As a digital native it is quite difficult to imagine life not intrinsically linked to technology. Since the Stone Age we have used technology to reshape our reality, which enabled us to evolve until we reached how we are in the present days. As George Khut pointed out in this week’s lecture, perhaps it will be more appropriate to rename ourselves from Homo sapiens (Man the Wise) to Homo Fabre (Man the Maker). What we don’t realise however, is that we are also shaped by the technology we have created ourselves.
The reading this week by David Rokeby, The Construction of Experience: Interface as Context poses an interesting concept: we are seeking haven of safe interaction, an environment in which we have total control over due to the dangerous nature of the natural world. This is quite true if we put some thought into it. We delve ourselves into the virtual world, most prominently through the internet, even to an extent films or book, constructing a fantasy world where we could take a break from our daily lives. We project our desire to control nature onto this simulated reality, and in turn we appropriate our real world knowledge into this plane.
However, this also works in reverse, where our interaction with the virtual world shapes our everyday behaviour. Rokeby’s A Very Nervous System actually allowed him to evolve with it, developing a set of movement that is very specific to the interface in which he worked with extensively. On a more personal scale, this is also applicable to me. After extensive use of the computer and then proceeding to search for a certain point in a hard copy of a text, I find myself moving to press “CTRL+F” before remembering that it does not work in the physical world.
As a prominent example of the interface shaping us and vice verse, Jane McGonigal, a game designer, believes that it is possible to try to make “it as easy to save the world in real life as it is in online games.” (Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world, 2010) This is an example of the loop between the physical world and the virtual. Yes, we program all we know into the interface but in turn we also learn how to solve problems which we encounter in the physical world through video games. She believes that in the virtual plane, we become the “best version of ourselves”, willing to collaborate and cooperate and have motivation to stick to a problem and solve it. She studied games like World of Warcraft as an ideal collaborative problem solving environment.
In her studies she found gamers to be good at 4 things:
- Urgent Optimism: desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle combined with the believe that we have a reasonable hope to success.
- Social Fabric: they like people better after we played a game with them. It builds bonds and relations
- Blissful Productivity: they are happier working hard than hanging out if given the right work
- Epic meaning: They like to be associated events in a massive scale, and is able to work a lot harder when this is the case
She calls gamers “Super-Empowered Hopeful Individuals” – people who believe that they are individually capable of changing the world. The reason that individuals spend so much time in the virtual world instead of real world is because they feel more accomplished when they achieve something in their games or interface. If we can change this notion, we will be capable in harnessing the knowledge gamers (and virtually anyone else) acquired in their virtual ventures and make changes to our physical lives.
Through the technology vacuum, where we humans have total control over everything, we are able to learn more about ourselves and the world around us and it is possible to apply such knowledge to our everyday lives to solve problems.
David Rokeby, 1998, The Construction of Experience: Interface as Context, ACM Press, New York
Jane McGonigal, Feb 2010, Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world, TED2010, accessed 20th August 2012, <http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_gaming_can_make_a_better_world.html>
Honor Moorman, Gaming: Leveling Up Global Competence, accessed 20th August 2012, <http://asiasociety.org/education/resources-schools/partnership-ideas/gaming-leveling-global-competence>