Estimated reading time: 2 minutes —
I don’t know why I’m suddenly so sensitive to the notion of time and reality, but it seems that since I’ve been thinking about virtual reality in terms of time measurements, I’ve been experiencing RL situations a little bit differently. Here’s what I mean – last night, I was at a Dirty Projector concert with my girlfriend, the band was amazing, we were having fun, the crowd was great and then the room kind of froze on me and I noticed this sea of faces all looking not directly at the stage, but at the stage through their phones. It may seem silly at first, it is after all, a given sight of any concert goer these days but it made me realize that we are living a mixed reality where boundaries between the real and the virtual are increasingly collapsing. This mediated view of reality then made me think of William Burroughs’ cut up method and how we are (and in a way always have been) living numerous realities simultaneously. After all, as Vaneeesa mentioned in a comment to my previous post that delved into similar territory, what are dreams if not another “reality” where time is non-linear (and yes, I was thinking of Inception; I guess I get an “F” on my film exam lol!)
Going back to my cut up analogy – While cut ups were initially formulated by Brion Gysin as a writing technique, the resulting juxtaposition of subjects is also highly relevant, in my opinion, to our contemporary conception of reality. For example (and purposely avoiding any technological references), imagine that you are on a train heading from point A to point B. To make time go by faster, you are reading a book (insert title here). Two women are sitting next to you, gossiping about their love lives. You, of course, cannot help but catch snippets for their conversations, that in turn merge with the text you are reading (a mystery novel, perhaps), and with the scenery speedy past your window. Right there, with no digital/virtual technology involved, you already have a reality cut up.
Now imagine the same scenario, but instead of reading your mystery novel, you are on the computer playing WoW with people from all over the world. So now we have blurry sheep, relationship drama, and Azeroth all merging into a mixed reality populated by both virtual and physical players. Obviously, the reality is that many other things are blossoming in your brain as you are experiencing both realities – your neighbor’s relationship drama may make you think of your ex, which makes you think of your current SL partner (heads up to Yordie), which makes you think of what you did in SL last night, which makes you remember something that happened to you when you were a teenager. The point of all of this is (and yes, I am totally contradicting myself), our perception of reality and time is rarely linear. In other words, the definition of time as “…the continuing progression of events occurring in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future” can be “cut up” by imagination where events appear to occur in apparently reversible disarray.