Talking trash about intellectual trash...

I quite enjoy it when people get sick of hype and decide to rain all over the parade.  The problem is that too often people do it when their annoyance causes any degree of balance and levity to flee, as in the case of  Malcolm King writing in 'Australia's e-journal for social and political debate', who clearly has seen one too many articles about the amazing wonders of Second Life and the residents therein... Yes, he's a bit late to the SL bashing party, but the level of vitriol smells like a pile of fetid backlash to me (predicted by Ren for 2007.  Check).

Polemical rhetoric is its own art form:  sometimes the extreme viewpoint must be taken in order to meet somewhere in the middle, particularly when discussing topics that are somehow beyond reproach (technophilia frequently falls into this category, as anyone who denies how great it all is tends to be immediately labeled a luddite)... but taken too far, one diminishes one's credibility (Jack Thompson is a pro at this) and completely undermines the entire effort to be a little balanced when it's more fun to get carried away by the promises of technology.

Mr. King has made this error, unfortunately.  He's almost certainly right about overhype,  and yes,  I suppose we could be accused of some overenthusiastic mental masturbation on this topic.  But, he's missed the forest for some trees to which he has assigned erroneous characteristics:

"So computer games are good for childhood or teenage literacy because they have to read the instructions? Pigs might fly. The fields of imagination are greenest when one is allowed to travel through literature unguided, rather than be directed by a computer programmer's vision."

No one says that they improve literacy because they are reading the manual.  That is a very limited view of literacy.  When we say literacy in this context, we mean all the literacies.  Okay, let's chalk this one up to semantic ambiguity.  The world is still learning that there are lots of kinds of literacy.

"Many “cyber academics” make the astounding claim that the medium of online virtual worlds, such as Second Life, is reality. So virtual worlds are as real as you and me. That's right: conception, love, sadness, ecstasy, reflection, and death. The whole existential merry-go-round... "

He's saying it's not?  Okay, so,  when your significant others calls you on the phone to break up with you, or someone calls to say a relative has died... that knot in your stomach that emerges from nowhere after just hearing a few disembodied phonemes  carried across a wire via a bit of electrical charge... that's not real? 

"There's nothing about thinking that is virtual. One can try describe it in terms of metaphors such as consciousness operates like a machine, an organism or a hologram, but whatever consciousness is - that most defining mark of the human race - it isn't virtual. It's primary, apparent and real. The brilliant Scottish philosopher David Hume, who had problems proving the existence of reality, admitted that it “does seem pretty concrete”."

'There's nothing about thinking that's virtual'?  What does this mean?  This is philosophical hocus pocus.  Certainly no one thinks that there is anything about thinking that's definitely real either?  The truth is that we just don't know.  Right?

"Neil Postman's central thesis in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death - Public Discourse in the World of Show Business (1985), was right. Very little serious intellectual exchange has taken place through a medium, which is more akin to a fashion show or the intellectual equivalent of a disco."

Ouch.  I'd be really hurt if I thought he had anything beyond the most basic understanding of  'the medium', which can really be no more easily lumped into one category than if we were to try and lump all the world's people into one cultural definition.

I appreciate a good, rowdy, challenging debate.  We need more of that.  But Mr. King has his info all wrong, and that makes me doubt him.  Too bad, really.  We need to be challenged to not take ourselves too seriously.  Bring it on, people!!  But bring your facts, too.

But wait!

'thereby allowing some twits to confuse the “consensual hallucination of cyberspace” with reality'

All I can say is 'sticks and stones...'  Oh, and to cite William Gibson:  "the deadliest bullshit is odorless and transparent” - this stinky stuff can't really hurt us.


Comments on Talking trash about intellectual trash...:

says:

Very little serious intellectual exchange has taken place through a medium... The famous aphorism that states that “data isn't information, information isn't knowledge and knowledge isn't wisdom” has never been truer.

Does he realize that his own article is sent to us via a medium? This really does sound like a self-descriptive statement, after all.

Posted Dec 5, 2007 10:06:09 PM | link

Richard Page says:

By switching off her computer I have acted - if only temporarily - as Kali, destroyer of virtual worlds. If you don't have that flow of electrons, you're not even history. You're nothing.

That's a pretty interesting point, I think. How real is a world that can be shut off? (I don't mean that rhetorically.)

Anyway, we should cut him some slack. As a journalist (note the short, readable paragraphs), he's not allowed the semiotic hand-waving that makes semiotics worthwhile.

Posted Dec 5, 2007 10:35:39 PM | link

Amarilla says:

"... Okay, so, when your significant others calls you on the phone to break up with you, or someone calls to say a relative has died... that knot in your stomach that emerges from nowhere after just hearing a few disembodied phonemes carried across a wire via a bit of electrical charge... that's not real? ..."

Well...it seems, that heavily depends on your today's mood.

"..'There's nothing about thinking that's virtual'? What does this mean? This is philosophical hocus pocus. Certainly no one thinks that there is anything about thinking that's definitely real either? The truth is that we just don't know. Right?..."

Yes dearie, you're very right : thinking is definitely not real. That's the truth. Wich we don't know.


".. We need to be ..."

Indeed....we need....you, me and your SL avatar. A lot of " us ".

"..Does he realize that his own article is sent to us via a medium?.."

Yes, he does, but he is so stubborn that he would never admitt to confuse a medium with a world.

Posted Dec 5, 2007 11:06:49 PM | link

Amarilla says:

"Certainly no one thinks that there is anything about thinking that's definitely real either? The truth is that we just don't know. Right?
................................
All I can say is 'sticks and stones...'"

" Cogito ergo sum ". That means " Snickers and MMs". And Rolling Stones ofc.

Posted Dec 5, 2007 11:35:22 PM | link

gabe says:

It's a little unfair to pick up on King's use of 'literacy'; as reading the context of the quote makes clear, he's responding to the claim that the computer games are good for 'traditional literacy', so presumably here he's completely right to use it in a traditional sense, and we should interpret it accordingly. And it's equally not clear your phone example has anything to do with his critique, as it doesn't involve a virtual world.

Isn't his main point, simply this, that the limited forms of interaction available in, e.g., second life, fails to constitute an academically interesting social space? There seems to be something in that, although he does present a bit of a straw man opposing argument.

Posted Dec 9, 2007 4:55:06 PM | link

Amarilla says:

cmon gabe....some peoples feels the same knot in their stomach when they suddenly face the tragedy : LL just nerfed their alt , or banned the gambling....and that makes me doubt them.

" We need to be challenged to not take ourselves too seriously."

I can assure you that's not a reson for concern.

Posted Dec 9, 2007 7:18:21 PM | link

Funky J says:

An interesting aside:

This article was first published in the Adelaide Review.

The Adelaide Review is in the same building as Krome Studios Adelaide, the videogame company.

Like to hazard a guess to which organisation brings in more money to the state, thereby improving the REAL lives of all who live there?

Posted Dec 9, 2007 11:15:16 PM | link

Doug says:

Sounds like this guys bandwagon was missed and he tried making his own out of bubblegum and readers digests. Can't really take what you've quoted from this gentleman very seriously, on the grounds that he really poses no argument, just gripe. I don't know if he's trying to be persuasive or just annoying which makes it almost pointless to address. Does he have, like... something thought out somewhere that tries to convince us?

Posted Dec 10, 2007 10:58:37 AM | link

Doug says:

"Neil Postman's central thesis in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death - Public Discourse in the World of Show Business (1985), was right. Very little serious intellectual exchange has taken place through a medium, which is more akin to a fashion show or the intellectual equivalent of a disco."

Isn't he just saying since he's posting online... that he's the worst dancer in this disco and he hates it?

Posted Dec 10, 2007 11:05:41 AM | link

virtual says:

An interesting aside:

This article was first published in the Adelaide Review.

The Adelaide Review is in the same building as Krome Studios Adelaide, the videogame company.

Like to hazard a guess to which organisation brings in more money to the state, thereby improving the REAL lives of all who live there?

Posted Dec 10, 2007 11:13:24 AM | link

SVT says:

Ugh, uninformed content alert. I can't even read the whole thing. I get down as far as his reference to reading in video games and lose interest.

Posted Dec 10, 2007 2:53:42 PM | link

Digado | Mapping the Metaverse says:

I've also red this article and found King just making some wild assumptions based only and entirely on his own misunderstanding of digital communcation.

1. Virtual Worlds don’t replace reality to its users, they copy and compliment the real world for better immersion.

2. Virtual Worlds are facilitators of certain thoughts and tasks. The worlds are created by the users.

3. Virtual Reality doesn’t claim to be the first or the only medium to be able to trigger emotions.

Read the complete article with argumentation on
http://digado.nl/time-to-take-out-the-trash.html

Posted Jan 3, 2008 4:20:00 PM | link

Drug test Kit says:

Great article, very enjoyable to read! ~Brady

Posted Apr 8, 2008 9:24:48 PM | link