Wednesday, March 10, 2010

S03 - blog post #5

This week’s concepts of windows and vulnerability really made me think, both about the world of VR and the world of RL, especially in the context of Wednesday’s lecture. When Professor Chun in lecture asked why it is that we feel safe at all behind the window of the internet, I started to wonder the same question with regards to literal windows. I think that the question is in some ways more applicable to RL than to the internet, although in some ways the reverse is true. For some reason, people seem to feel that being in a house or building makes one private, safe, and invisible to those in the “public” realm outside. Yet windows go both ways – just because you are inside doesn’t mean you can’t be seen, and more than that, you can know you are being watched. This is one of the main differences I see between RL windows and internet windows. While you can be just as easily watched on the internet, unless you are using a site like chatroulette that is overtly visible, you can’t see yourself being watched. Even with chatroulette, you can’t see the underlying codes and texts that watch and record your actions. You might feel safer in RL because you can use windows to your advantage to know when you are being watched, but in reality, both RL and VR make people startlingly vulnerable.

I also began thinking about another idea brought up in lecture – the idea of the internet as an ideal space for public democracy to flourish. When the crass nature of internet communication was brought up in comparison to the critical reasoning that took place in the public spaces of the enlightenment, I began to wonder what happened to the role of those RL spaces. The coffee shops that were brought up as the prime example of public space still exist, but if they have been replaced in their role as the space of public democracy by the internet, then what purpose do they serve at this point? One could argue that the type of discourse that occurs in these RL public spaces is no better than what occurs on the internet. Does that mean that the only thing differentiating these spaces from the internet is interface? Maybe it also relates to the window example I discussed above in that there is a distinction between seeing/being seen in RL and seeing/being “hidden” (to some extent) on the internet.

The idea of vulnerability was fresh in my mind when I went onto Second Life after lecture to prepare my avatar. I teleported to a random island where a complete stranger began chatting with me. I don’t know whether it was the fact that this person’s avatar was a child or just the simple fact that I had concepts of vulnerability on the mind, but I felt very exposed and uncomfortable trying to talk with this stranger. I ended up signing off abruptly because it was just too strange of a feeling. I can already sense the irony in the fact that this might be discussed in section this week while in Second Life…

No comments: