Digital Beard Stroking: Media Avatar, Expressor of Efficacy 5

Digital Beard Stroking

Philosophy of Technology

I’d like to provide another perspective on the importance of technology, gaming and nerd culture through a lens of philosophical constructs and psychological concepts, thus providing a juxtaposition of historical/academic context of the above mentioned topics against a humorous, accessible vernacular.

Media Avatar, Expressor of Efficacy

DBS 1.1

No, not that one.

In the physical realm, we are limited (in some cases, highly) in our choices of action.  While we are capable of a great many things, the vast majority of all possible actions are simply not possible.  However, inside interactive media (such as board games and video games), as well as non-interactive or “passive” media (such as comic books, movies, etc.), the rules are different and we’re able to explore this new subset of possible actions.  This experience can be empowering, educational and theraputic at best and delusional, destructive and isolating at worst.  But the benefits would seem to outweigh the risks, since those limitations can be a real bummer in real life.

DBS 1.2

“Broken limb?  Pfft, let me just cast Deus Ex Machina on it and you’ll be fine”

Consider the obvious examples.  If I were to sustain any sort of injury, I’d be inconvenienced at best and incapacitated or dead at worst.  Because of this, I’m inclined to choose safer activities and avoid serious danger.  In addition to those elective limitations, I also have a certain set of skills.  I may be capable of expanding those skills (Running, Jumping, Carrying heavy objects, Fighting, Shooting, etc.), but I haven’t necessarily mastered them.  Finally, there’s those things which are physically impossible to do.  I cannot fly, I cannot cast magic, I cannot predict the future.  Within these three classes of limitations, which I’ll refer to as “elective”, “developmental” and “impossible”, each has implications and aspects that vary, but are all represented in our media.

The media we’re interested in here can be expressed as an elaborate form of “what if”.  “What if we could sustain an infinite number of physical wounds and merely restart from our home base instead of actually dying?”.  “What if we were able to free run across entire cities, hanging from precipices and never making a mistake or misstep?”.   “What if it were possible to manifest magical powers in our world?”.  Games appeal to these “What Ifs” in a fairly straightforward way, but even things like comic books provide an insight into these questions.  “What if he had a point here instead of just rambling?” would be a perfectly reasonable question, and I’ll get right to it.  (Perhaps there will be another article about the societal implications of these revised rules are acknowledged instead of ignored.)

DBS 1.3

“Who does he think he is, with all this exposition? A Gotham writer?”

One of the fundamental concerns of humanity is to feel powerful.  This is a very tricky notion (So forgive my tendency to dance around multiple terms.  Too much Heidegger during my formative years), because it isn’t necessarily concerned with those negative connotations of “power” – domination, unilaterality, megalomania – so much as the sense of efficacy.  That one has control over one’s direct circumstances and one’s own future.  If extremely deprived of this sense of agency, the results can be traumatic.  Even within day to day life, our efficacy is compromised.  See those first three limitations.  Our ability explore a new set of limitations (“I can feel no pain, but I can also not feel anything at all.”,  “I am a crack shot, but I’m physically constrained to this 1 square kilometer map for my entire existence”, “I can create magical effects, but only once every hour”) provides us with an abstract way to expand our sensation of power.  This can be a tremendous boon to self esteem and confidence, especially in an individual sorely lacking personal agency in their real life.  It can also be a dangerously addictive sensation for those same folks – see MMO addicts who forget they have real bodies still.  It’s pretty clear that the psychological implications of our interactions with these media are pretty powerful.

Check out the part 2 on this article, where I reference Sesame Street, as well as John Hinckley Jr.!  Maybe some more stuff for you to have to go look up instead of trying to figure out if “unilaterality” is really a word (it is).


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