We Are Living In A Screenworld – Reality Isn’t In The Real World Anymore

storyimages_eviltvsmallMichael Ventura writes on AlterNet:

Not so long ago, I taught a graduate writing seminar in which I got caught in an argument about virtual vs. “real” experience. Two students—among the brightest in the class—insisted that they could go to Rome via a computer program through which they could view every street, turn this corner and that as they pleased, look at every ruin and work of art, and their experience would be as real, as engaged, as if they’d actually been there. n “But,” said I, “a pigeon couldn’t shit on your head.”

Granting that any experience can be called “real,” in that it is an experience, I argued that there are differences in the nature of virtual and actual reality. For one thing, on your walk through a virtual Rome, you aren’t even walking: you’re sitting. And what’s Rome without the wonderful smells of food? Even if your virtual Rome is accompanied by recorded sounds of Rome, that’s nothing like the sounds of racket, traffic, music, and language, the melodious cacophony of Italian, spoken all around you. A flat screen gives you no sense of Rome behind you, and to the side of you. The rain won’t rain on you, and you won’t have to dodge crazy drivers.

You’re having a one-dimensional experience, literally and figuratively. And no matter what’s inputted into the program, there’s no chance of running into the girl who sat next to you in high school chemistry—or anyone else. What R. D. Laing once called “the freshness and forgivingness of creation” couldn’t reach out to you, nor you to it.
Your computer program couldn’t include the unprogrammed, yet the unprogrammed is generally what happens during the engagement of human beings with each other, and with the world. James Baldwin’s truth that “any human touch can change you” isn’t available on your computer.

I said what I thought obvious: the computerized Rome couldn’t give you what a Laing or a Baldwin would most value about Rome: the city as a medium for engaging life beyond personal, private acts and perceptions.

They didn’t get it. My argument left them utterly unconvinced, and they looked at me bemusedly, as though I was mildly to be pitied because I didn’t get it.

What separated us? Between my sense of the real and theirs gaped a chasm that I didn’t understand…

Read the full article here.

Joe Allen

Joe Allen is a writer and fellow primate who wonders why we came down from the trees. A lifelong student of religion and science, he's also kept his hands dirty as a land surveyor, communal farm hand, kitchen servant, and for over a decade, by climbing steel as an entertainment rigger. His work appears in various outlets from left to right because he prefers liberty to security.

Daily interjections: @EvoPsychosis

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7 Comments on "We Are Living In A Screenworld – Reality Isn’t In The Real World Anymore"

  1. Liquidself | May 31, 2010 at 1:06 pm |

    I would have thought that psychotherapy (far from being anti-screenworld) would suggest fantasy and dream (read virtual reality or holodeck) as a primary l/focus for a life. Baudrillard has spoken eloquently about all of this.

  2. yeah its not real. The program would be a preview of a potential experience not the real thing. You can experience the who preview argument by watching porn.

  3. hahaha. Funny thoughts but yeah its real. because of technology, being advance makes things real even just on the screen.


  4. Bjfisher | Jun 1, 2010 at 8:03 am |

    this is part of the reason study abroad programs should be mandatory parts of the college curriculum, i learned more in 6 weeks traveling asia, than in four years of college. I understand that going to Rome is not literally what he was talking about, but getting people out of their comfort zone helps with this mindset.

  5. Peetwilson | Jun 1, 2010 at 8:42 am |

    “There is no higher resolution then nature”… that is what I keep reminding myself.

    • Sure there is, I can't zoom into normal reality nearly as well as i can with VR. Also, my perception of real reality is fixed until I get bionic eyes. I'll take VR over RR anyday.

  6. ZombieStomper | Jun 2, 2010 at 11:42 pm |

    Most of us can't afford to go to Rome. Don't have vacation time. Seeing it on a screen is real enough for some of us. Or at least better than nothing. Send me a postcard, yuppie.

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