Culture is our Killer App

I must again nod to Dusan for his relentless blogs that seem to custom-gleen things about SL, virtual worlds, and the metaverse that interest me.  And even though I blew past his first reference of a book by Tom Boellstorff’s ‘Coming of Age in Second Life’, the when I saw the second one I followed links that lead me to the first chapter online.

Tom is doing what I sometimes I think I do as an amatuer – to be immersed and living in SL and to be making anthropological observations about what it means to be human and viritually human. I am stealing time from RL as I write (which is to say I didn’t have time to read and contemplate all of that chapter), but as I took a look at the sample chapter, a paragraph gave me a whammy:

“The idea of “virtually human” appearing in this book’s subtitle can be interpreted in two ways, indexing two lines of analysis I develop throughout. First, although some insightful research has claimed that online culture heralds the arrival of the “posthuman,” I show that Second Life culture is profoundly human. It is not only that virtual worlds borrow assumptions from real life; virtual worlds show us how, under our very noses, our “real” lives have been “virtual” all along. It is in being virtual that we are human: since it is human “nature” to experience life through the prism of culture, human being has always been virtual being. Culture is our “killer app”: we are virtually human.”

I can get behind this way of putting the phenomenon of SL in perspective. My challenge to all of us as we pioneer this new landscape of being is that we take the opportunity to evolve our human-ness and perfect our culture.

Wow. The mind is an interesting thing. When I pondered my writing “human-ness” I remembered one of my favorite poems, I realized it could be a Pais-mantra:

pity this busy monster, manunkind,

not. Progress is a comfortable disease:

your victim (death and life safely beyond)

plays with the bigness of his littleness

— electrons deify one razorblade

into a mountainrange; lenses extend

unwish through curving wherewhen till unwish

returns on its unself.

A world of made

is not a world of born — pity poor flesh

and trees, poor stars and stones, but never this

fine specimen of hypermagical

ultraomnipotence. We doctors know

a hopeless case if — listen: there’s a hell

of a good universe next door; let’s go

– e.e. cummings



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2 responses to “Culture is our Killer App

  1. Get the book! My jaw dropped. :) Astonishing, really. And glad my relentless blogging brought it to your attention – I keep repeating myself in case my cause du moins got lost in my endless rambles.

    Check out the discussions over on Savage Minds, there was some really good stuff over there as well about Tom’s book.

  2. /me scratches his head and reads it again.

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