It’s a confronting experience to come across a topic like today’s one of reality which I experience daily and think that I know back-to-front, only then to have it challenged by something like the virtual which shakes the fundamental thought of what even constitutes ‘the real’. Can the virtual also be real/part of reality?
Building on from last lecture’s idea that what we perceive to be memory can instead really be attributed more as perceptions of events past aided by global mnemotechnics, to think about my perception of ‘reality’ in the same way – in that what I consider to be ‘real’ is really a produced acknowledgement of the existing conditions of my environment that I’ve grown accustomed to over the past 20 years – made sense. Whitehead’s (Manning 2006) idea of ‘causal efficacy’ validated this understanding with his belief that “what we perceive… is not an object but its pastness or its capacity to exist in relation” (Murphie 2013). If what I believe (or perceive, because reality is never a set-in-concrete kind of matter and often subjective depending on other factors even in fields such as science; e.g. climate change) to be ‘real’ can be reflected in the virtual – whether that be augmented like the video below or simulated – then who is to say that that too doesn’t constitute reality?
Mediation then of course plays a huge role in the facilitation of this second level of reality, not only through being the platform on which virtual worlds can exist (e.g. the Internet and World of Warcraft, Second Life, Habbo Hotel and the use of Bitcoins) but also being the primary actor through which we participate in and cope with the multiple and shifting realities that we face in society today. If the virtual is “potential waiting to be realised” in a world where “change is always changing” (Murphie 2013), the virtual thus has the power to create experiences that we will then perceive to be part of reality. It essentially shifts the entire field of relationships that exist between oneself and their social/ecological environments, which then shapes our perception of reality with the past in the present.
A simple example of all this may be that of cyber bullying, where scathing negative comments targeted to an individual online can create some terribly ‘real’ consequences for that victim; they may feel psychologically threatened by and live in constant fear of their attackers, and may physically display their vulnerable emotional state by crying, feeling ill or purposely avoiding being in the same places where possible – all of which are actions/notions that would be considered very ‘real’ by society today, so much so that there are various laws codified into legal systems against such behaviour.
While increased options and assistance in shopping or urban explorations through the virtually-based augmented reality technology may be exciting and welcomed (Drell 2012), as Havens (2013) purports in coherence with my understanding of the role of media and communication in producing reality by acting on relations and potentials in a given situation, the virtual – in his case, augmented reality – is not a step to be taken lightly. As with all actors upon society and in particular, that of media and communications which possess critical levels of reach to societies, it would be a mistake to “ignore the dynamism of material reality” (Murphie 2013) and their potential impacts upon our world. I hope that my expanded knowledge of the complex nature of reality will help me uncover the links between media, cultural and social change at a deeper level for my research assignment.
Drell, L. 2012, ‘7 Ways Augmented Reality Will Improve Your Life’, Mashable, December 20, accessed 9 April 2013, <http://mashable.com/2012/12/19/augmented-reality-city>
Havens, J. 2013, ‘The Impending Social Consequences of Augmented Reality’, Mashable, February 8, accessed 9 April 2013, <http://mashable.com/2013/02/08/augmented-reality-future>
Manning, E. 2006, ‘Prosthetics Making Sense: Dancing the Technogenetic Body’, The Fibreculture Journal, issue 6, viewed 10 April 2013, <http://nine.fibreculturejournal.org/fcj-055-prosthetics-making-sense-dancing-the-technogenetic-body>
Murphie, A. 2013, Advanced Media Issues: New Media, Cultural and Social Change, a study guide distributed by The University of New South Wales, Sydney for Semester 1, 2013, pp.25-28.