12.18.2006

Hyper-Reality

Probably like every other academic in the world, I have a novel that I've been working on for years. I turned it into a screenplay last year, but found that format restrictive. In particular, it's hard for me to develop characters without the prose techniques of delving into thoughts and motivations. Realizing that the novel is never going to be written at the rate I was going, I resolved to simply write a page a day. I figure that's 365 pages a year--a whole lot better than I was doing. So far I've kept to this schedule with only a couple of lapses.

The point of all this is that I made an important realization in the last couple of nights as I banged away on the keyboard. To understand, I have to describe the setting briefly. Imagine a world in the near future where cell phones and personal computers have merged into a single mobile device that people wear around with them. Specifically, they wear high-tech masks with cameras on the outside and precision low-power lasers on the inside that project images directly onto the retina. This allows for a 'virtualization' of the real world. If you don't like the way someone looks, just replace their natural features with others, using software filters. If you want to have a lunch meeting with a friend, project her into your perceived world. Imagine a world like Second Life that actually coincides with the physical world. So you can walk down the street in your neighborhood and see real people (wearing masks) and virtual people, who physically exist somewhere else, but have chosen to virtually be at that place. There would still be virtual-only places like World of Warcraft, but reality as perceived socially by humans would take on a whole new dimension. Hence hyper-reality, if I may coin a word.

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