Wednesday, January 13, 2010

we got the bully pulpit, and the poisoned pen, we got a press no better than the public men

[Note from the Editrix: the article about Dr. Ramachandran on Wikipedia is now corrected in the link; and just in case, I'm also tossing it up here, too. Fascinating video by him, but he, himself, in pretty darn intriguing.]

I don't need any encouragement to loathe Facebook, but hearing that they were now killing Second Lifers' FB accounts is not sitting well with more than just me--especially after their little advisory sent out to just lie where personal details were concerned. (Even though they backpedaled like crazy after making that statement.)

Essentially, they've created their own Catch-22: encouraging users on the one hand to falsify personal information, while the other hand is busy culling accounts that are set up in good faith under Second Life names--which register as false.

Speaking of things I utterly loathe, SyFy (and believe me, I not only loathe the name change, but the cowardice they displayed in renaming because they wanted to get away from the "image" of geek basement dwellers) is putting together a new show on MMORPGs...that will be reporting on a playable MMORPG. the show, play the game, then watch the show, then play the self-involving.

I suppose I should just be grateful it's based in technology and science fiction, instead of wrestling. Small favors, indeed.

Meanwhile, the TYWKIWDBI blog (there's a mouthful) spins out an article on empathic neurons and culture. If what he's saying is true--and I have no reason to believe it isn't--this really is the link between science and the humanities. Because it's not just motor control and patterning, this has far wider implications. Art, dance, painting, singing, and let's bring up virtual worlds, as well.

Think of it: I am watching my avatar move through Second Life, Runes of Magic, pick your virtual world of choice. I reach out and touch someone's arm. If I concentrate, I can feel that touch.

Take it further. If I get on a horse and ride, in an MMO, after awhile I will "feel" tired. All this me has done has been to press the arrow key up and watch that me ride around the terrain. But I feel tired, I feel as if I have ridden all that way.

Take it further still: Say I've lost the use of my legs. (Not there yet; some days, well...but for the most part, I can still walk about.) I go out dancing in SL. I spin, I turn, I smile up at the face of my partner, and it's not just on an emotional level I feel these things. I feel these things, physically.

That's no longer just my imagination, Dr. Ramachandran says that this is how motor control neurons, and empathy neurons work. That we not only pattern when we reach for something, but when we see others reaching for something. And if I watch myself reaching for something online, my neurons fire as if this me, beyond the grid, has actually done that.

What wider ramifications could this lead to? The aphorism, faking something long enough, and it becomes real, also applies in these waters. Confidence. Attraction. Enjoyment. It's not just about the physical world, the physical limitations.

And video games--if I have enough of a steady hand and eye behind the sniper rifle, does that mean my own shooting accuracy (well, if I target-shot as a hobby) would go up? Does sense memory relate back to motor control neurons, empathy neurons? When someone kisses me online, I feel it too--my body remembers being kissed, I see it on the screen--and the neurons fire as if I had actually been kissed.

Phantom limbs, synesthesia, the entirety of 'practicing' things in your head--this line of research? Makes it all valid.

This is very, very interesting. I'm going to be fascinated to see what happens in the field over the next few years.


Alexandra Rucker said...

your "no reason to believe it isn't" link is going to a login page. I'm sure you meant to have people do something other than log in to blogger. :)

Emilly Orr said...

Darn it, I saved an earlier version of the article. Fixed now, and scanning for other errors while I'm here.

Magdalena Kamenev said...

Cynic that I am, I always found the following explanation more convincing than anything mentioned in the network's official press statements:

The fact of the matter is that you cannot trademark the word "sci fi". It's too common of a word in the English language and can't be subject to trademark protection. You can't trademark a lot of common words, actually. Apparently the phrase "Super Glue" was considered too generic to be trademarked, for example.


However, I really do believe that the name change was primarily a business and money-conscious decision to protect their intellectual property. You know why? Because the network still wants you to pronounce "SyFy" as "Sci Fi". So if they really wanted to distinguish themselves they would have come up with an entirely different name, wouldn't they?

Emilly Orr said...

Oh, absolutely. And if a 'truth' exists in that situation, ultimately, that's it--they wanted something they could patent, something they could preserve.

Still doesn't make them any less jerklife for 1) showing wrestling and 2) claiming it was due to geeks in their basements and the 'unsavory' image they were trying to ditch.