Tag Archives: Week 5

Week 5 – Reality

I am a science fiction nerd. I admit it. I’ve read Ender’s Game and Neuromancer and therefore I am familiar with the concept of the virtual, virtual reality technologies and their affect on the world. Or, I thought I was. This week’s readings, mainly those by Andrew (both on the course outline and his The World As Clock) certainly changed my mind.

I was relieved to see that what I had traditionally considered the virtual, that is “computer-simulated environments that can simulate physical presence in places in the real world, as well as in imaginary worlds” (Wikipedia, n.d.) still applied to some degree, and after exploring a little bit I was amazed to see how far things had come from the clunky video arcade headset. For example, the experiment where men were (virtually) placed inside a woman’s body, opening “up another avenue for virtual reality, which is not just to transform your sense of place, but also your sense of self” (Sample, 2010) What a brilliant idea, finally you are able to literally walk in someone else’s shoes. Considering the power the mind has over the body, and vice versa, perhaps eventually we will see a massive shift from sympathy to empathy in social interactions. Surely, if we can empathise with a WoW avatar we can do the same with each other (Callaway, 2009)

Now I turn to Andrew’s definition, where the virtual is “an excess over the actual expressions of this individuation”, rather than being “reducible to technologies such as VR.” (Murphie, 2004, p. 5) That made my head spin a bit, but the idea of the virtual as potential (Murphie 2011) really struck a chord with me. I imagine the virtual as a sort of diaphanous cloud floating around me, from which I constantly pluck concrete thoughts and actions, perhaps with the help of a medium or technology, to create the actual. In some ways, it’s another type of archive, a way to thinking of insubstantial, dynamic things in a collective manner.

So how does augmented reality fit into all of this? Somewhere in between? I found that the Chris Grayson reading (2009), while being full of amazing examples, never fully explained what it was, and as I only have a vague idea about the term I turned to Wikipedia, which told me that it is “a live direct or an indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input. ” (Wikipedia, n.d.) So does the augmentation occur through the actualisation of the virtual? Or the virtualisation of the actual? I confess I am still getting my head around this concept. Something that occurred to me however, was that by augmenting reality you are almost making it into the virtual. You are increasing the potential as you exist are in the “ongoing movement” (Murphie 2011), as you are able to experience that moment on several different levels.

When I first thought about virtual reality I considered it the opposite of externalization, the area I am considering for my research paper. Externalization involves bringing the mind out of the body into the world, whereas virtual reality is bringing a world into the mind and onto the body. I can still see this as a possible way of viewing the issue but it is not the most sophisticated and would hinder research into interesting areas. A more flexible, open way to think about it would be to consider how externalization affects actualisation, and how our extended minds and technologies that live on our bodies allow use to channel the virtual into the actual. Further research is needed, as I have no idea how it would.

 

Sources:

Anon. (n.d.) ‘Augmented Reality’ Wikipedia <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augmented_reality> [accessed 27 March 2011]

Anon. (n.d.) ‘Virtual Reality’, Wikipedia <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_reality> [accessed 27 March 2011]

Callaway, Ewen (2009) ‘How your brain sees virtual you’ New Scientist <http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18117-how-your-brain-sees-virtual-you.html?DCMP=OTC-rss&nsref=brain> [accessed 28 March 2011]

Grayson, Chris (2009) ‘Augmented Reality Overview’, GigantiCo <http://gigantico.squarespace.com/336554365346/2009/6/23/augmented-reality-overview.html> [accessed 27 March 2011]

Murphie, Andrew (2004) ‘The World’s Clock: The Network Society and Experimental ecologies’, Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies, 11, Spring

Murphie, Andrew (2011) ‘Is The Virtual Real?’ Advanced Media Issues <http://arts3091.newsouthblogs.org/course-outline-and-readings/#weekfive> [accessed 28 March 2011]

Sample, Ian (2010) ‘Virtual reality used to transfer men’s minds into a woman’s body’ The Guardian <http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/may/12/virtual-reality-men-woman-body> [accessed 28 March 2011)

 

 

 

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Ito, Mizuko. “Mobile Phones, Japanese Youth, and the Re-placement of Social Contact.” In Ling, Rich and Pederson, Per, Eds. Mobile Communications: Re-negotiation of the Social Sphere. London: Springer – Verlag, 2005, 131-148

 

I enjoyed this reading, as I found it refreshing to have a writer explain and explore the diminishing face-to-face contact between young people rather than simply bemoan it. Mizuko Ito states that mobile phone use does not necessarily “erode the integrity of existing places or social identities” (p. 131). He explains that mobile phones offer a way to work around the boundaries that limited physical space place upon Japanese youth, rather than breaking down embedded cultural and social traditions.

 

Ito explains that “young people also use [mobile phones] to push back at their own disenfranchised position within adult-controlled institutions and spaces of activity.” (p. 133) This seems to me one huge benefit of mobile media technologies – that new space, a valuable commodity as populations grow, can be created anywhere and anytime with the click of a button.  Ito uses his research to demonstrate how these technologies have been appropriated by young people in Japan for just this purpose where students are asked if they visit each other’s homes: “Occasionally. Maybe once a year” (p. 136) is the response. Instead, teens use texting and emails to create a sense of “co-presence” (p.137), and to “coordinate their motion through an urban space.” (p. 142)

 

However, Ito emphasises that while mobile phones and the rituals that accompany them have permeated youth culture they are still subject to the demands of older conventions, where “mobile phones become a tool for circumventing the normative structures of the home with minimal disruption to its institutional logic.” (p. 139) Mobile phones are still put away for meal times. Similarly, at school students use their phones to communicate but hide it from the teachers, demonstrating how mobile technology practices must give way to older practices. Buses and train even “display ‘no mobile phone’ signs.” (p. 141)


Another aspect of this text that I found interesting were the differences I found when I compared mobile technology uses amongst Japanese youth and my friends and I, and also how these technologies are viewed by the wider public. For example, it is considered perfectly normal, though not ideal, to conduct voice calls on public transport. Furthermore, I am comfortable in calling the landline of a male friend.  Also, the amount and frequency that Japanese teenagers use their mobile phones differs greatly to my personal use. Many of these differences are probably due to cultural variances but I think it’s fascinating how media and mobile technologies can reflect these.