Computer based technology are moving us into a world where the real is gradually being replaced by the virtual. Do you agree or disagree. Give examples.
What was impossible before has become possible now. With the swept of the wind computer based technologies have moved us from the real world to a virtual one and I very much agree with this statement. When talking of virtual reality, Barie Sherman and Phil Judkins describe it as ‘truly the technology of miracles and dreams’. (Bell,2000:113).We cannot make our real world whatever we wish to make it but we can hide in virtual reality and dictate our terms on it and make it our world, the way we want it. We are living in the twenty first century and can’t think a world without computers. Computer based technologies have caused old boundaries to be renegotiated thereby creating a new social and cultural sensibility. We have become accustomed to this technology, taking things at an interface value and using our technology to reflect on the human. Schools, colleges, workplaces all use technology for survival. It has been observed that students take recourse to the internet for their coursework’s and people have started doing virtual work programs anytime and everywhere. Today it’s a different experience working with computers. People turn to this machine that they hope will change their ways of thinking or affect their social and emotional lives. People explore simulation games, enter chartrooms where thy have friends and lovers and build an intimate relationship with computers. We project our dramas onto the computer screen in which we are the producers, directors, and actors. We unfold relationships, sexuality, politics and identity on the computer screen. All this appears to be more real than what reality actually is. We can say that we are living in a virtual world now.(Turkle,1996:25).
Recent studies have revealed that text based computer games like The Next Generation indulge thousands of players into them up to eighty hours a week participating in intergalactic explorations and wars. Through description and commands they can create characters that can have sexual encounters , hold jobs, collect paychecks, fall in love and get married. “This is more real than my real life”, says a character who is a man but pretends to be a woman while playing.(Sheilds,1996:150).Virtual gender swapping becomes all the easier on the internet. For a man to play a woman he just have to do it by writing a description .Infact gender swapping is an opportunity to explore conflicts raised by ones biological gender. It enables people to experience what it feels like to be of the opposite gender or to have no gender at all reflecting on the ideas about how gender shape our expectations.
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The Internet has paved ways for relationships to exist disembodied from the reality that exists outside the temporal and spatial world we inhabit.It has the capacity to involve humans into a reality which has the appearance of reality but not the substance of reality. There is no bodily interaction but simulation and virtualization. For example, an American wife was sued for divorce by her husband on alleged adultery in cyberspace when she was found flirting with a man and swapping erotic fantasies over the Internet whom she had never met.(Loader,1998:114). From this instance we can see where the virtual world is taking us and how it has become a part of life. It is substituting the real reality of virtual life. Instances like individuals adopting different personae and gender identities in contrast to their real embodied world identities, thereby deceiving people have become rampant. The disembodied reality of virtual world offers self-respect and satisfaction to some people. There have been instances where people have entered into Internet relationships and have got married and also where people have been tortured due to such relationships.
In virtual reality cybersex or simulation of sex becomes possible.Net sex has made its commonplace among teenage boys and girls and even older people. People who are unhappy or dissatisfied with their sexual lives sought relief in net sex. A sixteen year old has reported cybersex to have greater sensititivity Before he used the computers he used to masturbate with a playboy but now he does it on DinoMUD with another woman.(Turkle,1996:20). He says having experiencing fantasies with another person, not just masturbation.The virtual world has had so much effect on real life people that the government has started taking actions to regulate the materials on the net that may be offensive or violent as in pornography.(Loader,1998:120)
Computer mediated communication has given solace to many isolated individuals. Individuals in chartrooms discuss the most intimate and personal details like relationships, families, workplace, childhood, marriage etc. MUD and chat networks are an antidote to loneliness and allow exploration of alternate identitities and personalities. Once inside a MUD, individuals can represent themselves as either men or women, personalities with power, status and popularity.(Sheilds,1996:149).Multi-User Domains like Trekmuse and LambdaMoo are kind of virtual parlor games and form new forms of communication. Here, the Mud players become Mud authors, the creators as well as the consumers of the content on the media. One pretends what one is not and can play a role as close to or as far as from the real self. This in turn provides anonymous social interaction. There is no physical interaction of the body so the obese can represent them as slender, the ugly as beautiful etc.This anonymity provides people a chance to discover their certain aspects of their self which have remained unexplored and people have the chance to play many characters at the same time. When people put on virtual masks and play a variety of characters they feel that they have the opportunities to express themselves.(Turkle,1996:245).
The virtual world also offers escape from the harsh realities of the world. There have been instances where children have found refuge in the virtual world. In Iraq, computer games have offered a new world of respite for children from the grim realities of the explosion and the ongoing battles in Iraq. More than 130 boys and girls attend a computer course everyday which is offered by volunteers. Since most families are middle class and can’t afford to have computers at homes, computer courses are given for free and this has become an essential element in lives of children who stay in a country, Iraq, which is ignored and underdeveloped.(Marwan Naamni,Children find refuge in a safer virtual world,
Virtual reality games can help alleviate pain in children being treated for severe injuries, according to research published in the Open Access. The user is completely immersed in a simulated environment wearing a special; headset with sensors which completely immerses them in a dream like world and allows them to interact with artificial environment which is engrossing. Children with severe burns suffer great pain and emotional trauma, especially during the cleaning and dressing of their wounds and pain killer drugs and sedatives are often not enough to alleviate the pain and anxiety. Studies have revealed that children playing virtual reality games while dressing of wounds felt less pain compared to when pain killers were used alone.
Tele-working has been very popular nowadays as most people including top executives prefer working from home, office or wherever they are instead of a corporate facility. Virtual work programs cut costs (especially in office real estate), improve the bottom line, help attract and retain topflight staff, enhance productivity and improve overall competitiveness, they add. Sun CIO Bill Vass when visiting other Sun cites across the country, he packs his entire desktop into his wallet. Sun Rays are diskless, operating-system-less laptop-like devices that can be used with any type of monitor, keyboard or mouse. When a user inserts his corporate ID badge into the Sun Ray, the device communicates to Sun Ray servers at headquarters. Those servers manage all the data and applications, including VoIP soft phones, and simply deliver the GUI to the remote user. The badge contains a small Java chip that handles authentication and encryption. Therefore, mobile workforce is far more secure and easier to support. "We're a global company, so we looked at telework as a way to operate more flexibly with respect to time zones, while allowing our employees a level of flexibility in their work and personal lives," says Nortel CIO Albert Hitchcock, speaking on a conference call from his home office in London. Nortel reaps massive benefits from its virtual world program and saves around $22 million in real costs and $18 million on phone charges because of its increased flexibility. It has also been observed that people who work virtually tend to be more flexible in terms of taking evening conference calls and things like that.Joseph Roitz, steelworker AT & T says, "Our teleworkers say they are interrupted less frequently, they're better able to manage their time and they're better able to concentrate. So not only do they have more hours in a day, but we also get more done per hour". This telework policy helps AT&T save upwards of $30 million in real estate costs annually.( Joanne Cummings, Masters of the virtual world, http://www.networkworld.com/nw200/2005/042505virtualvendors.html/).
Scientists say that robots will replace most human workers in the future. Marshall Brain thinks 50% of all jobs will be permanently eliminated when robots take over. They will eventually have emotion and with it the ability to make the right and wrong decisions, just like us. It's inevitable that humanoid robotics containing A.I. of some degree or another will make into our daily lives. As robots grow smarter and more agile they will take on jobs not suited for human beings (as they already do in some cases). Space exploration is a good example and place it's already happening. It takes a lot of money, food and oxygen to put humans into space and it is also risky. So why take the risk when robots can do this job guided by human scientists on earth. The recent I Robot an action thriller by Will Smith is based on a collection of short stories by Isaac Asimov in which Will Smith plays a detective discovering serious threats to humans by robots. So will robots take over humans? This is issue which quite debating. But this virtual world has made robot at par to humans.
The virtual world of computers has become a significant laboratory for experiment with the construction and reconstruction of self that characterize postmodern life. People fulfill their own deep wishes by role-playing and this has become a routine for their lives. MUD has also proved to be a psychological adjunct in real life by which they can escape anxiety and anger which is too dangerous to exercise in real life. I honestly feel that virtual world has become very powerful today. It has become an addiction for individuals because instances have proved that people have become obsessed with their identities online and seem to forget their real self. Apart from these disembodied identities the all aspects of work is now been covered by the virtual work programs and this is when tele-working comes into being. Ranging from top business executives, middleclass people and women everybody seems to do tele-working. It also gives women a secure work environment. They can work at homes as well as take care if childcare issues. As the virtual takes over the real world a feeling of insecurity takes over me . The very thought of robots, mere objects created by man taking over humans sends a shiver down my spine.
- Turkle,Sherry. (1996). Life on the Screen. Weidenfield and Nicolson : London.
- Sheilds, Rob. (1996). Internet Culture.Sage Publications : London
- Loader,Brian D. (1998). The Internet Virtual Reality and Real Reality. London : Routledge.
- Bell, David.(2000). Cyberculture Reader. London : New York Routledge.
- www.smh.com.au/news/Icon/ Children-find-refuge-in-a-safer-virtual-world/