Recently in 13: Virtual/Realities I (Nov 29/Dec 1/3) Category
When discussing in class the blending of "natural" and simulated", I thought of a video I saw in my public health course about death and dying. It is a tribute video for an avatar in World of Warcraft whose player died in "real" life. The player, whose name was Chris, had muscular dystrophy, a degenerative disease of the muscles that does not have a cure. His sister went on to his WoW account to tell the other players that Chris's avatar, Toxik, would no longer be online because Chris had died. She states that the game was his world. The other players not only put together this tribute, but had an hour long funeral march inside the game for Chris/Toxik.
I remember tearing up as I watched this video in class. As I look back on it, I can't help but wonder what really got to me? Was it the incredibly sweet funeral march for a guy whose only way to "live" was through a video game? Or was it because I find it sad that as an "other", as a person with a disability and degenerative disease, Chris was barred by his body from participating in the "real" world and was only able to find true happiness in an online world? Honestly, I still can't tell you how I feel now. I think it's a bit of both. I think it is both a sad indicator of how we marginalize people in society and evidence of the wonders of the internet that Chris was able to become Toxik and live a "normal" life. I've put a lot of words in quotes in this entry, because I think their definitions have been confounded by our discussions and no longer have an easy answer for me. It seems to me the life on the internet was certainly more freeing and accepting. No one discriminated against Toxik, because Toxik didn't have muscular dystrophy.
So, what is natural and what is simulation in this scenario? Which world is more real? The one where Chris existed and was trapped in his body? Or the one where Toxik existed and could do things that Chris could not do outside the internet? Is there any way to tell the difference anymore?
Here's the funeral march/tribute video:
The topic about simulated natures and the picture Michelle showed in class last week with The SIMS 3 really, sort of struck me as interesting. I, myself, have played the Sims every now and then, and I still continue to do so randomly at times. I remember times when I was playing that hours would go by in the blink of an eye because I would become so immersed in my character that I made, and the objectives I set out for them. The character I made is basically a representation of myself, or a "fantasy" representation. I made sure I had a good job, that my family was in good condition and my house was decent. At times I would even alter things in the game to see what the outcomes would be, because I had sole control over these characters and their motives and moves. I think the reason why people continue to like this game so much, is for that fact alone. You have control over this simulated world. You can decide on every move and what will happen. Real life, on the other hand, is not so easy and you can't control everything. We like the "idea" that we are controllers of our own universe and we decide what will ultimately happen, but in all actuality our decisions are based on various sources and ties, and not 'solely' made by an individual. Virtual reality and simulations are the attraction to the idea that we have this control. So, in the end, does the simulation control us or are we controlling it? What really does 'control' entail?
In class the other day we all talked about people spending a lot of time on the internet and using it as an escape from the real world. Another example that wasn't mentioned in class that showed the "second life" in a more positive way was MTV's show, True Life. In the episode, True Life: I Live Another Life On the Web, three people are shown who have changed their lives through the internet. One girl has stage freight and used "Second Life" as a way to express her talents to fans. She has a fan base very large over the internet and sang and recorded original shows for people over the internet. There are a lot of questions being asked about how far technology is going. Feminist studies explore politics, society and history from an intersectional, multicultural women's perspective. It critiques and explores societal norms of gender, race, class, sexuality, and other social inequalities. With technology, explorations between how technology affects social norms it can both be harmful and helpful. However, that is just as many other things in the world. I challenge someone to find a situation where something is only helpful. Negative issues arise from everything depending how it is used. For example, some pills are meant to decrease pain such as Percocet. This will help someone with horrible pain from an accident or after a surgery, however given to the wrong person they can be used for recreational purposes. alcohol is a legal substance but it has regulations. People can abuse it; therefore they regulate who can use it. Should the internet and technology have regulations?
I was really interested in the discussion we had on friday about the wii fit phenomena that makes us feel inadequate with our bodies. It made me wonder who is it that decides what we process or consume. I was thinking about it in direct relation to my text messaging. I have the option for T9 on my phone. That means I type in letters and the program gives me options for words. I can then press next to go to other words. If I try to ask someone where they want to eat or if they want to go eat the first word that pops up before eat is fat. That always concerned me, Why does fat come first? I use the word eat more than i use the word fat and eat even comes first alphabetically. So why is it that my mind is perpetually conditioned to link fat and eat together? Then if i try to write eating the word dating comes up instead. That makes marginally more sense because dating would come first alphabetically. However, when texting, which I'm sorry to say is my main source of communication, my mind is forever trained to navigate fat, eat, dating and eating together. it makes me wonder why would we have to link all of those together?
This is a comment based on the HPS blog post since my computer doesn't let me directly comment under a blog.
This may be a biased response since I one day hope to pursue medicine, however, I find very few negatives with the HPS. In light of your question, I do not find the HPS to negatively impact the patient-provider communication barrier. I find this to be an excellent example as to how the "unnatural" is not necessarily bad. I find many examples of the "unnatural" to, in fact, give humans the power of choice and freedom. For example, blogs and the internet have given individuals the power to express ones self via words, pictures, and thought and spread it vastly amongst different people and nations. Cells phones, as distracting as they may be, allow relationships to extend among distances. People question what happened to the "pen and paper" method and how it has been replaced by this new "technology." However, who are we to say that the pen and paper method wasn't new technology? How is that any more natural than speaking on the phone? Writing on paper still deviates from the "natural" way of spoken, face-to-face communication.
So in conclusion, I agree with you when you claim HPS as a positive "unnatural" technology. If it is available to us, if it can be made capable by the findings of humans, then why not make use of it?
In reading this week's articles, Katherine Hayles' "Simulated Nature and Natural Simulations: Rethinking the Relation between the Beholder and the World" really caught my attention. The article posed some really interesting ideas in constructing an alternate reality, especially in the two different simulation through Maturana's World and Tierra. I can't help but relate this to one of my all time favorite movies The Matrix. I'm sure everyone in this class has seen or at least heard of this groundbreaking movie from 1999. Its a film about how humans in the future are subdued to mentally live in an alternate reality called The Matrix while their bodies are being 'harvested' by intelligent machines for energy source. In my mind this is the ultimate artificial simulated world and it is so flawless because of how the real natural world has turned into carefully constructed alternate simulated world which incorporates the human suffering and happiness that makes life so interesting and these two worlds just morphed seamlessly from one to the other that the human mind would have no way of dissecting this reality. The question posed in Hayles' article really resonate in this movie "What counts as natural?" when I think about the scene in where Cypher says "You know, I know this steak doesn't exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years, you know what I realize? ...... Ignorance is bliss." The rebels in the movie defy the Matrix because they believe that living in a simulated world is not really the truth, which is true in some sense, but how many would choose to just forgo the 'real life' if they had to choose between the real world in the movie and the perfectly simulated artificially simulated world like The Matrix? I know we are so far from anything that would remotely resemble the situation in the movie, but I've always wondered what really counts as natural and real versus artificial and unreal in the context of the movie especially if one never took red pill?
"The HPS is METI's top-of-the-line, fully automatic, high-fidelity patient simulator specifically designed for training in anesthesia, respiratory and critical care." This machine is absolutely fantastic. It is meant to simulate actual responses of a human being. In class on Friday, a lot of people were mentioning how virtual realities can be a very bad thing. I think this is one invention most can agree on is a very useful tool in education. Instead of using actual human beings and risking lives, a machine will simulate actual responses and teach doctors, nurses, and medical staff what the consequences are.
Some of the key features are:
# Pupils that automatically dilate and constrict in response to light
# Thumb twitch in response to a peripheral nerve stimulator
# Automatic recognition and response to administered drugs and drug dosages
# Variable lung compliance and airways resistance
# Automatic response to needle decompression of a tension pneumothorax, chest tube drainage and pericardiocentesis
# Automatic control of urine output
One could easily see how, in this case, simulation is a great thing to use. This relates back to the reading we did called "Simulated Nature and Natural Simulations: Rethinking the Relation between the Beholder and the World". A Quote from this article I found interesting is: "If every species constructs for itself a different world, which is the world? The implications of this question are radical, for they point toward the conclusion that we, like the frog, never perceive the world as it 'really' is." I wanted to bring up this quote because I always think about whether we are losing ourselves in technology. Is by using the HPS eliminating learning bedside manner or actually communicating with the patient?
In class on Friday, the discussion on virtual realities and this certain couple who neglected their child for a virtual one reminded me of this man who stabbed his wife with a sword a while back. His reason? He didn't like his wife's decision to marry someone else on WoW. Yes, on WoW. He got jealous and stabbed her with a sword. I can't seem to find the article, perhaps it wasn't too important of news, but I believe the wife was fine.
Another case that I recall from years ago was of an incident where a man killed another for selling his digital sword.
Online gamer killed for selling virtual weapon
The debate was whether or not virtual property could be considered "actual" property protected by law and thus whether or not what happened was thievery.
"Games writer Jason Hill said that while MMORPGs make up only a tiny percentage of the virtual gaming market, those who do play them tend to be very dedicated, spending a lot of time in these cyber-worlds.
'The actual items in the games, be they property or tools, become valuable because of the time people have spent building them up,' he said."
This, any dedicated gamer will agree to. Drop rates (or frequency of item availability) of some items are quite low, so that can force the gamer to spend a large amount of time to procure said items. Some are acquired after successfully completing requirements, and most are long and can be frustrating. I recall the time from a few years ago when I first played Maple Story (a popular 2D side-scrolling MMORPG), there are a few items that drop so rarely that they make quintuplets more likely (like the Glass Slipper item, for example, which drops from Fire Boars at such a low rate, you're more likely to buy them from the market ingame.). So, with all this time and effort put into something, there's really no blame to what the man did, but committing murder, one has to wonder how is there a division between what is virtual and what is natural? Is it because the virtual are pixels and terminals of data? When reality becomes affected due to virtual reality, is it really still "virtual" or has it become the reality?
Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon professor who was dying of pancreatic cancer, delivered a talk will teaches how to really achieve your childhood dreams. He covered a bit of Virtual Realities that he worked on there that changed him with his relationships with people and working together. (you can see that at around 27 minutes or so)
At around 36 minutes or so, he shows pictures of his students wearing headsets and using various things to interact with the VR they created. That was the first thing that popped into my head when I first read the Simulated Nature and Natural Simulations reading, especially the "hello.World" simulation (which was annoying, and morbidly amusing). The world in that VR is created only with gestures from the "player" and when the "player" wants to end the simulation, the VR does not want to end. This sort of plays into the fear people have of technology: what will happen if AI gets a mind of its own?
In any case, this lecture is very illuminating and I do recommend watching it in its entirety if you have over an hour to kill.
As we were talking about video games in class on Friday, I couldn't help but think of the video game called "RapeLay." The video game, released in Japan on April 21, 2006 by the company called Illusion, is centered on a man who stalks and rapes a mother and her two daughters. Three years after it's initial release date, RapeLay began stir up debates and controversy for it's content.
Below is the YouTube video to preview the game.
In class on Friday, we spoke a lot about the advancement of video games and how much they impact our everyday lives and also touched a little on the idea that women, even in video games are sexualized.
Although RapeLay isn't the first video game to objectify women (to say the least), as I'm sure all of you know the debates surrounding Grand Theft Auto, I do believe this is one of the video games that really tests the limits when discussing women and their roles in video games.
It's concerning because as we move forward into a world that relies heavily on technology and spends a lot of time playing video games, we need to ask ourselves what it means that women are still presented in this manner. Are we really moving forward if women are still treated as objects and the entire game is centered on a male who rapes a woman and her daughters?
Although we're moving forward with technology - video games that dehumanize groups of people really set society back. How can we claim to be successful with technology on a global/local basis, if women and other groups of people are being portrayed like this? In my opinion, without a doubt have video games like this affected society and the world in some way or another, and as a woman, it's concerning to me that consumers would even buy these kinds of video games or justify their production. I guess I just don't understand how it could possibly be entertaining, fake or not, to play the part of a man who sexually assaults a woman and her daughters. I think it's a problem that some roles like this, even in video games, are accepted.
How do we control this kind of production? Should we find means to control this form of "entertainment?"