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Without even leaving, we are already no longer there. (Virilio, 2004, 79)
Blurring of physical and virtual worlds mean we live increasingly in a state of hybridity
“ Cities do not disappear in the virtual networks. But they are transformed by the interface between electronic communication and physical interaction, by the combination of networks and places” (Castells, 2004, 85)
“ We can now develop a new kind of urban topology. At one end of the spectrum are completely traditional, place-based communities…At the other end of the spectrum are fully virtual communities…In between are numerous possible hybrids in which both physical and virtual play significant roles…Communities like these are not necessarily discrete and clearly bounded, as traditional ones typically have been. They may overlap and intersect in complex ways” (Mitchell, 2004, 127-128)
Means that the distinctions between real and unreal are increasingly blurred
We become ‘hybrid’ beings – augmented by digital technology in our everyday lives
Blurring of Virtual and Physical
David Tench Tonight – mix of physical and virtual is a means to reveal a deeper truth
"Tench is something that is pioneering the way for the future…The idea of interaction with people who are slightly cartoonistic opens guests up so much more…It allows the guest to relax and have fun. He (Tench) is able to be far more honest and so much more real in his questions than a lot of other reporters are able to be. He's also a lot cheekier" (Todd Abbott, 2006)
Disruptive technology – Tench can question our assumptions by bridging the divide between real and unreal, physical and virtual
“ Why are people so worried about nuclear reactors? If X-Men has taught us anything, it's that mutations can be fun & sexy” (Tench, 2006)
Blurring of Virtual and Physical
Second Life enables people to belong to a virtual community – extends beyond time and place
Blurring of physical and virtual lives - Second Lifers frequently construct avatars that have remarkable resemblance to their physical appearance
However, Second Life may offer opportunities to live out a fantasy life that is less available in ‘real’ life
Blurring of Virtual and Physical Perception and Use of Device (Female, 15) Blurring of physical and virtual – no real distinction between physical and virtual experience Devices are used to augment experience – hence the importance of mobile devices
Why Does Social Networking Work?
“ spiritual explorations’ and hence ‘the most life-like’ since they reveal ‘human life as seen, or felt, or divined from the inside’…direct the child to discover his identity and calling, and they also suggest what experiences are needed to develop his character further” (Bettelheim, 1989)
Social networking and digital technology construct new ways of communicating and connecting with others
Sharing Experience & Story-Telling e.g. MySpace enables people to construct a ‘storyboard’ Used to author the self – “look at me!”
“ Yes because they [social networking sites] have Blogs as well, so you can write down if I went to a gig, or went to a party, I can write it down, people can comment on that as well” (Female, 15).
Social networking structures offer an important means of capturing experience and telling personal stories – means of remembering and creating a sense of self
Q. “If you didn’t have a mobile, MySpace page and you couldn’t send people pictures and things, what do you think it would be like?”
“ Really kind of boring, well no it would, because I’d still have the friends but it would just be a bit, I don’t know really, it wouldn’t be, you wouldn’t really be able to remember like a moment or like a day out or something” (Female, 15).
Social networking opportunities are an augmentation of the self – hybrid existence where physical and virtual worlds are blurred
Peer to peer nature is particularly compelling
Social networking offers a more enabling way of expressing the self – augmentation of the physical self
“ It shows a different side to people and everything because they’re more out, instead of like talking to people normally, like face-to-face or on the phone, they can just like type things down on a certain page and people look at it” (Female, 13).
Enable people to construct identity and self-broadcast – informed by interactivity and personalisation
“ [Narratives] must entertain him and arouse his curiosity. But to enrich his life. It must stimulate his imagination; help him to develop his intellect and to clarify his emotions; be attuned to his anxieties and aspirations; give full recognition to his difficulties, while at the same time suggesting solutions to the problems which perturb him. In short it must at one and the same time relate to all aspects of his personality … simultaneously promoting confidence in himself and the future” (Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment,1989)
Social networking sites are used as exploratory spaces – to think about the self e.g. which movie star do you relate to?
Drive ongoing processes of self-discovery
Construction of the self from multiple narrative strands
informed by the scope given to engage in the narrative and display the self
“ Yes it was because you write down stuff that you didn’t realise that you knew about yourself, it sounds stupid but like because like there’s all this stuff that you write down, like what your interests are, what kind of music you listen to, and yes and also in My Space you can meet people that have the same likes and dislikes, or like the same music as you” (Female, 15).
Driven by processes of seeking and reward
“ Seeking” is the perfect word for the drive these designs instil in their players…“Reward is everywhere. The universe is literally teeming with objects that deliver very clearly articulated rewards…Game interface design revolves around feeding players notified of potential rewards available to them, and how these rewards are currently needed” (Johnson, 2005)
Increasing significance of community sharing related to TV programs e.g. digital spy
Support a 21 st century notion of community – individuated community
Enables people to opt-in to communities whilst maintaining individual autonomy
System of reward driven by the desire to broadcast the self
“ It’s the reward system that draws them in and keeps their famously short attention spans locked on the screen” (Johnson, 2005)
Need for recognition of the self creates community – makes self-authoring more compelling
Process of seeking and reward is maintained through increased participation
“ First, the internet has become much more of a community platform where people can participate in communities, sharing information in real time. Second, the internet has become much more visual. People prefer to interact with information and with each other in a very visual way” (Financial Times 24 January 2007)
Mass Access Games and Metaverses are becoming increasingly significant
They offer wider participation akin to social networking sites with immediate reward and the opportunity to actively structure environment
Also combined with a deeper level of engagement and interactivity – more attuned to capturing focused attention of the gaming generation, the reward and seeking mentality
“ 16-25 year olds tend to use different types of media at the same time: texting on the mobile, watching TV and playing on the internet. Getting them to play a game is a good way of capturing their undivided attention” (Sunday Telegraph, 8 April, 2007)
“ What you’re doing [in Second Life] is stimulating a very complex multi-faceted environment where everything is changing all the time. Behind every avatar is a person…Second Life is about person to person experiences. It’s a graphical chat room” (Gartner, 2007)
Highly personal nature of relationships combined with vast network of access
Not merely a representation of a real person but an embodiment of a particular virtual lived experience
Likely that social networking sites will become spaces where physical and virtual characters can play alongside each other
The Future of Social Networking
‘ Entertaining media and the desire to become involved, absorbed and immersed have shown how much adult media users are looking for distraction or for alternative, if only temporary, realities to take them away into a dreamlike world’ (Vorderer, 2001).
Social networking and sharing opportunities will proliferate
Resonate with ordinary people because the sites are embedded in several key emerging social trends
Increasing blurring of physical and virtual, hybridisation of broadcast and games – increased emphasis on broadening active community
Narrative and plot becoming increasingly more complex combining ‘given’ outcomes with interactive opportunities
This combines the common cultural language of broadcast with the opportunity to display and self-author
People are likely to become increasingly attached to a hybrid existence where physicality and virtuality cannot be distinguished
Banff The Evolution of Story-Telling and Social Media: Implications for the Future of Television 9 June 2007