Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Boo Algorithms

“It is thus not the fantasy of a purely aseptic war run as a video game behind computer screens that protects us from the reality of the face to face killing of another person; on the contrary it is this fantasy of face to face encounter with an enemy killed bloodily that we construct in order to escape the Real of the depersonalized war turned into an anonymous technological operation.”

Slavoj Zizek’s insightful claim about how we view ourselves under layers of our own construction is an additive to Wark’s constant iteration that our “real” world has in fact become a game space. Yet here Zizek takes it a step further to show that not only are we unaware of how digitized and game-like our world is, but also that “reality” itself (everything outside of that game) has actually become a fantasy, an illusion. In other words, in the old days when people would be tormented by the “realness” of a disaster, the brutality of a war, now we only construct this idea of that “realness” in our head, when in fact we are living under the conditions of an ever-increasing techno-era which denies us the satisfaction (or the “realness”) of that potent feeling or experience. Thus, just as in the Veldt, as we become more plugged into simulated experience, our desires for experiences that previously seemed cumbersome or painful will surely seethe. Furthermore I think this quote rightly undercuts some of Wark’s claims that “One might start with the curious gap between the games one loves and an everyday life which, by the light of the game, seems curiously similar, and yet somehow lacking,” where the consistency and “perfection” of the game reel people in and therefore leave the gamer disinterested with the imperfection of his/her real life. Putting aside the fact that these games do not offer a nearly complex perceptive experience (and Wark’s follow up that this is precisely the kind of simplistic, algorithmic experience a gamer has been shaped to seek,) I think that this “perfection” and “consistency” Wark talks about is an obvious weakness of these algorithmic games. Even though we are maybe unwittingly transforming our own world into a gamespace that more clearly mirrors that perfection (or at least trying to,) it seems hard to understand WHY! Curing diseases is one thing, yet aspiring to a world where there is no suffering, where everything is predictable and mechanical, seems to be intuitively scary! Don’t fundamentalists even believe that God created evil for a reason? One can easily recognize how the true evil (if even possible) will boil down to a numbing of all gamers’ senses to the point that the desire for pain is no longer even there.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Second Life Possibilities

After reading the informational packet on Second Life the thing that struck me most was the idea of rules in this world. Not only is it interesting to identify the arbitrary limiting of physical spaces, (like height, dimensions of a prim, etc.) but it also brings up the question “who invented these rules, and why are people not opposed to ‘living’ with them?” In a virtual world where everything is seemingly possible, all physical and conceptual elements still work within limits except for resources. Drew brought up a really important question in class which was “how can there be any economic system in a realm where there is no fixed quantity of resources?” Not only are there no limits to prims, but presumably, mass production of any object, costs neither time nor money. Under this system, “value” no longer pertains to supply and demand of resources but rather of ideas. In other words, the Second Life market is dealing with entirely intellectual property. It seems that every law of economics fit to determine worth is obliterated, and we must study behavior within this world which is surely creating a new “pop culture” based on virtual aesthetics and desires to determine what is popular and in demand. Yet again, this topic comes back to rules: In the “real” world, many argue magazines, movies, etc. set the standards of deciding what is hip. In Second Life, who has power? Will a whole social hierarchy ensue, and if so, what will the strata be based on? An optimist would say that such a limitless, creatively inspiring world will establish a kind of prestige that is not so superficially based on material wealth and good looks, but instead on the weight of ideas (where introverted computer geeks will finally reign strong!)