Week 10 Readings: Human + Machine

The Longo reading from the Spilka book was interesting, even though the article was all over the place. She makes several statements about the genuineness of computer mediated interaction:

Virtual communities encourage simulated social interactions that lead to simulated human connections” (p. 148).

Those of us who inhabit digital worlds often claim that virtual communities are like “real” communities or are even better than “real communities, reassuring ourselves that a virtual life is OK, that it is not detrimental to “real” life (p. 155).

As people become more removed from one another in the physical world, we assure ourselves that the technological revolution enabling this alienation facilitates an idealized community, while also dismantling our physical community. This assertion comforts us, because we come to believe that an online virtual world such as Second Life is just like “real” life and is, therefore, OK (p. 156).

These statements just really set me off. I think it is because of the “normal-centrism” of her statements. Both Long and Turkle are criticizing a milieu that attracts people who are often marginalized within their physical communities. People who like games like Second Life, World of Warcraft and other online games are considered “geeky” or “nerdy.” They are either shy or have been teased into isolation or otherwise rejected by others. Now that a different environment has been created where they can thrive, scholars are trying to assert that what they are doing is somehow wrong. Longo asks, “Can virtual social connections established within a human + machine culture satisfy our human need to connect with other people?” (p. 148). If that’s the only kind of interaction wherein these people have been successful, I say, YES!

One of the sources she quotes says “…to “simulate is to feign to have what one hasn’t,” and “simulation threatens the difference between ‘true’ and ‘false,’ between ‘real’ and ‘imaginary’”(Baudrillard p. 167-168). If the choice is to continue to try and insert yourself into a physical social construct that rejects you over and over again versus thriving in an environment where people accept you, most people are going to choose acceptance over rejection.

One of the silly things about this argument is the fact that nobody gets their pants in a bunch when people talk on a home phone. That’s machine-mediated communication, and it is so unsophisticated as to only let you talk to one person at a time. Why aren’t scholars freaking out about telephone calls? They’re studying cell phone use, but why not the cordless we carry all over our homes?

The geeks finally have someplace to be. Like it or not.

Here’s my creative bit for this week. It’s a rap about geeks, to the tune of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, which you can listen to before reading the rap to yourself.

Now, this is a story all about how
My life got flipped-turned upside down
And I like to take a minute: just sit right there
I’ll tell you how I kill a dragon in its lair.

Now out in a suburb born and raised
I was a chubby kid with a funny old face
Kinda getting’ teased when I’m going to school
By the jocks and the greasers who thought they were cool
When a couple of guys who were up to no good
Startin making trouble in my neighborhood
I got in one little fight and my mom got scared
She said ‘You’re playin’ in the basement, now stay down there.”

I begged and pleaded with her day after day
But she bought me a computer and some games to play.
She gave me a keyboard and then she gave me my mouse.
I put my headphones since I was stuck in the house.

World of Warcraft, yo this is bad
Drinking potions out of a round flask.

Is this what the people of Azeroth living like?
Hmmmmm this might be alright.

I joined up in a guild and we had no fear
The monsters said “RAAAR” and we put it in gear
If anything I can say the treasure was rare
Told my guildies – “To the big boss, we’re just about there.”

I pulled up to the dragon cave at 7 or 8
And I yelled to the my guildies “Yo homies this is fate”
I looked at the dragon
We were finally there
I was having an adventure sittin’ right in my chair.

Addendum: I found this yesterday on the internet:


PPS. For some reason I thought the creative tag meant I should separate it. Don’t know where I got that idea from but I put it back together with its original post and just clicked the “creative” category. DERP!

Posted on November 6, 2011, in Creative, Literacy, Social Media, Society, Trust, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I’ve created a “Creative” category, if you’d like to place this post there. Aside from the rap, which is amazing, I really like this post for the use of quotes and links. It’s the ideal blend of reading & response.

  2. Rap rezoned into the creative category…

  3. This is an interesting perspective and an interesting post, Heidi. I appreciate how you set your argument up against the readings. Your statements seem like generalizations that all people who play these games are hermits or unsocialized. Some people who play these games just play them because they are games. Even before World of Warcraft, there were other ways for people to get lost on their own and did not deal with people or the physical world, like in books at the library. I also think that eventually, all people have to deal with the physical world (like working or grocery shopping). The more buried a person is in the virtual world, the harder it might be to deal with the physical world.

    I agree with your last point. People should get all out of whack just because a human is interacting with a machine, especially when it is perceived that the machine is at fault for causing social problems. They might be the cause of some issues, but not all of them.

  4. Your post really made me think, Natalie. Upon re-reading what I said, I see how my post would come across as generalizing. I think you’re right, and it is probably because of my background and experience.

    My husband and I (obviously) both played World of Warcraft. We made lots of friends online (and in real life) because of the game, and several of them were regular people with kind of a wide geeky streak. My husband’s father in law plays, and he’s just a regular guy.

    On the other hand, we owned a retail store for six years that catered to the geeky crowd. We sold games like Magic: the Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Dungeons and Dragons, Warhammer, Settlers of Cataan, Are You a Werewolf?, Fluxx and other games that most people won’t admit to playing even if they do. We also had a LAN set up so kids could rent time on the computer and play first-person shooter games against each other, or play WoW and Asheron’s Call. For the most part, they (and we) were all nerdly nerds together and we liked it that way. Although the name of the shop was “Fountain of Youth Games,” we all called it the “Nerd Sanctuary.”

    So I guess my self-identification as a nerd girl, along with my social group, my outside interests, and my experience running a nerd store led me to that generalization. By not clarifying my background, I can see that coming off as patronizing, but it wasn’t meant to be.

    I think that nerd-culture is no longer as stigmatized as it used to be. It has been normalized enough that nobody thinks it’s that odd if someone likes Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. People can play World of Warcraft and others only think you’re a little weird. Nowadays, one of the top-rated, Emmy-award winning television shows – The Big Bang Theory – revolves around nerd/geek culture.

    My experience is anecdotal, but I just wanted to throw it out there because it’s a context that I have familiarity with and for which I have a strong affinity.

  1. Pingback: interfere with the interface « Communication Strategies for Emerging Media

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