Real life Conversations vs Virtual Conversation. Which one is more important?
They both are and here’s why..
There can be no denying that the modern age relations are redefined by the internet. But how do we hierarchies and differentiate these connections. More importantly can these associations be defined? I don’t think they can.
With Facebook and Twitter, personalities can never be defined and fixed. There’s the possibility of assuming any identity you like and the reality of it can be determined by you. Facebook is a big and important world in itself today. Its impact is so deep, in some instances that it dictates the very actions of an individual’s life. What was pitched as a mode of connection has turned into a virtual reality that is fluid and can be created. Similarly, Twitter mania has succeeded in disrupting the structure of communication. Communication follows a certain structure in real life. Power interacts with the common denominator through a mediator. With the coming of twitter this structure was to a certain extent destroyed. Now, anybody can talk and interact provided both sides are connected through the same medium( twitter).
This form prevents a totalisation of existence as individuals can assume different realities that we live in. It becomes an imaginary presence. An imaginary presence that lets the individual to formulate his/her own virtual presence. This means that one individual can exist in different ways – In the presence and in virtual appearance.
Let me give you an example – Think about how people with no substantially varied backgrounds and no professional authority (say media) have the ability to interact with celebrities twitter. An individual can appreciate the work of an actor by tagging the actor in his tweet. The actor may respond. This destroys the hold of center as the origin and as ultimate authority. It lets you interact and associate with people from varied fields through cyber mediated interactions.
Through texts (messages, whatsapp and other online mediums) the words become a supplement for the presence. They act as a substitute for the immediate physical presence. The sender’s words will be given a context by the receiver. There are new additions like emoticons that help express more accurately but there’s a distance between the sender’s intent and receiver’s understanding. The meaning is contextualised.
It cannot be fixed. The texts are a substitute for the physical presence of the sender.
With various ways to form groups on the grand social connecting, whatsapp, individuals can interact in groups and separately. So if two members of a group conversation talk separately in a different one-on-one conversation, the dynamics of that conversation will change. It allows freeplay by leaving the communication paths open. The individual interaction is an addition to the group interaction, it cannot be seen there, but it happens and alters the group conversation.
Virtual identities can also be explored through gaming. No other sector has experienced the same explosive growth as the computer and video game industry. It has been technologically enhanced to give the consumer a “real” experience. Motion gaming changed the world of video gaming by introducing physical stimulation and effects that allows the gamer to imagine the gaming world. A little is to left to imagination though with all the details and aspects of the games already explored. The point that I want to put across is that online video gaming in today’s scenario is a bigger phenomenon than just letting off steam. It lets its gamers enter a world of their choice and modify it according to their own needs. Men can take on the role of women; the characters can be dressed, skilled according to the wants of the gamer. This form of virtual gaming allows the gamer to reach his imagined reality in a sense. It again allows the freeplay of fluid identities.
I’d explore this further through the use of characters from a popular American sitcom The Big Bang Theory. The protagonists of story – Sheldon, Leonard, Raj and Howard. They create their online personas where they are allowed to select a character who is a conventional “ladies man” with power and physical strength(completley oppositet to their real life realities). These identities act as a supplement to their daily roles. It’s not just a form of release as I have mentioned earlier, they take their games much more seriously than their social existence. Both the identities work in relation; one completes the lack of the other. There is absence in what is supposedly present. This absence is fulfilled by their virtual personas.
Raj, Howard, Sheldon and Leonard deciding upon their course of action in
World of Warcraft.
Gaming becomes a way completing the lack that is felt in their real social lives. On one hand, it reinforces the solidity of the presence. On the other hand, it points out that needs to be supplemented. This lack suggests that the presence does not exist as a complete and pure unity. Interestingly, Penny, the beautiful waitress, who is the social bug of the group and lives across the hall to Sheldon and Leonard, gets addicted to video games after her failed audition. She does not believe in the virtual gaming process and has previously dissed the guys for being so determinately involved in it. She is the socially active girl with lots of friends. But when she loses her job it goes downhill. She cannot maintain herself and pay for her house. In the episode, The Barbarian Sublimation, we see Penny frustrated by her failures. To distance herself from her reality, she starts playing the fantasy themed massively multiplayer online role playing game – Age of Conan.
Even though she is discouraged by Leonard, she gets really good at playing the game and it gives her a sense of accomplishment. In the episode, the idea of reality and appearance is not hierarchized. The game is an addition as well as a substitution as Derrida explains. It is an addition to the representation of presence. It is based on the concept of an age existing in medieval times and governed by a set of rules yet it is distanced from it. But it exists because of a lack in the presence which it then supplements.