Virtual (Sur)Reality Digital Media & Virtual Culture 10-17-07
What is Real? • How do you define real? • How do you know the truth? • Is truth/reality the same for everyone? • Do we have free will in choosing our own reality?
“The Cave” • the prison-house is the world of sight, the light of the fire is the sun, and you will not misapprehend me if you interpret the journey upwards to be the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world according to my poor belief, which, at your desire, I have expressed whether rightly or wrongly God knows. But, whether true or false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual; and that this is the power upon which he who would act rationally, either in public or private life must have his eye fixed.
Key points • Reality can be constrained by circumstance • We come to the truth with difficulty • Others may not accept our truth/reality • The truth (good) will prevail • The Matrix is “the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you to the truth”
Foucault on the PanopticonDiscipline and Punish (1975) • Hence the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power. • Bentham laid down the principle that power should be visible and unverifiable. Visible: the inmate will constantly have before his eyes the tall outline of the central tower from which he is spied upon. Unverifiable: the inmate must never know whether he is being looked at at any one moment; but he must be sure that he may always be so.
George Orwell “telescreens”1984 (1948) • The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to.
Emotional Surveillance - From Orwell (telescreens) to DARPA • Integrated System for Emotional State Recognition for the Enhancement of Human Performance and Detection of Criminal Intent • Develop a non invasive emotion recognition system for the detection and categorization of the emotional/stress state of the subject. • Automated emotion detection systems could perform such assessments around the clock and free from personal bias. Such systems could be used to assess fitness for duty, integrated into closed loop systems regulating user vigilance and workload, or used to detect the sinister intent of individuals and prompt pre-emptive interdictions. These systems could unobtrusively monitor individuals within military operational environments or crowded civilian settings by relying on passive detection of the emotional aspects of speech, face, and gesture patterns and other novel measurements.
Artificial Intelligence • AI – aims to develop systems that are capable of intelligent reasoning, perception and behavior • “The ultimate effort is to make computer programs that can solve problems and achieve goals in the world as well as humans.” John McCarthy, Stanford University • Why is AI both compelling and repellent to us?
Baudrillard • Simulation becomes more than the real; a hyperreal • Models/representations without signs (simulacra) • “simulation envelops the whole edifice of representation as itself a simulacrum”
Capitalism and Power • Exchange-value replaces use-value; we no longer understand the material, only the commodity • Capital defines our identities in a post-industrial age • Product (e.g., Starbucks) is divorced from material/nature (e.g., coffee bean)
Disneyland • “Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, when in fact all of Los Angeles and the America surrounding it are not longer real, but of the order of the hyperreal and of simulation.”
Media and simulation • “Thus all hold ups, hijacks and the like are now as it were simulation hold ups, in the sense that they are inscribed in advance in the decoding and orchestration rituals of the media…”
Case Study: School Shootings • http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0777958.html • The incident, the coverage, the aftermath – all now follow a predictable pattern
The Gulf War (1991) “did not take place” • Saddam Hussein was not fighting the Allied Forces, but using the lives of his soldiers as a form of sacrifice to preserve his power • The Allied Forces fighting the Iraqi military forces were merely dropping 10,000 tons of bombs daily, as if proving to themselves that there was an enemy to fight
The Gulf War… • the Western media complicit, presenting the war in real time, by recycling images of war to propagate the notion that the two enemies, the US (and allies) were actually fighting the Iraqi Army • the enemy went undefeated, the victors were not victorious, ergo, there was no war: the Gulf War did not occur
It is the reflection of a basic reality It masks and perverts a basic reality It masks the absence of a basic reality It bears no relation to any reality whatever; it is its own pure simulacrum the era of the original to the counterfeit to the produced, mechanical copy, and through to the simulated "third order of simulacra", whereby the copy has replaced the original Phases of the image / orders of simulacra
“Whence the characteristic hysteria of our time: the hysteria of the production and reproduction of the real.”