the hybrid total experience of the physical and virtual reality
Telecom and Internet, the Interface to Interreality
The changes in information and communication thanks to teletechnology, as well as the use of and need for wireless telecommunication, explore the phenomenon of 'interreality', a creation of a hybrid total image of and in both the physical and virtual worlds. Necessarily a broad research has been conducted into which perspectives were required and desirable with regard to this 'imagination', but in order to keep to the broad outlines further differentiation was not possible.
Interreality is the hybrid total experience of the physical and virtual reality. The aim of this dissertation is an exploration, a quest into developments in society that are decisive for the place of new communication technologies, into questions and suppositions that have arisen along the way, as well as into research that is being conducted worldwide for years, leading to recommendations, if any. These issues, the relationship with technology, society and innovation is further worked out in chapter ‘Technology and quality of life’.
In my explorations I have looked at the phenomenon of 'the virtual world' from different sides, taking into account the various scientific perspectives, such as social psychology, communication studies, economics, philosophy, and ergonomics as well as the legal and technological knowledge areas, with some emphasis on the electro technical (information and telecommunication) and social-psychological sciences.
The fast developments in communication technology offer unprecedented possibilities: for example for the creation of virtual worlds, for the benefit of exchange of knowledge. However, due to an uncoordinated 'push' approach they form at the same time an intrinsic brake for optimum development and use of those possibilities. Almost parallel to these developments the debate arose about the relationship between technology and society, which in the first instance focused on the technological assessment procedures, but in which increasingly behavioural scientific and social aspects are involved (support, risk communication, trust). In the latter area, however, little or insufficient empirical research is available as yet. The research that is available usually focuses on a single dimension of the issue or is not accessible (trade secret). For that matter, such knowledge is very fragmented present in specific interdisciplinary and/or intersectoral scientific communities which, in addition, do not have much contact with one another. Whenever research data are available, the research methods used are insufficient to draw valid conclusions
As mentioned before, modern telecommunication facilities have led to an acceleration of message traffic. Time and space thus acquire another dimension and new phenomena come into existence, such as 'virtual experience'. The Internet becomes an extra window from your home (or workplace) overlooking the outside world. The more often you climb through this imaginary window, the more it becomes a 'door' to the virtual society in the virtual space.
More and more people, in particular the young, start to lead a kind of 'virtual' life on the Internet through this 'window'. They choose a place to stay, to show themselves, to exchange messages or to conduct transactions. They pick 'their' name, address, (mobile) telephone number, age, mother tongue, gender, looks and relationships, unhampered by their physical abilities and appearance in the regular society. A stutterer with typing skills can participate in fast discussions in a chatroom without being impeded by his or her ailment. A rejected lover keeps his chin up in a chat and full of bravado picks up one woman after another. A lonely mother only needs to turn on her pc to get all the attention she desires after she hears the MSN . It means a change in direction in communication. The Internet and wireless telephony lead to the establishment of virtual contacts on a large scale on the basis of interests or involvement, whereby each contact in itself is part of one the many groups (socalled communities of interest). Physical, virtual and potential other realities seem to integrate in a total perception. Monitored chats and publications show that in the perception of frequent participants in the virtual society a more abstract total reality exists with regard to this virtual society. In their doings they integrate the physical and the virtual in a total perception.
‘Everyone his truth,’ Godfried Bomans, a famous Dutch author, once exclaimed as a contradiction. It is a fundamental thought, but 'truth' and 'reality' are no synonymous, neutral, objective terms, but terms that are relative to (1) the group of people and (2) the time in which one lives. Truth is always historical and relational, and reality relates to 'consciousness' and the present. Which reality are we talking about when we compare the physical to the virtual? The (general) reality is something that according to philosophers (such as Spinoza and Heidegger) is fundamentally hidden in man, so that the only thing he needs to do is to develop insight into himself. Acquiring insight is a unique human ability based on the allencompassing entity of reality. As a consequence he can work out what reality is and the more he succeeds the more balanced he becomes. Virtuality is always related to, and interacts with real, actual phenomena.
Do physical and virtual realities exist next to one another? Or could it be that in the human mind an even more abstract total reality is developing in which both realities exist both in a parallel simultaneous and integrated way? And if so, can anyone create this sensational interreality? Is it an abstraction or a kind of hybrid thinking?
In order to try to answer these questions we name the physical reality a real reality, to subsequently name the virtual reality an unreal reality. In order to consider both realities we need to go to a higher abstract level of thinking: abstract thinking.
Childrens Magical World
When observing the behaviour and explicit experiences of Internet users, you will notice that the young in particular (less <25 years) seem to effortlessly switch between the physical and virtual realities. Through various (often nonconverging) media they are supplied with information and contacts. They share address books, make appointments and within seconds hop from one reality to the other. They actually do see a hybrid reality: the crocodile which was first sitting under the bed is yawning with boredom in Sesame Street, only to surface seconds later in Digital City foaming at the mouth. In the other window (of the game Zoo Tycoon) you have to find the hidden saltwater crocodile in the Zoo before you lock him up together with the lion before you can free the Allosaurus. If after finding him you quickly vote for this crocodile, you earn bonus points. Meanwhile you half and half watch a documentary on the Discovery Channel in which the crocodile grabs a wading aardvark and wolfs it down. In real world a child can meet the crocodile in the Zoo, safely hidden in a cave. Also, canoeing in the canals along Loop Road of South Florida, you can be eyein eye with an alligator in the Big Cypress Swamp. At last but not at least, the child sees crocodiles with automatically moving and realistic biting plastic clones in Disneyworld.
A child's magical world is no longer an unstable world, but from the cradle the child feels physically and virtually its way towards the reason that makes 'the world' objective. It discovers that the crocodile can evoke both fear and affection; that real teeth look dangerous but that you can crawl through virtual teeth to take an exciting look in the crocodile's stomach. Without delving too much into the innermost feelings it really seems as if in their minds an even more abstract total reality is created in which both realities integrate into a hybrid experience, an interreality.
Selma Fraiberg (author of 'the magical years') says that children extend their horizon in the first eighteen months and become afraid of 'the outside world' when they start loving someone for the very first time (= association with attention, satisfaction, pleasure and protection). In the first, very emotional stage of 'love' the absence of a beloved person is experienced as missing a part of itself. People are by nature social beings and only become reserved when they are disappointed in people. Children therefore easily make contact by themselves and especially now they experience the Internet as if it were a pacifier 'in the cradle' they will extend their horizon through this medium that offers so many contacts. Whereas a quarter of a century ago they leaned out of the window to chat with their neighbours' children playing in the street, they now make contact with children (and adults) all over the world through the Internet window. They ask for and get attention, usually much more than they would receive from children in their neighbourhood. As soon as the virtual reality behind this virtual horizon satisfies them with a kind of 'love' and is not disappointing (or not as often in the physical reality) they will also be inclined to consider cyberworld as part of their 'world'.
‘Getting old is a terrible thing. I remember when I realized I could beat my dad at most things. Bart could beat me at most things when he was four.’
Homer Simpson, on repeatedly losing to his son Bart, at video games
Digital Kids, the Rise of the Net Generation
Although parents generally do not let their young children wander around in a city, they usually do not like to visit the city called the Internet, which means that kids can discover 'the world' themselves. It explains why young children can establish social networks in the virtual world (among other things by using address lists and MSN groups/Yahoo clubs): they find themselves – from a psychological point of view – in a state of being formed and while their understanding of 'the reality' is being formed in and out of season, the hybrid reality is given an equal place in their perception of the environment.
From the abstraction one could say that the integral virtual and physical reality in people is formed the moment they associate hybrid reality with 'love' in the form of attention, satisfaction, pleasure and protection. The more associations are made with these primeval feelings, the more intensely virtual reality will be experienced as a 'real' reality.
Cyberworld is not a truly complete world as you cannot eat a snack or become ill in it. In the area of communication as well it cannot become a lifelike reality unless man adapts genetically in the same way as nature evolves when the environment physically changes. The way in which the youngest generation (born in the digital age, after 1980) familiarises itself with the new communication technology as a matter of course, creates expectations. Zapping gives way to channel surfing, whereby the Internet is just one of the many contact and media channels. Thanks to the rapid technical development the quality of the fantasy role playing games has increased to such an extent that they have the character of a simulator for virtual reality. Children become adept in repeatedly stepping in and out of this virtual reality. The everchanging circumstances make them The Children of Chaos.
According to Douglas Rushkoff children are also much more challenged to constantly and flexibly deal with changes. Not only do they stand live in front of the boring crocodile enclosure at the zoo while at the same time being busy capturing (virtual) crocodiles on their gameboy, they are also forced to tease and please to get and keep getting attention. 'Look mom, no hands,' no longer suffices to get the desired attention from mom in all the hustle and bustle. The one moment they are not noticed, the next they are treated as little gods. That is why the act like Teletubbies and adjust themselves to each environment. They can convert A/D and D/A more quickly, hop from ‘real' to ‘cyber’ and vice versa, and seem to be able to call up ‘Gestalten’. Douglas calls it ‘the fall of mechanism and the rise of animism’ in an era in which everything is selfvalidating. Over the years children have noticeably had some difficulty with this 'switching'. In both chats and songs the words 'I am real' were frequently uttered. Just as in the ending of each Scooby Doo episode children eventually want to pull off the monster's mask to reveal his true identity and appearance.
Their hunt via the channels (television, the Internet, electronic games, textbooks with cd-roms) and their deliberations and explorations via interactive communication channels (the Internet, mobile telephony and text services on television) provide a wealth of information. Don Tapscott called them the 'Net Generation'. On the one hand, it seems to be used to develop 'that feeling', but on the other hand it also has an impact on their tease and please behaviour (make yourself a wannabe). For that matter, hardly anything is known about the consequences as well as about the aftermath of the Playback TV Show effect on children. At the moment the feeling for what is real and not real as well as their hybrids and derivatives seem to be welldeveloped among the youngest generation. Also remarkable in chats is the fact that most children know they are influenced by the media. On being asked, they say that they - driven by ‘What’s in it for me?’- go along with it as long as it suits them. They 'obediently' click on the banners to get the bonus, but when the benefits dwindle or the advantages change into disadvantages they unscrupulously drop the provider: they sever the connection and if need be, they block the sender.
influence of the virtual world
Nobody likes to admit that he or she copies some else's behaviour, let alone when it is questionable behaviour. We then prefer to talk in the third person: "others let themselves be influenced by the media, but not me.’ (perception). However, when sufficiently involved we follow the majority (bandwagon effect) or, in case of strong prejudices, consciously choose the minority point of view (underdog effect). Behaviour is very frequently copied in cyberworld, where click & lick is very common. Not only with regard to the way in which one communicates or behaves in virtual reality games or how one installs and uses computer programs, but especially with regard to the ways in which one immerses oneself in this virtual world and presents oneself in it.
Not all the ego copies or human clones are the same. Researching the nature of the components results in the following distinction: infatuation (romantic fantasies about sport celebrities), adoration (a combination of idol, hero, alter ego, mentor, role model), fantasised interaction (daydreaming about the idol, about meeting the idol, becoming the idol or being like the idol) and imitation of the role model (in a different context).
The influence of the visual media (particularly television and photo websites) is substantial. There are a great many copies of media stars such as Madonna and Phil Collins and of idols such as Jennifer Lopez and Ali G. With thousands of clones and as many fans on the Internet. The way in which the media deal with this phenomenon is described by science as ‘agenda setting power’. Even your dying day has been laid down.
Just as in the 'real' world people on the Internet pursue their goals and consider which behaviour or attitude is the most effective in order to realise them. To this end they observe the behaviour in three areas: media manifestations, cyberworld and the real world.
The observation and imitation behaviour, which generates a learning process, is clearly increasing in all age groups that come into contact with the new media.
Virtual dating e.g. with clever gimmicks of current cyber fiction virtuosi enhances by chatting via images, like drawings and photographs. So images are used to communicate about the expected, desired experience. First virtually, then more or less dramatically and graphically in a telephone conversation and finally physically. To which extent is he/she real or not real, that is the key question. What suggestion is a teaser and what must eventually be real to come to a satisfying end of the encounter? During this entire game there is only one consideration: real or not real? Only direction at the total experience level can manage this interreality. Because of the rapid changes in tease expressions and please techniques a continuous weighing of ’real or not real' is required. The media turn out to be (or to have been) at the forefront regarding experience and reality and thus form part of the lie detector.
The need arises to keep an 'experience overview' in order to classify each form of experience. The need for determining and categorising experiences in the human 'interreality' fits in well with the studies and theories of McLuhan and Hunter. McLuhan endorses this development with a casuistry, in which his students who read comic books have a better starting point to understand the media than he does.
Comics appear to involve the reader into the story in a more imaginative way and make a useful contribution to understanding the positioning in, and manipulation of time and space.
In the perception of frequent participants (inhabitants) of this virtual society the physical, virtual and potential other realities integrate in a kind of total experience (interreality).
For the youngest generation, grown up with a mobile phone as a musical box, the gameboy as a rattle, the playstation as a box of building blocks, with the Internet as an encyclopaedia and the television as moving wallpaper, living in two realities, interreality, quite normal. For scientists, services providers and developers it is a challenge to keep up with the roadrunners of the virtual society.
Now space and time have fallen away all traditional connections and identities are suppressed on the Internet, both the individual and the collective ones. New forms of anonymity, gender and identity switches are cultivated on the World Wide Web, thus superseding the idea of a global village. It was an adequate vision for the TV era, but is no longer suitable for the new network systems. These so called digikids use technology in a disruptive way and make customised environments by using games like SIM. They mix the virtual and physical realities into a hybrid total experience: interreality.
Young girl brushes her hair and reads the chat in the mirrormonitor...
her room has two windows, one nearby to the fysical world nearby, the other worldwide to the virtual.
(artist impression: Philips Design)
The History of Inter reality
The concept of relating realities is presented by Plato in his ‘The Republic’ dialogs. Before Thomas More created his Utopia in 1516, Plato had discussed in detail the formation of a perfect nation state: Utopia. And while More's utopia meant an imaginary world, Plato's was essentially a potential reality.
In 1619 Robert Fludd presented "Oculus imaginationis" (The Eye of the Imagination) in his book 'Utriusque Cosmi . . . historia (The History . . . of this World and the Other). The inner eye projects fantasy images onto a screen that lies beyond the back of the head.
Samuel Hibbert published in 1824 a book about visions and identities, which included an elaborate foldout chart about dream states, on which he set out a ‘Formula of the various comparative Degrees of Faintness, Vividness, or Intensity, supposed to subsist between Sensations and Ideas’. He tabulated eight transitions in his full cycle, ranging from ‘perfect sleep’ to ‘extreme mental excitement,’ and graded fifteen different phases in each of them. They start from ‘degree of vividness at which consciousness begins,’ where it is still possible to impose the will on vision, to ‘Intense excitements of the mind necessary for the production of spectres’.
As Frederic Passy said when he founded the Inter-Parliamentary Union in 1889, ‘The world is made of achieved utopias. Today’s Utopia is tomorrow’s reality.’ Thomas More might have chosen the literary device of describing an ideal, imaginary island nation with an open political system primarily as a vehicle for discussing controversial political matters freely. Three centuries later, George Orwell did the same in his novel ‘1984’ which discusses privacy and state-security issues from the view of a dystopia.
Hervieu Léger points out that the hypothesis that this ever increasing – in view of the constant speeding up of knowledge and technology – Utopian space becomes the space within which religious representati-ons are constantly reorganised. Nevertheless such religious represent-tations are subject to an equally permanent destruction by the forces of rationalism. This tradition evokes a community as a concrete social group or by an imaginary genealogy. The chain which binds the believer to the community and the tradition legitimating this religious belief is what Hervieu Léger considers as the essential point for imagination.
In 1940 the Argentinean writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges wrote ‘Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’. In this short story Borges wrote about the phenomenon of an imaginary world. People imagine (and thereby create) a world that has multiple relations with the real world. One of the major themes of ‘Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’ is that ideas ultimately manifest themselves in the physical world. There is not a more powerful force than an idea whose time has come. ‘It is probable,’ writes Borges, ‘that these erasures were in keeping with the plan of projecting a world which would not be too incompatible with the real world.’
There are several levels of reality (or unreality) in the story:
-- Most of the people mentioned in the story are real, but the events in which they are involved are mostly fictional, as are some of the works attributed to them.
-- The main portion of the story is a fiction set in a naturalistic world; in the postscript, magical elements have entered the narrator's world.
-- The script describes real and fictional people, and real and fictional places. Borges stretches in ‘Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,’ the thin boundaries between reality and unreality to the point where they cease to exist … if they ever really existed. The idea of “imaginary identity” and “Interreality” was presented.
Interreality and Illusion
Following industrialisation and the civil rights movement, superheroes faced a steady decline in popularity. This was exposed in DC Comics, a leading medium in the US.
The ‘Justice League (of America)’ or JLA for short is a fictional superhero team. In most incarnations, its roster includes DC's most popular characters.
Comic hero Superman was born in DC's Action Comics #1. In the same issue ‘Zatara the Stage Magician’ (created as – imaginary – illusionist by Fred Guardineer) imagined a ‘green six-sided sun’ (jewel) and (King) Ra. The concept of an imaginary world was related from the comics Zatara the Magician (June, 1938 until 1951). As told in the biography and Don Markstein's Toonopedia, the (imaginary) Giovanni ‘John’ Zatara was constantly merging universes and realities with the personages. For instance: Zatara and Sindella met each other at the Homo magi race in Turkey and nine months later their daughter Zatanna was born in the USA. This kind of jumping between brain universes also indicates more fusion between the 2D and 3D universes. Zatara returns 2 February 1993 (Season 1, Episode 50) with Zatanna as a stage magician girl friend in the TV series Batman: The Animated Series.
Zatara the Stage Magician (1st season, 1939;© DC Comics)
Together with the comics the Interreality idea was becoming popular at the beginning of the 1990's when computers and Virtual Reality (VR) were coming up and the so called ‘cyberspace’ was booming. Tyler Steele was a character in the Virtual Reality Troopers television series (from 1994) and the co-developer of ‘inter-reality travel’ alongside Professor Hart who did experiments in Inter-reality travel, and gained the incredible powers required to access cyberspace.
Some sources are claiming that inter-reality travel is really possible. Genesis P Orridge argues that ‘we will become the very substance of hallucination, and thus enter and leave it will be the uncertain principle of all realities, regardless of their location.’ According to the game environment ‘Nexus The Infinite City’ this travel is only possible between imaginary realities.
Interreality is a mix of the virtual and physical realities into a hybrid total experience, and since the pervasion of cybernetics the inter reality comparisons are developing.
Ascott's thesis on the cybernetic vision in the arts, ‘Behaviourist Art and the Cybernetic Vision’ begins with the premise that interactive art must free itself from the modernist ideal of the ‘perfect object’. Ascott explains in ‘The Death of Artifice and the Birth of Artificial Life’ that young people today are immersed within real life (RL), virtual reality (VR) or inter-reality (IR). In the 'Museum of the Third Kind' (by Ascott) the hybrid viewer as user or consumer of this art is positioned, bionic to a degree, gender-free, wholly integrated into cyberspace, transculturally oriented to the Net, living globally in the ‘interreality’ between the actual and the virtual.
Post-biological technologies enable us to become directly involved in our own transformation and in changing our being. The emergent faculty of cyberception, our artificially enhanced interactions of perception and cognition, involves the transpersonal technology of global networks and cybermedia. Ascott points out that cyberception not only implies a new body and a new consciousness, but a redefinition of how we might live together in the interspace between the virtual and the real.
Inter reality comparisons between TV news and crime are reported in 2000 by Dixon and Linz as stereotyping in television. Effects of media stereotypes for inter reality comparison by presence of sex role stereotypes are reported in research of Saintmary’s University, in 2006.
Copyright (c) 2007: text and definition of Interreality by Jacob van Kokswijk from books 'Hum@n' (2003) and 'Digital Ego' (2007.
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