It’s Just a Phone

Wednesday, July 23, 2008 Wednesday, July 23, 2008

There’s always plenty of discussion about the nature of reality by those exposed to those brain-twisting twins: real and virtual life. Something about prolonged virtual exposure causes us to contemplate what it all means. Today I have that urge again, as I have had in the past.

It’s a series of paradoxes. Poor are rich. Famous are unknown. Quiet are loud. Unloved are loved. It’s a separate reality. It’s the same identity. Or not.

Some believe realities are so separate they can do things they should not do in RL. Others think their twin realities are the one and the same reality.

I find the viewpoint of Atomics (those individuals who exist only in molecular form in meatspace) most enlightening. Many of them view virtual reality as a non-reality, something that is no different than a generic TV show or a bland magazine article. They cannot understand how the Virtuals are so “attached” to a “game”.

But the same people who complain about “being on the computer too much” and “playing games” get upset when they detect overly amorous behavior taking place. They may be jealous, or even angry. How can they be so upset about something that was meaningless the previous moment? I think it’s because they are undergoing a transition before our very eyes.

Oh yes, we virtuals have already been transformed. We understand exactly what’s going on. We have rationalized our conception of reality (separate or identical). It’s the Atomics who are changing.

It’s like a concept I learned from Science Fiction God William Gibson on a recent podcast where virtual reality was contrasted with the emergence of the lowly telephone decades ago. Here’s how it works: when we Virtuals interact, we do so in an immersive, 3D audio and video environment. Our thoughts are transformed to actions through the rich medium and new personal experiences are created, stored in our memories forever.

Meanwhile, after the Atomics complain about imaginary activity in a meaningless virtual world, they pick up their familiar telephone and dial. But what are they doing, exactly?

They are using a rich audio medium to communicate remotely with invisible others, located untold distances far away. They cannot see their correspondent, nor touch them. In many cases they have never met them in the flesh. They may not even know their name – ever.

And yet, this practice is considered acceptable and reasonable. But for them, virtual reality is Not Real. Another paradox.

I believe the Atomics will eventually come to realize that virtual reality is a serious and rich medium of communication, and not “just a game.” After all, it’s just phone, isn’t it?

6 comments:

Zippora Zabelin said...

I absolutely love the comparison with a phone, even though it has his flaws. This needs some pondering *insert thinking plurk-emoticon here* Thanks for the great post!

Jun Kuroda said...

I like SL and text much better than phone because phone feels so disconnected to me.
Atomics don't understand. :x

Tymmerie Thorne said...

Great analysis!! I love reading your blog!!!

Jun: "Atomics don't understand." would make a great t-shirt!!

Haley said...

I've got your number..

Web Mistress Julia said...

I have had non-SL, non-online folks question the depth of the relationships I've formed in There, SL, EQ2 and AoC, many a time, as I suspect we all have. My favorite way of explaining it reaches even further back that the invention of the telephone. Letter writing and pen pals. How many folks wouldn't think twice about seeing how one might form a lasting, valuable and deep friendship merely through the exchange of the written word, never having laid eyes on one and another? That usually gives them pause. Until recently, all communication from inside SL (not counting external chat proggys) was done in text, it's still the dominant from of discourse. What's the difference?

If that doesn't get them I do use the phone, haven't you had a work associate that you got to know only via the phone? Again, what's the difference?

Love the term "Atomics", btw.

LC said...

I like this. Or do I? Reality is really perception.

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