best when viewed in low light


What Is Being "In" A Virtual World Anyway?

This linguistic inconsistency has been plaguing me for a while now. We talk about being "in" the real world now, as if, when we are playing in a "virtual world" we are not still in the physical world.

Follow me along for a moment...

When I'm sitting at a computer, typing, reading, looking at stuff, my body is in the physical world. In fact, my brain is located there as well, but many of my cognitive functions are engaged with the markers of the virtual.

When I'm reading a book - Kitchen Confidential, let's say - sitting in the sun, sipping coffee, I am also located in the physical world. But my mind is engaged by the experience of that world, AND by the world as it is perceived by Anthony Bourdain. But here's the kicker: Chef Bourdain's reality is, for me, virtual. It appears to be real because I can relate to the parameters within which the story unfolds, but it is not "REAL".

Let's take WOW, the classic example. Most of the markers of the "real" world appear in that pixelated, server-resident experience as well. Gravity keeps me vertical, training makes me better at something, and if I slice people's heads off, the community reacts to it. But even while my brain may be completely engaged in that narrative where I get to play a Rogue Night Elf and sneak around fucking shit up, I still have to get up to pee.
See where I'm going with this?

So, my two cents for the discussion of this book is as follows: an ethnography conducted entirely within the imaginary parameters of Second Life is incomplete without profiles of the individuals sitting at their computers, playing "themselves" or "others" in the narrative of the computer-based environment.

(Many thanks for the pic MJ Thomas)

No comments:

Post a Comment

In the past...