Thursday, January 18, 2007

There is Something to be Said for "Real" Reality!

Consider this report from the world of Second Life posted on Blogma this morning by Margaret Kane:

The protesters were gathered to decry the opening of the virtual headquarters of French nationalist group Front National in Second Life. But the incident soon moved beyond sign waving and statement issuing, as residents armed themselves and explosions began to rain down. Then came the pigs.

On the one hand we may be expected to celebrate this observation that a virtual world encourages innovation in the expression of protest. On the other hand, we have the following reaction from the Inside Google blog:

You can't hold political discourse, because someone could drop a giant virtual poop on your stage. You can't run a business, because if a group doesn't like you, they can just throw up pictures of porn stars around your workplace. You can't rely on anything legitimately serious, because your neighborhood is populated with the same adolescent idiots that populate every non-moderated discussion forum on the internet, and this time, they don't even need to be able to type to ruin your day! And I say this assuming the party being attacked was a hatemongering Nazi-loving political party. It doesn't matter, and if you don't understand why, you don't understand democracy.

I am not sure if I am reading this comment the way the author intended; but my interpretation is that, if you live in the "real world," then you should engage in that real world, recognizing that any such engagements should be grounded in normative practices that need to be honored. I have been spilling my own (virtual) ink for some time over observations that we "retreat" into virtual worlds, such as Second Life, because "reality is too much with us," when, instead, we should be building up skills to cope with that reality. My own rhetorical strategy was to take the oft-repeated mantra of Buckaroo Banzai, "Wherever you go, there you are!," and turn it against the champions of virtuality with a new mantra: "Wherever you go, reality catches up with you!" I hope this is the sort of thing that Google Blog was trying to see, because, as far as I am concerned, it cannot be said too many times!

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