VR PR I am: #VRt
Upload VR did not disappoint. In some ways it felt like what I picture the first dot.com to have been like: one part young-and-talented, one part tech-junkie, and one part rebel-yell. The artistic aspect of The Collective was the most notable, and part of that was certainly to be expected given the name of the event was ‘Art & VR’, but the more permanent components of the space were easy to decipher and just as intriguing as the art exhibits themselves. The work of the artists invited in for the evening was very good, but in the physicality of this co-working space itself, dedicated to the creation of the digital art that is VR, there was a lot to absorb. THAT growing blurred line is the one I feel deserves more focus and time. ‘Why’ is it warranted you ask? Because as we augment our reality and create new ones altogether, the bearing of such creation matters.
If everything is relative, than SF has no peer. That both impresses and concerns me. I recently [finally] watched the HBO documentary ‘SF 2.0‘, and while there are a lot of impressive people from all walks in the film, the quote that stood out to me the most was Robert Reich’s: ‘San Francisco is growing both out of touch AND out of reach’. If the Truth in this statement is not self-evident, then you’re not paying attention. And if that sounds sensational, forego an Uber and take the bus the next time you’re traveling from SoMa to the Mission. SF is the bluest of blue, a Democratic bastion of education and wealth, an epicenter of social justice, a stronghold where we lead the rest of the World. We also have the largest income disparity in the United States. Take as long as you need to contemplate that.
If everything is relative, than SF has no peer. That both impresses and concerns me.
What does this have to do with Virtual Reality and the new realms we’ve yet to embark upon and into? A lot. Now is the time to set those stages. Our World (you know, the one you were actually born into) needs us to make sure reality forks reflect the realizations we hold dear. I’m talking about tolerance, equality, and justice; not deceit, hatred and vitriol. And this may seem bandwagon to some given the political climate, but I think it is EXACTLY what we need to think about right now. Making our new medium of entertainment and existence reflect the traits we want and need to see in THIS world, right here, right now.
The event/space definitely had a Hackers-the-movie element to be considered, complete with a would-be Angelina Jolie’s character waiting her turn at the HTC VR station. The age diversity and gender balance was notable actually, and for me it raised the question of ‘what if some of the white-male bias will be inherently corrected in the VR/AR chapter of this next book of Tech?’ Meaning, in our efforts to digitally enhance our ’normal’ world and also create entirely new ones, will it be intrinsically necessary to include all of us to design a successful experience? I certainly hope so.
I read [or assimilated] somewhere something along the lines of ‘our aesthetic efforts reveal our ethical aptitude’. I’m not suggesting that artists have the moral high-ground cornered, by ‘efforts’ the energy exerted to appreciate beauty factors alongside that used to create it as well. But the notion is interesting. Do we not all seek beauty in some form? Therefore, does it not follow that we all have the capacity to do what is right, what is ethical? THAT is where I want to go, headset or not. We need to talk about it. We need to AGREE on the things we ALL hold dear, not just individually, if only to remind ourselves they exist. Somehow no one wants to think about and elaborate on what we have in common, our interactions at present are all too often ending in fear, anger, hatred, and separation. That makes me sad. It reminds me though, in sadness and remorse there also can be beauty. How will VR tackle that? Because at the end of the day it’s not all 3D Candy Crush and ‘Call of Duty’-like immersions. If Virtual REALITY is going to accurately live up to its name, it need tap into most emotions. Otherwise, it’s just Virtual Escape. And don’t hear me wrong on this, that has its place, but it’s not nearly as interesting. A mesmerizing immersion that makes a user forget about ‘reality’ is one thing, but a digital environment that teaches and complements the physical realm in some key capacity is something else entirely (and much more significant in my mind).
If Virtual REALITY is going to accurately live up to its name, it need tap into most emotions.
I found myself watching both ‘Arrival’ and ‘Dr. Strange’ recently, and thought them both pleasantly surprising and surprisingly applicable right about now. Arrival enlisted a lot to tell its tale: zero-sum, nonlinear, linguistics, meaning, commonality … language beyond reason. The theory being: the language we speak affects what we can perceive and how we think. What language will the Metaverse speak? And Sumerian Snowcrash references aside, the language of VR has the opportunity to advance behavioral, and THAT would be a breakthrough for humankind. In turn, Dr. Strange brought home the untapped advantage of all we don’t know, which let’s not forget is SO much. Different dimensions aside, we still have a great ways to go in understanding the multiple planes of this one! Not East vs. West as it is often characterized, but mystical AND scientific, real AND virtual, physical AND digital … bridging some of these up-until-now seemingly contradictory phenomena is where I hope many of our minds’ efforts coalesce. Many anomalies, discrepancies, misunderstandings, and even conflicts can be [re]solved if only we find the [cap]ability to see another side to whatever IT happens to be.
In the wake of the Oakland fire and tragedy a few nights ago, I cannot pretend this commentary on an artist Collective does not make me think of that one. Some might suggest the difference between the two to be ‘night and day’, but like many things, scratch below the surface layer and the similarities cry out loud. My heart and mind goes out to all those processing their loss. It is easy to be seduced by creativity’s excitement, but we can’t allow it to blind us to the legitimate dangers even a perceived ‘less enlightened’ world warns about.