Response Assignment #9

For next week, please read the following:

  • Murray, Janet H. (1997) Hamlet and the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. (HANDOUT)

Chapter 1: Lord Burleigh’s Kiss (p. 13-26)

Chapter 3: From Additive to Expressive Form (p. 65-94).pax.jpg


  • Moulthrop, Stuart. Pax. (Read about Pax, then play it by clicking on either of the two faces on the page.)

In Murray’s text, she asks the following questions :

1. “Do we believe that kissing a hologram (or engaging in cybersex) is an act of infidelity to a flash-and-blood partner?

2. “If we could someday make holographic adventures as compelling as Lucy Davenport, would the power of such a vividly realized fantasy world destroy our grip on the actual world?”

3. “Will the increasingly alluring narratives spun out for us by the new digital technologies be as benign and responsible as a nineteenth-century novel or as dangerous and debilitating as a hallucinogenic drug?”

Considering what you’ve already read, what you know about cyberspace narratives, and what Murray discusses in the handout that I provided, write an informed and thoughtful response to one of the above questions. Consider the power of traditional narratives and consider whether cyberspace narratives hold the possibility of even more power or less. Why or why not? What, if any, factors would be necessary in cyberspace narratives to have such potential impact as Murray seems to suggest by even posing such questions?

Take notes on what takes your attention most in Pax and be prepared to discuss this narrative in class.

If you weren’t in class, I’ve placed the remaining handouts in my box in the English Dept office (on same floor as our class).


21 responses to “Response Assignment #9

  1. In Neuromancer there is definitely an anxiety over the destruction of one’s grasp on reality due to the seductive realness of cyberspace. Case is a great example of this anxiety taking form. When he first returns to cyberspace it is “Expanding–…And flowed, flowered for him, fluid neon origami trick, the unfolding of his distance less home, his country,” while meanwhile “somewhere he was laughing, in a white-painted loft, distant fingers caressing the deck.” Clearly something about cyberspace is more real for Case than the world which he physically resides in. After all, it is cyberspace that he refers to as his country, and there are places today, and were times not too long ago, where a sense of one’s nation is worth waging war over. This anxiety is an echo of John the Savage’s reaction to the feelies in Brave New World. While everyone else, and especially Lenina, gives into the feely, John is left feeling uneasy. The experience was titillating, “That sensation on his lips!…The scent organ… breathed pure musk,” but it leaves John unsettled because he knows that it wasn’t real. The sensations don’t live on with him after the feely is over.

    However, while this anxiety is manifested in Brave New World, the idea isn’t that this all new medium for storytelling destroys every person’s grasp on reality. Instead it’s showing that only the weak-minded, those who can’t or won’t think for themselves, are the ones who fall prey to the siren song of the feelies. We are left wondering if we would rather be a Lenina or a John. Do we give into the titillation? Let the moth linger ever on our lips and skin? Or do we accept the end of the escape? Do we move on to experience other versions of escapism, dipping from one form to another and letting them slide over us rather than drag us under? This is not an isolated incident. This question rises in other narratives. Janet Murray mentions that Ray Bradbury raises the question in Fahrenheit 451. But whereas John is willing to experience the cyberspace narrative, Montag finds it repellant.

    I personally don’t find the argument that “the more persuasive the medium, the more dangerous it is” (Murray, p21) all that convincing. Every escapist medium has the potential to pull us from where we are, to hold us in a different space for as long as it lasts. How frightening and wondrous it must have been the first time the Greeks saw Oedipus Rex or The Bacchae. We’ve often heard movies, books, plays and music described as an emotional rollercoaster because that’s what it is intended to be when it is made well and with passion. Perhaps someday cyberspace narratives will achieve the same emotional punch. With each of these mediums we are forced between the ever lingering moth and the fading flutter though. It remains up to each individual whether or not any form of escapism has the power to destroy their grasp on reality.

  2. There’s an innate trap in science fiction. Taking things too literally can be a major problem, as there’s something that must be kept in mind: they’re still stories. And stories need conflict. As such, the authors may often not even believe that their dystopian worlds will ever exist, but they need to make them for the sake of their story. For example, I doubt Neal Stephenson ever really believed that the world of Snow Crash, especially the real world of the book, was in the cards for our real world. A large man strong enough to cut bullet-proof armor with a knife and in possession of nuclear arms seems unlikely no matter how pessimistic you are. But hey, maybe I’m just pessimistic towards pessimism.

    As such, science fiction can raise important questions, despite what I feel is an inability to answer them. One of those questions Murray brought up: would fully immersive interactive stories destroy our grasp on reality? In my opinion, no. As she touched on a few times, almost every new medium has been met with resistance, and full immersion stories are the next medium. Sure, maybe there won’t be a full-fledged holodeck any time soon, but interactive fiction (by definition, not just Zork!) is something that forerunners are striving towards. Even linear video games have more and more developed stories. Now people want the stories to change depending on what they do. That’s a harsh challenge due to some technological limits, but it’s being worked on. The point is that it just seems to me that every medium is doomed to warn of the dangers of its successor.

    Anyway, I guess I’m just obligated to say interactive stories won’t ruin society; I am an Interactive Media major. But I truly believe it won’t. It will influence it, yes, just like the Beatles influence the mid-60s, and Friends influenced much of the 90s, but it will not destroy the very fabric of it. What we’re trying to do here is basically make Dungeons & Dragons without a “Dungeon Master” (if anyone even knows what I’m talking about here). We want the virtual world to react in a logical manner to the user’s actions, just like stories in books progress in a logical manner based upon the characters’ actions. The only real difference is that instead of reading about another character, you are the character.

    (Oh, and D&D doesn’t mess people up like you may have heard, there’s just always someone who takes things too far. And the social ostracizing probably didn’t help any already unstable individuals. But I’m no psychologist, just a gamer who considers himself perfectly fine in the brain-pan.)

  3. Kimberly McGuire

    “All the representational arts can be considered dangerously dillussional, and the more entrancing they are, the more disturbing. The powerful new storytelling technologies of the twentieth century have brought on an intensification of these fears.” I somewhat disagree here because anything can be dangerously dillusional and basically I think what it comes down to is limiting oneself in these technologies. Books are already powerful and entrancing, and I guess with storytelling technologies it is a possiblity that they are more powerful or stimulating. For example, when the savage experiences erotic engineering; “the horror of the feely theatre lies in knowing that your intense responses have been calculated and engineered…” Books are also easier to resist, they have limitations. Also with these new narrative technologies personal contact and the senses are being pushed aside; hopefully they will not be forgotton. However, this means that we will be using our eyes the most (and maybe ears) which may have an effect on humans biologically. The idea of instant gratification may have alot to do with these new technologies…society seems to becoming more and more in a hurry and impatient. For example, fast food, online ordering and shopping,ect.

  4. The overall concern with these futuristic forms of entertainment is the seemingly imminent elimination of “intelligent and complex” literature and other art forms; the fear that all art and entertainment will be diluted down to simple tools used to invoke desired sensations and emotional responses. Or users would become so obsessed with their virtual worlds that they would ignore their real ones. It is not a stretch of the imagination to assume that there would be a good percentage of the population that would prefer a virtual reality to their real lives. And depending on the sophistication of the technology involved, there is the frightening possibility that one might not be able to tell the difference. Who knows, we could be in a virtual reality right now (insert creepy soundtrack here). Obviously, this possibility was explored in the film The Matrix, as well as a few others I’m sure. The holodeck on Star Trek provides a more optimistic view of virtual reality. The holodeck encourages the creation and/or use of holonovels, which allows for art and entertainment, while taking on a different form, to continue. Another important feature mentioned in the reading was the ability to “close the book”. This concept is the bread and butter of most virtual reality plots in existence. In the Matrix, the characters are fighting to “turn off” the matrix in which they are imprisoned. In Star Trek, there are several plots involving the holodeck malfunctioning or a third party tampering with it, using it to fool, imprison, or attack the crewmembers. And of course if the user has no desire to leave the simulated environment, or is addicted to it, then they will not choose to “close the book.”

  5. Kimberly McGuire

    (continued)The digital environment has a lot to do with the moving away from older media forms such as books esspecially because the internet is so available and there is a seemingly infinate database.
    In the pax game in the instructions it says that the game is meant to be played as well as read; but the reading is done online which shows a ste p toward new digital technologies. The grey text means the character is sleeping or dormant. The idea that the color grey represents sleeping or dormantcy is interesting; gray implies a sense of ambiguity and the dream state is ambigious. It neither black or white.

  6. Repsonse to question 2):
    The question of losing a grip on the actual world presupposes the facts that we have a grip now, and that there is an objective “actual world” to begin with. These are debatable. Perhaps what we have is a perspective. And we give what exists a shape and meaning by interpreting it through our senses and conciousness. From this view, a holographic adventure would just be a different kind of illusion. Of course these illusions could be dangerous, just like our current illusions. The first of those that come to mind are the illusions of race or gender.
    Currently, I think cyberspace narratives have less of an impact than novels or films. They serve as more of an ancillary, like or fan sites, etc. Cyber-narratives don’t have the tactile satisfaction of a novel, and it is too easy to get distracted by surfing the internet for other entertainment. In the future, when the technology catches up to the imaginations of the authors, I imagine things will be much different. I could see a holonovel being much more engaging than a traditional novel. I found it interesting that Janeway was interested in fantasizing about a romanticized past with “a gaslit London street, and a San Francisco speakeasy.” The more technology-focused our world gets the more we want to go back to a simpler time.
    My first though about “Pax” was wondering what “oulipo” means. Apparently it is a French Writers Group (Ouvroir de Litterature). The author is probably referring to their “S+7” technique of replacing nouns with other nouns found seven entrances away in the dictionary.

  7. 1. “Do we believe that kissing a hologram (or engaging in cybersex) is an act of infidelity to a flash-and-blood partner?

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but if I were to kiss a hologram…I’d feel guilty—especially because there is that tactile sense involved. Although there is a difference between stepping into a predetermined story where the plot is linear (with perhaps a certain degree of deviation)—I am along as a ‘passenger’ to the story—and a virtual reality that mimics the real world where I have ‘control’ over the actions I take. Even so, I’m sure my boyfriend would not be pleased about me kissing someone else, be it the person is virtual or real, and I wouldn’t blame him. A person can argue that it is just a computer program, but even if the surroundings and people are not real, the act itself is real. If I were to go back and remember my day, the act of me kissing someone is still a real occurrence, even if it happened in a virtual setting. It’s not as if the act didn’t happen or has no implications on my ‘real’ life because it happened in a virtual setting. There is a line between the virtual and the real, but it is not a hard line that can not be crossed. Because there are different parts to the Self—the corporeal, the mental, the spiritual, all of which are in constant interaction, the virtual—the ‘almost real’—can affect an individual’s objective reality, even if it is only on an intangible level. The bodiless implications of virtual reality are sometimes left out of the discussion, but they are more important when we begin to discuss what is ‘real.’ A person cannot argue, ‘This is real,’ only because she experienced something with the senses while physically immersed in a virtual world. By the same token, she cannot argue ‘This is not real,’ only because an objective reality is there to validate the virtual-ness of the sensations. If I go to a movie and experience fear, is the fear unreal, because the movie is not real? If I am affected by the movie, and become afraid of spiders afterward, is my fear still unreal? Because we are not rational creatures, and our emotions bleed into our other thoughts which cause us to act in objective reality…we can not argue that virtual reality is something entirely separate from objective reality. Because we can become affected by virtual experiences (even reading a novel affects us), the virtual can be made real through our bodies and the actions we take in objective reality. Perhaps the fur rug in the feely is not real, but the way our consciousness can be altered by virtual reality is real.

    One point Murray made which I found interesting was her assertion that the virtual, “…like any literary experience…provides a safe space in which to confront disturbing feelings we would otherwise suppress; it allows us to recognize our most threatening fantasies without becoming paralyzed by them (Murray 25).” What about killing someone in the virtual world? What if people begin to write programs that allow people to, like, kill their boss or something? Will the law step in? And how will the law interpret occurrences in the virtual world? Since things like ‘hate speech’ are legal (No, not at the soldier’s funeral, just outside the soldier’s funeral in the public domain i.e. the sidewalk that runs along the cemetery…blech), it is hard to say how the virtual world will be interpreted by the law. Cyberspace is much characterized by its ‘lawlessness’; it is not privatized and enjoys a freedom not granted to any other medium. But what happens once virtual reality brings cyberspace closer to objective experience? I hate to see cyberspace regulated, but people can’t be killin’ each other on that shit.

    Murray calls the holodeck “an optimistic technology for exploring inner life…such an exploration brings the benefit of self-knowledge (Murray 26).” That is optimistic. When I think of human nature and current mindsets…I guess it’s a little scary. Okay it’s scary. Scratch what I said up there about not killing each other—let’s wage the Iraq war online if we have to, instead of killing those people for real. *Sigh But enough smarm here. We should be good-to-go as long as it is individuals accessing and controlling their own virtual experience…not corporations or governments or any other ‘entities’. ‘Cause that’s when the shit will get really scary. This message brought to you by…just kidding.

    All in all though, I am inclined to think that life will go on much as it has. I tend to hold the same stance as the show Futurama about the future. You think modern life now is ironic? It’s just going to get more ironic. That is all.


  8. Star Trek is on of first show with holograms. Like for Captain Janeway, she falls in love with a similation that is not real. I think the reason she does this is she is either lonely or stress. It’s kind of ironic that now they beginning to have holograms like in Star Trek. It would be so cool to stop and pause a holodeck. Also they can create the holodeck themselves. This is example of a virtual reality world of a similation that’s not real. What I remember when watch Star Trek, there was one episode in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine when they were able to make chapters like it book. Kind of what we just read. Except there some kind of obsession where the holodeck took over their stories and they would have to defeat the hologram. Which is kind of scary the fact the hologram is actually trying to kill the person. Just looking back at the episode, what if that could happen in the future. Could the holodeck take over? Could you die in your own holodeck? Those are the questions of the future if the hologram is malfunction. Today people are already making holodeck of a room but is consider as hologram room. Some may think might be scary the fact people may use this in the future. It can very addictive and scary if it not use wisely.

  9. 3. “Will the increasingly alluring narratives spun out for us by the new digital technologies be as benign and responsible as a nineteenth-century novel or as dangerous and debilitating as a hallucinogenic drug?”

    Contemplating the effectiveness of a narrative and its effect upon the reader really depends on the reader themselves. As noted by Murray in the text, John the Savage from Brave New World feels alienated by the feelings stimulated via the Feelies while it seems everyone else in the world is enamored by their manipulations. In order to become truly engrossed in a narrative, the reader must suspend their disbelief which I think is a lot harder via cyberspace narratives due to their nature to not really be grounded in one medium or another. Really I suppose when I think of cyberspace narratives I think of simulations in the vein of video games which are breaking new ground in terms of the narrative structure with each new passing title. Text narratives are fairly solid in their allure and ability to ensnare the reader because they, for the most part, have the same perspective throughout. The same isn’t true for cyberspace narratives because while they can be based on text, the cyberspace narrative also has the ability to remove the reader from the chosen perspective via a cutscene due to the malleability of the medium, in this case, the internet.

  10. 1. “Do we believe that kissing a hologram (or engaging in cybersex) is an act of infidelity to a flash-and-blood partner?

    I agree with Mindy here. If the holonovel were to provide the “reader” with a legitimate passenger experience, a story that is told in third person (which it does not), it would be difficult to say that the “reader” was at fault for cheating, because it would be out of their hands. Since the holonovel/holodeck does allow the “reader” to “participate in stories that change around them in response to their actions,” I would definitely feel guilty about engaging in anything remotely romantic, since it would all be based on my decisions and actions (15).

    I’m not sure if this was ever discussed in class, but I read this article in the Wall Street Journal touching on pretty much the same issue, only involving Second Life.

    This man has been married to a woman for about seven months (a woman he met in a chat room, no less) , but he also has a wife in Second Life.

    When it comes to virtual worlds like Second Life, where you can build relationships with people behind a three dimensional facade, I think the whole adultery thing is a bit of a gray area. It really depends on the person behind the avatar. I think the people who take the “game” really seriously (like the guy in the WSJ article, who spends hours on end creating buildings and custom graphics, riding a virtual harley, asking a cartoon character to move in with his virtual self, spending money to upgrade his avatar with a furry chest and chisseled abs–in other words, completely removing himself from reality) are definitely at fault for adultery. There’s obviously some sort of psychological and emotional attachment there. Anyone who knows that Second Life is, while intriguing, also silly is going to find it very difficult to find a meaningful connection in the cyber world.

    I think when we’ve reached a point where virtual worlds are more part of the mainstream, when it becomes a huge phenomenon, when it doesn’t look god awful, when maintaining an alternate life has become part of your essence as a human being (that’s a scary thought), then we can really start to worry about adultery in the cyber world. But right now, I think it’s a case by case basis. If that makes sense.

  11. Paul Sernatinger

    I think that it’s impossible to talk about getting lost inside of a realistic immersive cyberspace experience without talking about drugs. The key difference is that in the case of the Holodeck, the trick is that the input stimulus so faithfully reproduces reality that, without context, it is impossible to distinguish between the reality and the fantasy of the situation. In the case of drugs, the trick is that the stimulus itself often redefines for the senses what can be accepted as real. When you think about it, these really aren’t as different as one might think, except in approach.

    Taking a step back, lets approach this from where we are now. Already, we have cases of people being addicted to video games or to the internet in general. This phenomenon is so young that for the moment, at least, there is plenty of contention as to whether or not it even legitimately exists. Most people will draw the comparison to heroin or cocaine as their models for addiction, but personally I prefer the idea of using gambling as an initial comparison.

    Gambling works because it is a reinforcing habit, involves no chemicals externally derived for the addictive effect. I also like the idea of gambling because, again, unlike cocaine or heroin not all people will get addicted to gambling. The addictive factor is when a repeated motion or situation occasionally spawns a reward. This, to me, is a meditation on Pavlovian conditioning: what, on an individual basis, is the minimum amount of reward necessary to produce a conditioned effect. This will vary from person to person with some being conditioned quite easily, while others not at all. This is the essential human experience that we need to apply to the idea of the Holodeck. That while some people will be able to interact at length in a dissociated sort of way, others, with even limited interaction, will be more drawn to that rendering of reality than to reality itself, as some people already do today.

    What this says to me is that this is not a problem that we can ignore until we get to the point where technology makes even a simplistic precursor to the Holodeck possible. This is already a social problem (whether legitimately recognized or not) that will need to be addressed in the very near future. By that same token, however, it may be just as debilitating a problem as it is today. Chemical addiction is a problem that society has had to face in many different incarnations in many different places, basically throughout recorded history. It’s not like people today are totally free of, say, opium addiction, but this is not because we have successfully assimilated opium use into society with healthy boundaries and established social norms. The established social norm is that you should not do any opium, the boundary is between sobriety and any use what so ever. This is an easily established guideline as very specific biological terminology can be relied to draw that line, regardless of if it is in the right place or not.

    With cyber-addiction, like gambling, we have convinced ourselves anecdotally that we have the ultimate say in what we decide to do, that free will trumps conditioning, and it is upon this basis that gambling is legal in the parts of the country that it is (to say nothing of the money that local governments makes off of it.) However, we know, we have evidence, scientific empirical truth that gambling is indeed addictive. as addictive as a chemical substance. I imagine that the future of cyber-immersive technologies is much the same as the current state of gambling. Limited lawful engagement, poorly and inconsistently regulated, with unaddressed social problems that the market will respond to parasitically rather than emotionally. The trick, interestingly enough, may be to teach, to -condition- the next generation with the necessary skills to recognize how much is too much. As it stands, as far as I know, while people are talking to their kids about drugs, nobody is talking to them about gambling, and I’d be very interested to see what would happen after twenty years (you know, after all these kids have grown up) of this kind of approach to the problem. Who knows, cyberspace may be the medium that we have to try this approach out on, with gambling conditioning following it.

  12. 1. “Do we believe that kissing a hologram (or engaging in cybersex) is an act of infidelity to a flash-and-blood partner?

    Hamlet in the Holodeck talks about cybersex or having emotional attachment to a fictional character created by technology. The way it is portrayed here is in the context of an emotional bond, not necessarily a sexual one. When I realized this, I immediately thought of the feelies of Brave New World. As opposed to the complex characters in the Victorian Drama, the feelies were nothing but cybernetic, technologically advanced porn. This kind of cybersex seems in no way like cheating (especially in that world, where commitment is unheard of), but the situation in Star Trek is much more unclear.

  13. When you think of the idea of the Holodeck, one can’t help but to think we are EXTREMELY far off from being anywhere technologically close to this. The idea of characters “who can be touched, conversed with, or even kissed.” Not to mention “drinkable tea”. (Murray 15) Assuming this reality as possible, that the characters are tangible, that their contact can be felt; that emotion can arise from such encounters; I would count that as an act of infidelity to a flesh and blood partner. I would imagine if this type of thing were possible, it would not be benign or responsible…not in the slightest. Power corrupts. And being in control of reality is an ultimate power. In a sense, everyone would be God in his or her realities. While there could be responsible use, I doubt it would be the normal. The idea of total immersion into a new reality brings up unfathomable questions involving human nature. The introduction of a new reality would have the potential for addiction, as was the case in most of the readings we have done. I imagine it would be debilitating, not just in the sense of abuse, but also in the sense of causing major chemical changes in the brain, like Murray noted of Lawnmower man. I don’t believe it would be like that necessiarly, but on an individual level…Perhaps, it could spark delusions and a melding of the virtual and the real. Maybe it will trigger schizophrenia. Whatever. We haven’t addressed these types of issues, except in narrative means or theoretically.
    What I wonder, is how people would take to total immersion. Would thy take the view of The Savage in Brave New World. Or the view of everyone else?
    “The horror of the feely theater lies in knowing that your intense responses have been calculated and engineered.” Murray 19)
    I don’t feel that people could accept a false reality on a massive scale such as the holodeck. And if they could, at what point would the line be drawn concerning acceptable and unacceptable? What would be taboo? What would be expected?

  14. The question of whether the “power of such a vividly realized fantasy world destroy our grip on the actual world” is one that must be considered with the advancements of technology. The television show Fahrenheit 451 seems to demonstrate a threat that is already current today. “The housewives’ psychological and moral paralysis is a direct consequence of the virtues of the technology, namely, its power to appeal to the senses of vision and hearing with stunning immediacy…the televisors are evil because they create “an environment as real as the world.” “As soon as we open ourselves to these illusory environments that are “as real as the world” or even “more real than reality,” we surrender our reason and join with the undifferentiated masses, slavishly wiring ourselves into the stimulation machine at the cost of our very humanity” (p. 21).
    In the current political world, there is a theory called the “CNN Effect” that correlates with creating a news medium that gives the viewer the news networks perception of what the “real world” is, and further, the extent, depth, and speed of the new global media have created a new species of effects. This has led to the threat of creating an illusion of “what is real.” The best example of this is from 2001 during the Afghanistan War when news reporter Geraldo Rivera claimed to be at the scene of a friendly fire incident, when in fact he was 300 miles away. It is in this way that the media has taken upon itself to create videos with false information to support its personal beliefs and agenda onto its viewers, who unknowingly accept what is shown before them as real. This delusional experience can be correlated with “dehumanizing representational technology” where “we will no longer concern ourselves with how we are receiving the information” (p. 26), surrendering our reason and joining with the undifferentiated masses, wiring ourselves into the stimulation machine.

  15. “Do we believe that kissing a hologram (or engaging in cybersex) is an act of infidelity to a flash-and-blood partner?

    I’m so back and forth on this topic for a couple of reasons. I think that engaging in cyber sex with another person over the internet is sort of cheating in a way because it’s performing sexual acts, or at least pretending to, with another actual living person with feelings and emotions. But if they are having cybersex with a machine it doesn’t seem as cruel. I’m sure when pornography was first introduced there were people who thought they were cheating on their significant others when they bought it but today it’s not even an issue. I think that in the examples given in the text Janeway wasn’t really cheating on her partner. Although the hologram was extremely real and beginning to take on a life of it’s own it still wasn’t real. It was only a game for her. On the other hand if I found out the person I was dating was cheating on me with a holodeck I would be pissed. I would feel like they were having a relationship with the person they wish they were actually with. I think I’m just too wishy washy on the subject to make a absolute decision but I do think in the given text that Janeway was innocent and that unless it was with an actual living human being (or whatever other being may have been on that ship) she wasn’t cheating.

  16. Question 3)

    The question itself is illogical, in order to even attempt to answer it would require that there was no change in society between the 19th century and now. Equally, it rests on the premise that 19th century writing wasn’t subversive, not a very solid ground to stand upon when making an argument. It also runs into a cause/effect logical flaw. 19th Century writing is benign on our society today because it is has helped to create our society… any theoretical past changes in literature would causally effect current society. As with all attempts at make a good/bad comparison, it eventually narrows down to a meta-philisophical question, which, at our current level of evolution we are not capable of answering.

    Question 2)

    I don’t think that it would. I believe that it would become more like the Street in Snow Crash where the idea of reality is maleable and the so called ‘virtual’ reality can be as (or more) real, than ‘actual’ reality. To me it is just an step forwards along an evolutionary path, one where our current concept of ‘reality’ is not necessarily one in which we should require ourselves to be restrained into. I believe that people are just scared of this change as they usually are about all change. Ironically, many people who are unwilling to believe that humans can exists outside of our current concept of reality, are the same people who are willing to allow God to exists in some place not physically defined in our ‘reality’.

    I think that authors in the books we have read are deliberately distorting the potential good/evil balance between physical reality and virtual reality for literary purposes. They seem to be trying to make statements more about the current world we now (or when the story was written) live in as opposed to so strange futuristic world. Frankenstein was worried about the effects of science and industrialization as was time machine. Gibson I’ve always felt was trying to make us look at how information availability and the technological revolution was changing us. I don’t think that any of the authors that we have read were worrying about how the present would effect the future, but how the potential future would disrupt the comfort level that we felt today.

  17. When it comes to the question of cybersex, I don’t think that it is a black/white answer of cheating or not cheating. For me the problem comes when we start pushing the question to extremes. If video porn is cheating, then is phone/email sex cheating, and if so… eventually it gets down to if I see a person walking down the street and just THINK something along the lines of sex, is that cheating. I think that you would get different answers from almost every person and that in the end, it becomes a balance between the people attempting to have a relationship and not something that can be univerally decreed for all of society.

  18. 1. “Do we believe that kissing a hologram (or engaging in cybersex) is an act of infidelity to a flesh-and-blood partner?

    I think there is a world of difference between the two possibilities that Murray brings up in that particular sentence. A hologram is entirely different from cybersex, and an answer cannot be said for both; they must be separate.

    Kissing a hologram is not an act of infidelity. While some may feel that it is, there is no real person behind that hologram. Every person, male or female, has their own private fantasies. It is part of being a healthy sexual being and should not be suppressed in any way. It is just a fun little fantasy. Imagine a woman reading a romance novel. Even though romance novels are often in the third person, she imagines herself in that role to escape from everyday life and perhaps capture the intimacy she feels she is missing in real life. Kissing a hologram, or reading a cyberspace narrative, is just bringing the fantasy into first person so the reader feels more involved, and therefore ultimately more satisfied. Does a preteen girl kissing a poster of her favorite rockstar give her flesh-and-blood boyfriend cause to worry? No.

    Cybersex, on the other hand, is a completely different story. In its current definition, engaging in cybersex is having sex through email, IM, or chat. It is NOT a hologram, it is not a simple fantasy figment of someone’s imagination. There is a real person on the other side of that chat. You are investing yourself in a relationship or interaction (whether emotional or “physical”) with another person, and in that, it becomes cheating. It is no longer like reading a romance novel. Instead of just fantasizing, you are acting on your feelings, and action signifies an act of infidelity.

    The same would apply to characters in cyberliterature. Take, for example, Hiro from Snow Crash. If he was wandering around the Metaverse and decided to disregard a relationship he has in reality to have the Metaverse equivalent of cybersex with a random Brandy he meets out on the Street, he is cheating. He is engaging in contact with a real, flesh-and-blood person, and that is infidelity. If the cybersex he was having was instead with the creatures that clean up chopped-up holograms in the hacker’s club, it would not be cheating because they are simply computer programs and not directed by a real person.

  19. I don’t feel that kissing a hologram is an act of infidelity to a flash-and-blood partner. In fact, even having an emotional attachment [to a hologram] seems acceptable as well, because it is a fantasy. Indulging and actually cheating would be crossing the line. Cybersex, to me is a slippery slope. Whereas the hologram is generated and performs for you, cybersex between two flesh and blood people is definitely questionable behavior if one is in a relationship, particularly because, where as you have a measure of control over the hologram, if engaged in a sexual activity with another person, it may lead to a physical affair because of the needs and desires of both people involved… Sex with a hologram is easier to control than a online relationship in which one engages in cybersex… Then again, sex is about a loss of control, so whether or not the behavior [of cybersex and cheating] is endorsed, it tends to happen anyway…

  20. Also, in response to the idea of holographic adventures, while they may simulate the experience of travel and adventures, they would fall a bit flat with the participants in the long run…

    Would anyone really be content with climbing Everest in a holographic chamber… or skydiving? Underwater diving w/sharks? Exploring Mayan Pyramids?

    I believe they would feel a lack of contentment, knowing what they experienced wasn’t real… they’d miss the adrenaline rush you get from the actual experience. Knowing you’re in a hologram, i feel would detract from it.

  21. “Will the increasingly alluring narratives spun out for us by the new digital technologies be as benign and responsible as a nineteenth-century novel or as dangerous and debilitating as a hallucinogenic drug?”

    I feel that it all comes down to the person who is reading and taking part in these narratives. Hallucinogenic drugs are obviously very powerful and if anyone were to take them they would have a powerful reaction regardless of who that person is.The line between reality and fantasy is totally blurred regardless of whether or not you want it to be. I feel that cyberspace narratives by themselves definitley do not hold that kind of great power but they hold a different power, the power of literature. But when certain people get ahold of those narratives and become so engrossed in them to the point where the line between reality and fantasy blur is when it become dangerous. But like everything it comes down to choice. You can either read the narrative like a book or become completely engrossed in it in a unhealthy way. Unlike these drugs a person is fully allowing themselves to get caught up in a unhealthy obsessive way to a cyberspace narrative. Obviously the person on the drug is fully allowing themselves to do the same by taking the drug but when you’re caught up in a cyberspace narrative you have the choice of snapping back into reality whenever you want but when you are on hallucinogenic drugs and it kicks in you no longer have any choice to pop back into reality whenver you want for an elasped amount of time. You have to go with it whether or not you want to it’s the effect and consequence of it. Cyberspace narratives don’t have that element of danger for most people. So I definitely think it comes down to the person and their choices of what they want to do and what they allow themselves to do.

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