Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Real World vs. Virtual World By Rebecca Clippard

As established in my last post the only thing I really know are my own thoughts, but even our own minds and perceptions are easily confused. How does this idea affect our knowledge of virtual worlds? Here I am referring to virtual worlds as online or constructed communities or ideas. I am also bordering into the science fiction by discussing virtual reality. What is the difference between this real and the virtual real? I could also phrase this question as ‘what are the differences between virtual and reality’. Is the real world more real? This question may seem fairly straightforward. After all, the differences between virtual and the nonvirtual world numerous.
I will start with the obvious. The current world requires food intake and waste excretion. All living organisms have metabolic processes where they intake something before getting rid of whatever cannot be used. Heat is the easiest way organisms lose energy. In fact, the energy cycle/pyramid is more of one-way road than a circle. Plants must constantly intake new energy from the Sun in order for those further down the food chain to be able to have energy. And the process is a losing battle. Those at the end of this cycle lose energy simply because only 10% of it is transferable. It is one of the reasons there are so few predators compared prey. More energy is required to stay alive and function.

If hooked up to a virtual world, metabolic processes would still have to be taken into consideration. Whatever you eat virtually does not connect to you actual stomach. Another interesting concept is buying clothes or furniture for an avatar. You do not get an exact copy of this in your nonvirtual home. Does that make this world more real than a virtual one? Perhaps at first glance, but the two share similarities. The virtual world would be made of energy and data just as this world is made of molecules. The only difference is how easily humans can manipulate or create a virtual world. Some people even argue that virtual worlds include everything we contribute online. This would include blogging, gaming, and etc. I wondered if that meant skyping was included. How can I know that there really is someone on the other side if I am not there? Another thing, items stolen on a virtual community are still considered theft. Police have been known to arrest criminals who circumvented security and stole virtual money or goods for themselves.
All joking aside, I want to point out that not everyone shares the same virtual community, but we all share the same nonvirtual world. Does this lesson the impact of virtual worlds? Are the feelings gained from a virtual world less real? Or do they just add on to existing reality I would argue the latter. I was born into a world with an already established internet network. To consider my experiences less real would mean that half my childhood would have to be negated. Or at the least considered less real than children who spent their entire childhood playing outside.

The French Philosopher Baudrillard argued that society was slowing replacing the real with what he called the hyper-real. He argued that “ in a postmodern culture dominated by TV, films, news media, and the Internet, the whole idea of a true or a false copy of something has been destroyed: all we have now are simulations of reality, which aren't any more or less "real" than the reality they simulate.” I took this to mean that because there are now so many realities and so many virtual ideas, we have no way of knowing what is ‘real’ and what is not anymore.

Baudrillard makes an extremely interesting argument. How can we know what is real and what is not real. For me, I think it is the same virtual or non-virtual. If you stay in your own community, you will never see other perspectives. I do wonder how he would have reacted to virtual relationships such as people who either meet or get married online. Because they have not (usually) met in person, outside of the internet, does this make their love less real? It would invoke the same emotions and the relationship. There are even places that will give you a virtual wedding. Often this is marketed to rpg players who have no way of organizing a ceremony where distance is an issue for fiance and friends. Because the wedding was held online, does that make the ceremony less real? Baudrillard might argue that it was. But for me, I think the distance between virtual and nonvirtual realities are less assured than people like to think.

Article about virtual furniture being stolen from virtual hotel

A good summary of Baudrillard’s points

Just in case anyone is interested :)

1 comment:

  1. The gap between virtual reality and reality still seems huge, to me. (And that's even defining VR to include old media, like novels.) Is that a generational sensibility? Our question, again: what IS real?