Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Progress from the Computer Chair: A Look at Larson's Piece

Charles Larson's piece, Dramatism ad Virtual Reality: Implications and Predictions focuses on intrapersonal communication. As discussed in earlier blogs about Larson's chapter, he states the usual concerns and criticisms over Virtual Reality and the threat it poses to genuine human interaction, "virtual reality almost by definition limits the sense of community that accompanied earlier media" [115].
It has been shown time and time again that the fears we have of our tendency to increasingly immerse ourselves in digitized worlds of communications are grossly exaggerated. One does not need to look hard at examples such as SecondLife or Facebook for glaring contradictions to these fears. One claim made by Larson is however, interesting, or at least worth thinking about again. Looking beyond the dramatized fears of people losing complete touch with those around them and their physical surroundings, the point that though we might not become engulfed with solitude and anti-social behavior does not concede the fact that we might become really lazy.
"Virtual Reality also raises serious questions regarding our social order such as concern over the degree to which humans might vegetate their lives way playing in a virtual amusement park, never engaging in productive efforts" [115].
While this claim by Larson is probably shaped in extremes, it does bring up the point that while we're not completely useless are we limiting our productivity to a noticeable level? I Can't help but recall countless night of procrastination and stress being facilitated at the hands of FaceBook and YouTube. The ability to connect with others or help society is not being questioned here, I'm just making the point that Larson is right in the sense that a good amount of productivity is being sacrificed at the hands of mindless web surfing. Bringing this back to Virtual Reality, I can only harp on the infamous South Park War of World Craft episode, mocking as it may have been, the observation was there; the characters in their quest for "progress", physically grew fat, slobbish (to the point of incontinence) and idle.
There ARE a lot of benefits to virtual reality, I'm not denying it, but beyond the utilitarian and humanitarian example you can't ignore that a lot of this industry is developed for recreation, and part of what fosters it is immersing yourself in it for hours at a time. The fear isn't in not talking to the people around you, or living in the real world, it's not doing anything with your life.

1 comment:

Lance Strate said...

Whether Larson is right or wrong in his assessment is an open question, without a doubt. But the key here is the questions that are posed, and the approach that he takes. If we look at virtual worlds in dramatistic terms, what kind of stage have we created, and what kind of actors does that stage demand? Does the stage serve the actors, or does it force them to play its game?