Friday, May 7, 2010

Kunslterlism of the Week: Raccoons with Breasts?

Location: Kunstlercast site

Kunstler riffed on Second Life last week, in his weekly podcast, recalling SL as a place "where you adopt the persona of a raccoon with big tits and go around trying to make dates with people. It's funny how it all resolves itself into a lot of social maneuvering, basically for sex. It's so dumb. We're such monkeys when everything is said and done."

I laughed with recognition. We've all run into such SLers. Kunstler's vitriol also reminds us of what mainstream media and students of the generation I teach find so bizarre and, often, repellent, about virtual worlds and MMORPGs.

At the same time, Kunstler makes a more cogent point when he says:

"We've got to stop kidding ourselves that virtual life is as good as real life."

Here, I tend to agree. Virtual worlds enhance and extend, and they enable contacts that would be nigh impossible in the tangible world. They don't much as the transhumanists would wish. One trip into my garden this morning, to set out some basil seedlings and draw water from my rain-barrels, reminded me of what I miss, sitting in a chair and typing.

Surf to the Kunstlercast at and point to podcast #108: The Virtual Realm vs. The Authentic. Decide for yourself how much time we should be spending in irreal spaces, be they online paradises or the doomed consumerist landscapes of our hellish suburban strips.


Viv Trafalgar said...

This is very apt - and part of what we've been talking about a lot - virtual space is not replacement technology when it comes to life, teaching, or any other focal point I can think of at this early hour.... it is, at its best, extension or augmentation technology. Which is not such a bad thing to be.

Iggy O said...

Viv, my students respect virtual worlds a lot more when I talk about augmentationist uses. As Turkle noted in her article "Always-on/always-on-you: The tethered self," we have a generation of students with a large number (the sort who enroll at UR) who do not see immersion as healthy for their college and professional careers.

This leads them to resist MMORPGs and VWs, unless a virtual world is carefully presented as a place to make interesting content, hold meetings, and network for later career moves.

As my post from last month showed, in at least one case a student's immersionist adventures led to a career counsellor telling him to get his section of my class wiki pulled down.

He'd been foolish enough to use his own name in building the wiki. But his example shows how augmentation, not immersion, may be the best move with Millennial students who are about to enter VWs.