[iDC] from Charlie Gere: An Inconvenient Youth and Second Life

Trebor Scholz trebor at thing.net
Sun Feb 25 10:52:30 EST 2007

fwd. from Charlie Gere <c.gere at lancaster.ac.uk>


I think your invocation of previous new media hype in relation to SL is very timely, and your question about whether it is a safety valve for fantasies of social change most
pertinent. But I think the problem of academic hype about SL is even worse than you suggest and seems to be encapsulated by the statement from Henry Jenkins you quoted to
the effect that "... for the moment, the debate about and the hype surrounding SL is keeping alive the idea that we might design and inhabit our own worlds and construct our own
culture. That's something worth defending." 

To be honest I don't see why. It would seem to me obvious that trying to make some sense of and find ways of mitigating the violence and unjustice in the complex world and
culture we already necessarily inhabit, not least bodily, is far more pressing and considerably more worth defending than any supposed capacity to 'design and inhabit our own
worlds and construct our own culture'. This seems to me to be at best a license for mass solipsism and at worse something like the kind of thinking that undergirds much
totalitarianism, as well as an evasion of our responsibilities to the world as we find it. Such a fantasy seems to be at play in both the relentless construction and assertion of
'identity', a drive that militates against proper social solidarity, and thus plays into the hands of those sustaining the status quo, as well as the fantasy entertained by the Bush
government that the Middle East can just be redesigned as if in some video game

Apart from anything culture is not something that can simply be constructed. It is something we are thrown into and which we can only at best try to negotiate our relationship
with. Culture necessarily involves other people and prior existing structures. Has Jenkins considered what it would mean if everyone felt free to 'construct their own culture'. Even if
such a thing were possible, it is certainly not desirable, especially if we have any hope to produce a properly participatory culture. 

Frankly as far as I am concerned SL is really just a kind of cultural pornography, and is to the real business of culture what masturbating is to sex with another person. I like
masturbation as much as the next man, or indeed woman, but I don't make the error of mistaking for something it isn't. Apart from anything else it lacks precisely the element
that sex has, that of involving a proper, embodied, responsibility to someone else and to the potential consequences of the act itself.

Charlie Gere

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