Real or Not Real, That is the Question…

 

The Theme I have found within these samples that Dr. James Leon chose for this assignment has to do with the real versus not real aspects of the online world and offline world. I see this topic as a topic that will end up being debated for many years, much like many theory’s of existence. You can easily put this topic in the same category as evolution versus creationism and is there a god?. Do we truly know what real is? What is it that makes things real? People will continue to have theories of such questions, but when it comes down to it in the long run it really has to do with the individual. It always has been between the individuals and what they believe to be real or not. 

Going within these online communities such as Second Life, chat rooms, or other games, you will often see the term RL or Real life, this is a term often used to describe the offline world we physically live in. It is not necessarily the best term to use for our physical living selves. As everything we deal with in the online world is to some degree real to the individual, whether intended or not. Through this report you will notice I refer not to the ‘real life’ but to the offline world. These terms are commonly mistaken to be the same.  As calling the offline world you are insinuating that the online world is not real. But the feelings you get from it, the interactions, the experiences you get from these online worlds are just as real as those that you deal with the physical offline.

If we take a step back though and try to evaluate what the norms are for making things real for the individuals we can come to the conclusion that in fact the online world is just as real as the offline world, aside from being able to be anonymous in the online world and the physical aspects of the offline world. You can talk with someone for days and learn all about them in the offline world and do the same with someone in the online world, and know the same about each person. How often do you hear a gamer of video games or online games say “my avatar went to this one place today and…,” not often we most always say “I went..” and that is exactly the case, we the physical beings control these pictures of what we see as ourselves to do these things, we are the ones that are communicating with the other players of these worlds.

This report will go into detail about how these online worlds, are just as real as the offline worlds. That life can have an equal balance of the two worlds in one if put together properly and balanced. Many of my own experiences will be part of the examples that may be used in this report.

The first Sample that will be looked into this report is “Sample 1”, it talks about the realness of social interaction  and what may be considered real within that aspect.

                        “I agree though, we do spend a LOT of time online now days but I think it could go both ways, it’s not necessary a bad thing. What exactly is "real social interaction" anyway? I know in the book they say that, "real" often acts simply as a synonym for "offline" (p.20), but to me, if you're interacting with people in any way it is a real interaction. I mean while being online, you could video chat with someone, how different is that from actually sitting right next to them and talking to them? You can see them, judge things from their facial expressions, and show them things, the only thing you can't do is touch them. And I understand that touch is a big part of social interactions but its not like they never go out into the world and just stay holed up in their rooms 24/7 (i hope).”

As this sample is brought up, it is referring to the realness of the social interaction. Real, is as this person says another way of stating offline, but just as this person states the interactions you have with the other people in these games and other virtual activities is still a real interaction. Video chatting is actually a bigger thing than people realize. It is something that I have done myself with some of my closest friends. Video chatting is used for all sorts of interactions. People would consider using a telephone as a “real” interaction between two individuals; a video call is no different. Also the video calling through the internet allows for some people with hearing impairment to communicate much easier, same goes with the typing and texting part of the internet world. It is rare for people to only communicate through the internet world and not in some ways the “real,” physical world. Even those who are so engulfed into the imagination, fantasy of such virtual worlds still need to connect to the physical world, to eat, bathroom, shop. This can prove to not be a whole lot of interactions but it is still to the present still physical. The thought of what is considered as a real interaction and what is not considered real, is in the eye of the beholder. A prime example of how the interactions are a matter of perception and how real something is to someone is when you look at the Resis Monkeys.  The baby monkey thought and acted as if the warm and cuddly statue monkey was its mother. That warm monkey in the babies eyes was a real monkey, the interactions the baby had with it were real, and important to that baby monkey.

The virtual world no matter what form they come from, are based from some sort of reality or twisted form of reality. On the same page most reality can be said to come from some sort of virtual medium. Many technological items we use today came from dreams and unusual ideas to make our lives simpler. Take for instance the cell phone, whose idea spurred off the hit television show “Star Trek,” a dream come reality. You can find in the news information of holodecks that are being built and tested. Something that I foresee coming into existence as a big thing, that many big cities would have this. This idea of having holodecks in reality and not just on television brings up the real versus not real question again. But would the experiences you have on such mediums of our life be real? What is real versus the not real can be the center of many talks but it always comes down to it as if it is real for the individual. This person goes on to mention how we put ourselves in the position of the characters within the books, movies and television shows that we watch, and we do. Although it is a movie a very good example of putting ourselves into characters is from the movie “Avatar.” Here is a man who cannot walk, he gets linked to an hybrid humanoid alien, he can walk he feels the wind on what he sees as his skin, not the avatars skin, he experiences everything as if it is happening to him the individual not through the avatar. Providing this happened in our real life, and it may in the future as we have the world to imagine what the future holds for us, you would not be able to go up to that man and tell him that what he felt what he went through is not real.  In his mind and in the minds of all the people he dealt with it was real.

There is no doubt that the social interactions from the online world are as real as those you deal with in our offline world. We still feel the emotions, if someone were to yell at us in these online worlds we still have the want to yell back or to cry or whatever your normal reaction is to someone yelling at you.  We still get hurt or angry when an online friend talks bad about us, or decides to delete us from their friends list. For anyone to not see that the online does affect the offline just as much as someone sitting right next to you could, isn’t thinking of the grand picture of things. Surely the person next to you can and will be more physical with you in terms of being there for you, to give you a hug, or whatever you may need or not want. Our interactions in the Offline world are not always constant with the physical aspect of life though.

This next person who wrote “Sample 10” brings up hte draw backs of that lack of connection with the online world, yet another missing link to this proposal that the online is just as real as the offline they said as I quote

            “It brings up the idea of human contact and social interaction in the 'real world'. Both people mentioned in the end of the review ended up rejecting technology in favor of surrounding themselves with people in the real world. It seems that they became jaded with technology, and desired more physical and social human contact, focusing on relationships. If everything is "virtual" in the future, can you see this happening? Or will the online relationships and social interaction, which are becoming more and more complex, be able to satisfy our need for human contact? I think this could be possible, but I don't think anything can replace a good hug etc.”

This person brings up the social interaction in the offline world as well. They list the drawbacks to becoming an active big part of the online world. It is true that by putting yourself into such a massive online world that you lose the connections you have with the social, physical human contact you have in the offline world. This writer also mentions that the people within the text she was reading rejected technology, this can become a major problem. Our world as we know it is getting more and more technological advanced. Rejecting technology is in fact rejecting a major part of life with the virtual aspect of things. You in essence can be rejecting part of yourself. Meaning as humans we tend to strive for the new and exciting things that come our way. The Future will in fact hold many technological advancements, it is very likely that people such as those mentioned continue to shun the technology completely in this aspect that they will not be able to efficiently work or live in the future.

Yes having interactions with the physical people in our lives is important I’m not saying it isn’t, but if you think of little advancements that have already been made what will come later on may be greater, and make interacting with a friend virtually actually a fun thing to do, instead of to some extremists harmful. Date back a few years ago, the only way to talk with someone was to pick up a land line phone and call them, now we have cell phones, video calling and much more. Which in my opinion are still not part of a physical social interaction with someone else, but it closer than being completely and utterly virtual.

            I remember reading somewhere that it is in fact possible to do teleporting, that we have the science for it we just  lack the resources for it. This is the case with many “Science Fiction” ideas, it really is only a matter of time that we get advanced enough to make it literally happen.

           We will always need the physical, living, breathing social interactions to live. I do not think we could live in this world without them. Babies are the best proof of this. Newborns are in need of the physical contact with another living breathing being. They need to learn from their own species how to live, walk, and talk. They need to feel the love and commitment of other physically present people. The baby in question could get deathly ill or worse die if it did not have this. We never know what the future holds for us, and surely anything is possible, but one thing will remain we will need that physical connection.

           So the future might end up posing situations that the virtual and the physical have some sort of conjoining aspect. It is very possible that someone will find a way to make it so that you can be physically social with someone as well as virtually interacting with them. There are already ways that people sort of do this. I do believe it is a second life purchasable item, from what I’m told but you could in essence buy a special computer connectable Vibrator and your, partner or whoever has the program that it comes with can control the settings on set device. I’m not sure how this device works but it is evidence that people are already attempting to bring the virtual and distance of the internet. This may be just one website, as I know there are others but or more information about such devices you can go to  the following website

http://www.extremerestraints.com/vibrating-sex-toys_80/internet-enabled-rabbit-vibrator_1289.html

There are many other devices that you can find on the internet that you don’t have the control over but someone else that you trust enough to have a sign in on your program. These are just some of the small steps that the virtual world is invading the offline.

The virtual world is connected to the future, yes but just as the person from sample 11 states its not just that. There is more to it being ‘futuristic’ versus it being a different version of real.

“It was a different perspective in viewing the term and, thus, the essence of the virtual world. We, especially in this generation, tend to interpret the term as being associated with being futuristic or completely fictional, as I personally viewed it. In contrast, though the virtual world is not “real” per se, it stems from the actual world in a way that it imitates many of the various aspects. As defined in chapter 1, it is almost “real” without actually being “real.” I thought that was interesting because I had always derived the concept of being virtual as having to do with computers and technology: virtual reality games, virtual worlds, etc. are mostly computer generated or accessed through a computer. It’s interesting to think that my dreams are, in a sense, types of virtual worlds.”

 This person notes that yes our generation sees the virtual world as something futuristic and fictional, it is a common thought to make on this matter. They mention that dreams are but a medium of the virtual world, and they are just that. These online virtual worlds have to come from somewhere. People can argue that these online communities come from books or movies of some kind, but those ideas had to have come from somewhere as well.

I can be considered a role player, I make a character and I write a story about that character, other role players join me in making the story with their characters, the list and life expands as more and more people join in the story. Many people associate role playing with games like Dungeons and Dragons or even World of Warcraft, and other like games. You might be asking yourself why is she talking about role playing, I thought we were talking about dreams being categorized as being virtual. That is the case, you see I have characters and when I think of them or I write for them, close my eyes and put them in their world I am dreaming of how they would act and react. I am visually seeing the virtual world within my head and offline of what is going on in the life of that character. A few weeks ago I was roaming around second life, with one of my characters in mind so I figured why not see if they have any SIM’s that match her life, and sure enough I teleported into this one SIM and it looked almost exactly what I had in my head of my character that I have written through for over two years. I was amazed at how my imagination and someone else’s imaginations were in lock when it came to how that virtual world should look like. Like sharing a dream with a friend that they already somehow knew the details to, and even told you part of your own dream. Dreams and online technological intractable interfaces are just a couple ‘virtual worlds’

Books can be considered a virtual world. You are not just reading the story because of the words, that makes the book boring, I admit like any college student there are some text books out there that bore me to death almost. Books can be boring, but the books we find fun, interesting and not so boring tends to be books that have some sort of exciting storyline. You read the books and the events that take place unfold in your mind, often times someone can close a book and close their eyes and sit there thinking of the events that just took place in their mind, through the help of the book.

Another medium of the virtual world is television and movies. We can sit there and watch the lives of these fictional people and creatures unfold before our very eyes. We often think about the story line for a long time after seeing the movie, how the guy got the girl, or the person stabbed the dragon, these virtual worlds continue to play in our minds. So many different ideas of what could have happened or would will happen next. This continuation of thoughts can be considered as day dreams or normal dreams if we end up sleeping and having a dream about it.

There really are many different mediums that we express or virtual world in. This next writer of sample 7 has a similar look on how dreams and virtual realities are just as real as the offline world we live in.

“Something that caught my attention probably because it was mentioned multiple times was that without the virtual there is no human. I was talking with one person about that with one of the people I know in SL and they were like yea, well everything we do has its virtual aspects "when was the last time you watched a show or movie and didn't put yourself in the characters position" I thought about it and came to the conclusion most of the time when I do watch these movies or shows I do see it as me going through the events, I feel the emotions as if it were happening to me”

This is very true, dreams, movies, shows, books and other mediums of the imagination all carry a virtual world of some sort with them. Putting yourself in the place of your avatar, or screen name happens more and more with every different medium of the imagination. There were hundreds of thousands of people that cried when they watched “Titanic” watching something that wasn’t -real- still affected these people on a real level. The reasons as to why the people were affected to such a great extent vary from the positions that they had seen it from. But the fact remains many people are affected by things that do not exist in their own lives, by things that are not real.

Watch a person play a video game or high packed action movie you will eventually end up seeing them dodge the attacks a little with their head bobbing side to side, they are putting that other medium of imagination, that other world and bringing it to what we know as the real. Could it be that these books and movies are not here just to entertain us, but to show us that what is happening is something that we want to do, we want to experience those events, but have many reasons as to why we don’t. These avatars that we have in Second Life, allow for individuals to take one more step closer to allowing ourselves feels and experience these things, instead of just seeing it on screen, with people that you cannot control. You control what happens to your virtual persona instead of watching someone else control the actions or reading what the writer intended for you to read the ability to control what it is you are doing in these virtual worlds is empowering.

It would be nice to see the continuation of development on the technology to bring these ‘online’ virtual worlds into reality. I doubt that the world could ever get as bad as it did in the movie “The Surrogate” where people would sit at computer like chairs and link up to the computer to send out a robot version of themselves into the reality, even if it is possible. To go about in a world where you have your surrogate walk and do your life for you, and you just control it remote controllably. People that are no longer able to walk or are considered ‘vegetables’ can one day semi feel how it is to continue with a ‘normal’ life.

With every aspect of life there are negatives. Not being able to connect to people physically is definitely a drawback.  Nothing compares to your friends touch when you are feeling bad. A hug in the physical world sometimes is the best way to make someone feel better. As it can allow our bodies as well as our minds feel that we are loved and cared for still.

Another drawback to totally engulfing oneself to the online world, is over dependence. There needs to be a balance between your online interactions and your offline interactions. Without it you can surely loose track of what really is important in life. I remember reading an article about two parents in Korea that let their baby die because they were too addicted to their computers and internet to care for it. Only feeding the child once every twelve plus hours. What makes this story more sad is that the couple were in the middle of raising a cyber child instead. This is on the extreme of how it can get if you do not balance the offline and online worlds, it is true that the online world can offer so many things that the offline world is unable to give, but without the offline physical world we are unable to attempt to be in an online environment.

I mentioned earlier that I am a role player, I write stories about characters I create. To me these characters I create are just as real as you and I. These characters I have created along with many others that role play or live in the online community are as real as what our heart tells us. They are but an extension to our mind and body portrayed in a virtual world.

It can even be considered to the fact that they are even more real, that because you can be anonymous in such games you are able to take off the mask that you put up for people around you in your physical life and let your inner feelings out. People often allow their strange obsessions and fetishes out in the online community and this can be therapeutic for those individuals, they know that if they let out and be that way in the offline world, people would shun them. This allows an outlet to be yourself in some respects, but this could end up being another downfall, as people with some unacceptable fetishes and lifestyles no matter what community they come from in the physical will also be able to live out their wrong fantasies such as being a pedophile, even if the other person behind the avatar isn’t a child, the person may still get off on it, just with the thought that his avatar is doing such items to another.

In conclusion the real cannot be without the virtual and vice versa. They balance each other out. In the same respect when you are dealing with the online world you need to continue to balance it with your offline world, committing fully to one or the other in this day and age could be harmful to you as a whole.