[EAS] Virtual Reality or Real Virtuality?
Peter J. Kindlmann
pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Tue Oct 17 00:40:24 EDT 2006
Dear Colleagues -
The essay <http://db.tidbits.com/article/8701> below, in a recent
issue of one of my computer newsletters, comments on the shrinking
difference between the real and virtual worlds. And there was an NPR
interview today with the creator of Second Life
<http://secondlife.com/> (also see below), a virtual environment
where real estate investments can make the players (and certainly
him) some real money. Is this an answer to slumping real estate
That I find it all very confusing is probably a sign of my age. I
wonder if I might propose a new role for Engineering: as guardian of
real reality. Yes, engineers have long resorted to their own
simulations, but I'd still like to think of them as grounded in
reality, as real-world problem solvers. Or are they already mostly
inhabiting the virtual world and smiling wryly at my discomforts?
Or maybe we should dispatch teams of poets into the virtual world, as
guardians and enliveners of that domain, before, as an insufficiently
unimaginative extrapolation of real reality, it wears itself out and
resorts to virtual virtual reality?
Virtual Reality or Real Virtuality?
by David Strom <david at strom.com>
article link: <http://db.tidbits.com/article/8701>
The news of recent times has me confused, so let me see if I have
this straight. We'll soon be seeing video games based on reality TV
shows - you know, the shows that employ script writers to make sure
the reality sounds real. These are different writers from those who
were protesting that they weren't paid enough and had to falsify
their time sheets to show that they worked fewer hours.
Then there are people making real money by selling Second Life
businesses that sell virtual goods to others inside their virtual
world. There are others who auction on eBay virtual items that
enable game players to advance to higher levels; these items are
assembled by real low-wage workers who spend their days playing the
games to accumulate them. There are fake Web pages for real people
on MySpace, created by fans (or detractors). There are also real Web
pages for fake people, some of which were created by advertising and
PR people who want to push a particular brand or agenda.
Earlier this month, a reporter for a national magazine was suspended
when his employer found out that he was posting praising comments to
his own blog under the pseudonym "sprezzatura," which means doing
something without apparent effort. His blog was removed by the
One of the most popular YouTube videos shows a lonely teenager
talking about her life. But it turns out that lonelygirl15 is really
an actress playing a part. I don't know if she had script writers or
if those writers have to fake their time sheets too. And this has
created an entire genre of other popular videos - people who are
tagging their creations with lonelygirl tags so others will view
them. Meanwhile, college courses on ethics have already incorporated
the whole mess into their curricula.
Then there is a pseudo-documentary that ABC-TV aired recently about
9/11, which interwove fictional dialogue spoken by actors playing
real people, an approach that drew significant criticism.
Finally, the chairwoman of Hewlett-Packard paid professional
investigators to pretend that they were reporters to obtain the
reporters' private phone records, so they could investigate
boardroom leaks. One of these efforts involved emailing a reporter a
Word document with a Trojan keylogger inserted.
Am I the only one having a problem with all of this? Is it becoming
harder to distinguish between what is real and what isn't? Remember
those simple days of yesteryear, when a reporter for a national
magazine who wrote a book of fiction under the pseudonym "Anonymous"
was finally outed to much fanfare? Or magazine covers that had
manipulated images were called on their Photoshopping? Or how about
corporate CEOs who were satisfied with just falsifying their own
books or stock option grant awards? Back then, all we had was the
movie "The Matrix," which wasn't real either, but had some fine CGI
to entertain us. That was nothing. Welcome to the new real
I absolutely guarantee that I wrote this column with my own hands.
Everything else is your own construct.
[David Strom tells us that he is an author, podcaster, speaker, and
consultant who has had real jobs as the editor-in-chief for
Tom's Hardware and Network Computing. His blog can be found at
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