience the future, built on the blueprints of the Cyberian counter culture, and its here I take you on a journey into the Metaverse.

world builders in spaces such as VRchat, Horizon, Sandbox, Roblox and Decentraland.

But in March 2020 — as the Covid-19 Global pandemic forced a global lockdown, EDM and its global community were silenced. — the counter cultured which had been part of the civil rights movement of the 60s, had been penalised by the Criminal justice bill 199? in the UK, and had existed as a free party movement for several decades was forced to close — but as always.. it found a way as a means of expression — enter youth cultures latest co-hort Generation Z and the birth of the VRchat Race scene — lets go explore.

Part 2 — From Web 1.0–3.0

The first era of the modern internet — roughly 1990–2005 — was about open protocols that were decentralized and community-governed. Most of the value accrued to the edges of the network: users and builders.

Cyberia — Utopian ideology — a space to dream.

02. The second era of the internet — roughly 2005–2020 — was about siloed, centralized services. Most of the value accrued to a handful of large tech companies.

The dark ages — digital serfdom, we give our data, our digital souls to access what was once free and open.

03. We are now beginning the third era of the internet — what many call web3 — which combines the decentralized, community governed ethos of the first era with the advanced, modern functionality of the second era. This will unlock a new wave of creativity and entrepreneurship.

Internets will be gated and accessed via tokens of ownership, which will be documented on the blockchain, millions of communities will thrive in these gated spaces.

Marketing and advertising does not become the economic driver behind their existence. From private members spaces to wide open public owned utility. graphical interface will be replaced by Virtual reality and immersive interface, the ability to step inside a social network — early days of the metaverse.

( https://a16zcrypto.com/state-of-crypto-report-a16z-2022/?fbclid=IwAR27AAlpIV6DklqCfsYRJz1hz7FgTQ-VIEr6bXaXbLcu92q4xRqJ_dX055E )

Part 3: Entering the VRchat Rave scene

3.1 — Generation Z, Digital Natives in the Metaverse.

‘The 50s did not ‘start’ in 1950, but in 1955 with Chuck Berry’s Maybelline, and Elvis Presley: lasting until 1965 with rock n roll, skiffle and Motown, surf, frat, doowop, Americana, coffee bars, high school hops and drive ins. Similarly the 60s really ‘started’ in 1965 with the emergence of the drug culture and political / racial instability (hence folk pop, experimental pop, acid rock, flower power, progressive psychedelia) leading up to 1975, with ‘blackexploitation’ funk and glam rock: both cultural ‘era’s metamorphosised into excessive updates of the original idea’s’ (Redhead 1993)

Its my hypothesis that the global pandemic of the past 2 years, starting in March 2020, and at time of writing in 2022, has to some extent acted as a catalyst or accelerator for virtual reality technology to be utilised by the Generation Z co-hort and to create updates to Original ideas that we have previously discussed — so we are seeing a 1990s revival of utopian ideology, conceived by the neo / digital pagans and the acid house rave culture

QOUTE THIS https://futurism.com/confusing-facebook-not-building-metaverse

and it is in this space — that VRChat and the VRChat Rave scene was born.

***** add this **** Timothy Leary — When Leary got out of jail, he was interested in finding legal ways to explore consciousness which led him to working with individuals at Jaron Lanier VPL. (Citation)

42 years later (2022 at time of writing) we are on the dawn of the ‘Meta’ age.

Not only with the current wave of consumer Virtual Reality but also the continued exploration of Pschelics drugs for use as a treatment to treat depression and PTSD , which was kick started by Timothy Learys experiments in the 1960s, Leary once villified by mainstream media and to some extent academia for his stance on LSD, which led to a lengthy prison sentence, his work on chemically induced psychoactive experiences or ‘trips’ came to a holt, but his concepts and ideas of the human brain can unlock the human experience — Ecstasy and Pcycobin — https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00187-9

Once the realms of science fiction, The term “metaverse” was first used in Neil Stevenson’s 1982 novel, Snow Crash (Stevenson 1982) and in 2021 Facebook one of the largest social networks on planet earth with over 2 billion users (citation — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gElfIo6uw4g ), changed its name to ‘Meta’ and released a glossy corporate overture of a video into its plans for domination of web 3.0, with the creation of its own ‘Metaverse’ platform called ‘Horizon’ (Citation)

But as we will explore, its somewhat a tale of two cities, on the one hand we have the corporate top down vision of an ecommerce driven space, created by Meta, and a space where Meta get 47.5% (Citation — https://www.cnbc.com/2022/04/13/meta-plans-to-take-a-nearly-50percent-cut-on-nft-sales-in-its-metaverse.html ) of every sale within it’s walled garden.

And then we have, the rest of the internet.

From Roblox, with its in-game currency of Blox, aimed at 7–14 years tween market, this pocket money Metaverse was born out of using a computer social gaming network to learn computer science over a decade ago, and recently floated on the Nasdaq and is valued at 45 Billion dollars (citation https://edition.cnn.com/2021/03/10/investing/roblox-stock-direct-listing/index.html ) , Roblox hosts everything from live music events and video game competitions, and you can even get a job as a virtual pizza delivery driver and earn blox currency to fuel those in-game purchases, should you have not enough real world pocket money.

We then have the blockchain built spaces, powered by the NFT market — spaces such as Decentraland and Sandbox, which house brands such as the Atari video game centre (Citation https://decentraland.org/blog/announcements/dcl-x-atari ) /(think a virtual arcade, you put virtual money into the virtual arcade to play) and virtual casino’s, which are exactly like real casino’s and who have hired staff to work in the virtual casino space ( https://www.coindesk.com/tech/2021/03/18/this-casino-in-decentraland-is-hiring-for-real/ )

and each week, seemingly there is another virtual world, with another crypto currency, its a modern day Gold rush.

Amongst all this, something else is taking place, a small homegrown scene, which cyberpunk scholars had written about in the early 1990s, and Jaron Lanier would lecture about on the Silicon Valley hippie lecture circuit.

The birth of a new pscyodelic tech inspired rave scene which takes place entirely inside Virtual Reality — powered by the VRChat platform.

To understand why and how the Electronic Dance Music (EDM) scene has transferred over to virtual reality and VRChat it is really important that we explore its relationship with Cyberculture and Psychedelics, and meet Cyberpunks from past and present, understand Cyberian utopia and say hello to zippies and Yippies.

Part 1- 1967 San Francisco and the Mother of all demo’s

Music is the soundtrack to a community driven by a diverse wide ranging ideology — Rave music is the soundtrack to CyberCulture — the cyberpunks, the Cyberians, the Zippies, the Yippies —

“turn on, tune in, drop out”, “set and setting”, and “think for yourself and question authority” (Leary ?? )

Summer of Love 1967

The Summer of Love was a social phenomenon that occurred during the summer of 1967, when as many as 100,000 people, mostly young people sporting hippie fashions of dress and behavior, converged in San Francisco’s neighborhood of Haight-Ashbury.[1][2] More broadly, the Summer of Love encompassed the hippie music, hallucinogenic drugs, anti-war, and free-love scene throughout the West Coast of the United States, and as far away as New York City.[3][4]

Hippies, sometimes called flower children, were an eclectic group. Many were suspicious of the government, rejected consumerist values, and generally opposed the Vietnam War. A few were interested in politics; others were concerned more with art (music, painting, poetry in particular) or spiritual and meditative practices

and its out of this scene that we get ‘Mother of all Demo’s’ in 1968,

and first satellite broadcast ‘all you need is love Beatles' 1968

These help to lay down the philosophical foundations which will be used to influence our understanding of the human and computer interface, in the first wave of cyberculture — ‘ that Cyberia is — a fascinating journey to the current boundary of human experience (Leary 2002)

Part 2 — Politics, Youth Culture and the 2nd Summer of Love 1988 (20 years later)

Anywhere but Thatcherism — we now have the means to escape.

The British summer of 1988 witnessed the birth and exponential flowering of the youth cultural movement labelled ‘acid house’ by the popular press and known subsequently as rave culture. Throughout the United Kingdom, the sound of house music, imported from Chicago, fused with an exuberant dance-floor atmosphere as witnessed by DJs such as Danny Rampling and Paul Oakenfold on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza and then imitated back at home under the heady influence of the drug MDMA, commonly known as Ecstasy.(John 2015) (https://www.euppublishing.com/doi/full/10.3366/cult.2015.0092 )

The culture also built on a British tradition of warehouse parties and ‘all-nighters’ that had become popularized from the 1970s onwards, particularly in the form of the ‘Northern soul’ movement. As the subculture grew in popularity, it escaped the confines of the club circuit, occupying derelict warehouses, aircraft hangars and fields with innumerable parties every weekend. (John 2015) (https://www.euppublishing.com/doi/full/10.3366/cult.2015.0092 )

Initially the rural rave scene was centred around the pay-parties located around the M25 Orbital ring road; from the early 1990s, however, it evolved into the altruistic raver-traveller ‘free party’ alliance, which culminated in 20,000 revellers turning a mile-square area into an impenetrable fortress at the five-day Castlemorton Free Festival in 1992. (John 2015) (https://www.euppublishing.com/doi/full/10.3366/cult.2015.0092 )

The 1990s would see the Rave party scene split into many different sub cultures and tribes, for example xxx, xxx, xxx etc.

But to keep focus here, we are going to explore and focus in on the early genesis of cyberpunk culture and to understand how this has influenced the VRChat rave scene.

— — — — — — — — — — — —

Widespread adaption of the term “virtual reality” in the popular media is attributed to Jaron Lanier, who in the late 1980s designed some of the first business-grade virtual reality hardware under his firm VPL Research

The term “metaverse” was first used in Neil Stevenson’s 1982 novel, Snow Crash

Timothy Leary — When Leary got out of jail, he was interested in finding legal ways to explore consciousness which led him to working with individuals at Jaron Lanier VPL.

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We only have limited artefacts from the time left, to observe these events via our own eyes, once such artefact is a Youtube video of a news report on Fraser Clarks Megatripolis nights.

In this film a busy London nightclub, (location? ) has been turned into a mini ‘indoor festival’ with stalls selling ‘new age’ books, fanzines, badges, clothes and associated items, an acid house soundtrack engulfs the space to provide a techno soundtrack to the proceedings and in various parts of the club different aspects of the movement are explored, a talk on dreams in once space, and in the video an example of a DIY Satellite link up with science fiction author Arthur C Clark being beamed in from his home in Sri Lanka.

The film interviews participants and explores drug use,

Cyberians share a psychedlic common ground. To them, drugs are not simply a recreational escape but a conscious and sometimes daring foray into new possible realities. Pschedelics give them access to what Terrance Mckenna is calling the overmind and what Douglas Rushkoff calls Cyberia. (Rushkoff 2002)

although Ecstasy and MDMA is closely associated with the scene, the film demonstrates via interviews that not everyone participates and that being in a space such as this creates euphory and a sense of belonging — the immersive aspects of the space proving enough of a trip.

What is clear to me, as I am researching this scene through the film and also the academic articles on the subject is that, although clearly a DIY scene driven by shared ideals of a community, to challenge the establishment and make the world a better place (in their view) the Megatripolis nights are not an isolated community in their own silo — they are infect part of a global free party movement and outlook which connects with other similar community's on a global level — this is pre internet but information is still being shared and transmitted, and it could be argued that these nights are the information superhighway hubs to collect this information and exchange ideas — ideas which are passed across cultures by Science Fiction writers such as William Gibson, Arthur C Clark and Neil Stevenson via books and articles, or by individuals connecting on Bulletin Board systems associated with the scene and then meeting up in real life (IRL)

Hippies and punks, both entrenched Bay Area archetypes, were both being buttressed by more tech-centric variations. “Cyberpunk” was a lit-crit term for author William Gibson’s science fiction flights; “zippies,” per Scottish-born writer Fraser Clark, stood for “Zen-inspired professional pagans” and had an absurdist, anarchistic, Merry Pranksters bent. (https://www.electronicbeats.net/silicon-valley-techno-history/ )

The era’s, and area’s, tech futurism manifested itself in ways that could at times seem funny — such as “brain machines,” a pair of goggles that emitted small strobes “designed for meditation and relaxation purposes,” in the words of one operator, an idea that shared its time with the beginning of VR. “Brain machines were pervasive at all the parties,” recalled DJ Thomas Bullock, part of the pioneering San Francisco rave promoters Wicked. “S.F. always attracted, supported, and promoted that sort of thing.” Gamall Awad, who was then helping run the label Reflective, founded by a fellow British ex-pat, Jonah Sharp, recalled, “We were all very aware of the tech scene. Those ideas were around us a lot. People like Terence McKenna were coming into our scene. A lot of older hippies were involved in some of the, shall we say, expanding-consciousness ideas, like the WELL” — the “Whole Earth ’Lectronic Link,” a prototype of the modern Internet, begun in 1985. (https://www.electronicbeats.net/silicon-valley-techno-history/ )

Its here in SF that Jaron Lanier coined the term ‘Virtual Reality’ — the 1990s saw the hardware required to create a virtual state in the hands of only a handful of companies, via his company VL? and in this youtube video,

Jaron in 1991 was supplying much of the hardware required to do VR, and so in this film is uniquely placed to give an overview — http://jaronlanier.com/dawn/

Jaron talks about the scene, only major corporations can afford the systems — as the computing power required is so expensive — now VR can be created on free to use software such as Unity, and experienced via a $299 headset in the Oculus Quest 2 — VR has been democritsied, and finds itself in the early years of microcomputing, or the dot com boom of the 2000s — new, untested, real purpose and use yet to be discovered.

The aesthetic of rave culture was coupled with the technologically created music, 808 drum machines and synthesisers and computers replacing human musicians and traditional music making instruments such as a drum kit, guitar and piano — and the look of the ravers was a blend of tie die 1960s inspired hippie tshirts and ‘baggy’ flared jeans of the 1970s — this nod to fashions past was then blended with early 3D computer graphic technology, rendering of 3D landscapes to represent dreamscapes and dali-esque pscycodelic imagery, which would appitermise this techno-utopia.

The smiley face symbol became the defacto embolum of rave culture, and would become a mainstream branded object, which was born out of rave sub culture — and can now be found on every phone in the world as a smile emoji.

insert images of rave culture here — VRChat has a natural asthetic and feel that reflects rave culture.

Rave culture also created the space for a more open and liberal mindset to take hold, and a space for new ideas to flourish — publications such as Mondo 2000, BBS systems blah blah.

Part 4 — Cyberculture as a place of free expression

Politics and Sexuality in Rave culture

Raves used as spaces to gather for civil disobedience against establishment ideology — Poll tax riots — leading to the criminal justice bill, Rave music took hold in Blackburn and later Manchester (Northern) before it headed down south to the M25 Orbital.

Importance of Rave culture and LGBTQ+ acceptance

Part 6 — How Raves in VRChat BUILD ON CYBERCULTURE 1990S AND COUNTER CULTURE 1960S

1 — Time and place — EDM / VR 3.0 / COVID

Set the scene

Explain Hardware used

Explain Platform used

Explain the difference between VRchat and say a Fortnite rave (Inclusive vs exclusive, Home brew vs corporate)

Explain Covid

5 — The Experience

A Netnography of the authors experience at a VRchat Rave — several?

  • Positive and Negative experience — how did I identify, why is this important, why did I choose what I went to, how did I hear about it (role of social media and enabler)

Case Study / Interview with DJ / Promotor and Guests of VRchat Raves

6 — Summary

Summaries and come to a conclusion and suggest further research as this is an emerging field and a few years old.

1 — What is EDM (Electronic Dance Music) A Brief History.

Born in the late 1980s as an underground club music scene called Chicago House, through to the ‘Super Club’ mainstream surge of the 1990s and 2000s — EDM’s popularity as a genre within nightclubs such as Cream (Liverpool, UK), Pacha (Ibiza) and Ministry of Sound (London, UK) helped grow EDM into a multi-million dollar entertainment industry.

This industry continued to grow to greater dominance within 2010s festival culture, sound tracking events such as Tomorrow land (Belgium) and hosting superstar DJs such as Tiesto, as resident DJs in Las Vegas.

What started as an underground counterculture movement is now in the 2020s a Billion dollar industry of club nights, brands and influencers.

EDM was and still continues to be consumed as part of a ritualistic space and environment which contains other elements and forms part of a scene or state — its this stature that the name ‘Rave’ is coined from ‘Ravers’ or ‘Raving’ is a term used from the 1950s to label a person in an altered state.

1a — Who are Generation Z

Use extracts from — https://markashmorefrsa.medium.com/who-are-generation-z-and-why-are-they-the-study-group-at-the-centre-of-this-research-project-3c036c92ab4f

2 — What historical role has EDM had on the culture — what examples of music as a movement do we have that show clear examples of involvement with the counter culture, LGBTQ+ , Politics, class struggle and are there clear examples of EDM of giving voiceless communities a voice in society. (Goldie clear example, Hacienda etc)

Metropolis London at Heaven nightclub — Gay club and the SF scene

3- What examples do we have of EDM evolving with the 3rd wave of consumer VR, and what do we mean by a 3rd wave — here we need to acknowledge the historical role of VR and EDM, especially techno and pop culture (easy win — Matrix, more left field Mondo 2000)

Jaron Lanier coined the term ‘Virtual Reality’ — the 1990s saw the hardware required to create a virtual state in the hands of only a handful of companies, via his company VL? and in this youtube video, Jaron talks about the scene, only major corporations can afford the systems — as the computing power required is so expensive — now VR can be created on free to use software such as Unity, and experienced via a $299 headset in the Oculus Quest 2 — VR has been democritsied, and finds itself in the early years of microcomputing, or the dot com boom of the 2000s — new, untested, real purpose and use yet to be discovered.

Fraser Clark and Metropolis nights need mentioning as a reflective precursor to VRChat rave scene

Hacienda also worth mentioning — regional (non London) thought process and Acid House.

Field trip research question — https://www.facebook.com/groups/106764929361095/user/869865386

Zippies https://www.facebook.com/groups/415788078983755/posts/708180003077893/

Silican dreams Group — https://www.facebook.com/groups/415788078983755

Ecstasy and Pcycobin — https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00187-9

Jaron in 1991 was supplying much of the hardware required to do VR, and so in this film is uniquely placed to give an overview — http://jaronlanier.com/dawn/

VPL — Jaron coined the phrase ‘Virtual Reality’ — https://www.theverge.com/2017/12/8/16751596/jaron-lanier-dawn-of-the-new-everything-vr-interview

https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1994-09-11-ca-37455-story.html

Brain Machines — https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=CXPZyYHLd-kC&pg=PT309&lpg=PT309&dq=brain+machines.+VR+raves&source=bl&ots=KdbxnaZuzQ&sig=ACfU3U3S-T6mhKt5rebIYhh6T1177dSHrQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj4iJjuia33AhW_QEEAHa2aB10Q6AF6BAgeEAM#v=onepage&q=brain%20machines.%20VR%20raves&f=false

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=kdJnBAAAQBAJ&pg=PA176&lpg=PA176&dq=brain+machines.+VR+raves&source=bl&ots=y8VSoFOmX-&sig=ACfU3U2zpFojaX1v69VdJj7N0sfBDuZSPA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj4iJjuia33AhW_QEEAHa2aB10Q6AF6BAgdEAM#v=onepage&q=brain%20machines.%20VR%20raves&f=false

Rave bonding https://neurosciencenews.com/psychedelics-rave-bonding-19365/

The era’s, and area’s, tech futurism manifested itself in ways that could at times seem funny — such as “brain machines,” a pair of goggles that emitted small strobes “designed for meditation and relaxation purposes,” in the words of one operator, an idea that shared its time with the beginning of VR. “Brain machines were pervasive at all the parties,” recalled DJ Thomas Bullock, part of the pioneering San Francisco rave promoters Wicked. “S.F. always attracted, supported, and promoted that sort of thing.” Gamall Awad, who was then helping run the label Reflective, founded by a fellow British ex-pat, Jonah Sharp, recalled, “We were all very aware of the tech scene. Those ideas were around us a lot. People like Terence McKenna were coming into our scene. A lot of older hippies were involved in some of the, shall we say, expanding-consciousness ideas, like the WELL” — the “Whole Earth ’Lectronic Link,” a prototype of the modern Internet, begun in 1985.

Hippies and punks, both entrenched Bay Area archetypes, were both being buttressed by more tech-centric variations. “Cyberpunk” was a lit-crit term for author William Gibson’s science fiction flights; “zippies,” per Scottish-born writer Fraser Clark, stood for “Zen-inspired professional pagans” and had an absurdist, anarchistic, Merry Pranksters bent, as did another ragtag group of misfits who, in the mid-Eighties, had started getting together once a year on Baker Beach and burning a wooden effigy that, if you squinted hard enough, looked like a man.

Fraser Clark

4 — Time and place — EDM / VR 3.0 / COVID

Set the scene

Explain Hardware used

Explain Platform used

Explain the difference between VRchat and say a Fortnite rave (Inclusive vs exclusive, Home brew vs corporate)

Explain Covid

5 — The Experience

A Netnography of the authors experience at a VRchat Rave — several?

  • Positive and Negative experience — how did I identify, why is this important, why did I choose what I went to, how did I hear about it (role of social media and enabler)

Case Study / Interview with DJ / Promotor and Guests of VRchat Raves

6 — Summary

Summaries and come to a conclusion and suggest further research as this is an emerging field and a few years old.

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Mark Ashmore

Mark Ashmore

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Mark Ashmore is a Ph.D Researcher at LJMU and founder of Future Artists - He writes about Computer Science, the Arts and Entertainment - He is also Dyslexic