Thursday, March 11, 2010

Meaning on the Internet - Friday 11am Section

The readings this week made me think a lot about the internet and how it affects human interaction. To start, I’d like to discuss the idea of something being “true but not real.” I think “real” in this context is defined by what happens in the physical world. In the Dibbell reading, the rape is “true” in the sense that it happened and evoked a serious human reaction. The effect it had makes it true. However, it wasn’t “real” in the physical sense and therefore was not prosecutable. For me, this is a call-to-action to come up with a definition of “real” that applies to the digital age. Digital human interaction is still human interaction and therefore what people say and do can have as much meaning as in the real world. Meaning makes it real.

This brings me to the idea that “meaning occurs in the gap between the real life and the virtual life.” I suppose I don’t understand the metaphor here because I don’t understand where the “gap” exists. Meaning is something we, as individuals, bring to every interaction. If someone were to come up to me in the real world and insult me, I could choose whether or not to give their words meaning. I can do this in the virtual world as well. I think there is a currently exists a bias to give digital interaction less meaning than we do in the real world because it is digital. This bias, however, is eroding with more and more people turning to the internet as a space to interact with others. Chatroulette, I believe, has become such a phenomena because of the public’s newfound understanding that the internet is in fact filled with real people as opposed to screenames that exist in some cybernetic vacuum. The public is seeing in a new way that personal, human interaction is possible online and that meaning can be found there.

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