Hugs: Real, Virtual and Otherwise

I want to respond to something T-Bone Prone wrote and, of course, I deleted the message so I can't quote from it. Such is life.

In any event, the gist of his postings is that interaction in these spaces somehow has less value than PL and that because none of us can kill each other our actions here have no consequences. This is an ongoing debate raging in assorted ways on LambdaMOO and is probably the closest equivalent to political parties that I can think of in that space. In my head it's the difference between people who say the MOO is just a game and people who view it as a part of their reality.

I loathe the idea that because we cannot impact each other in tangible physical ways action here is somehow not real. Firstly, I note that there are lots of ways to be cut and not all of them require a knife. It is naive to believe that old children's rhyme: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. Bullshit. Words are very powerful and their impact can have lifelong consequences. If you don't believe that's true, talk to anyone who's been in a verbally/emotionally abusive relationship how they feel the words used against them have impacted their lives. Take a look at the difference between the ways a child who is told "you're wonderful" and a child who is told "you're stupid" function in their environment.

Having said that, I suppose the main reason I loathe the "chill out, this is just a game" faction is that it's been my observation that this argument is generally used as an excuse for cruelty and irresponsible behavior. It's not real, right? So I can netfuck my friends' lovers. I can indulge in extramarital sex cuz it's not like it's infidelity and nobody's gonna get hurt since the emotions aren't real. I can attack people in vicious verbal ways because it's just a game and if you don't like what I say you can just @gag me (and if you aren't willing to @gag me, well, you're just not taking responsibility for your MOO experience). The list of petty and larger cruelties could be tabulated for days and still be incomplete and it's the one thing about MOOing that makes me physically ill.

Physical or not, it's all interaction w/human beings who breathe and sweat and cry and smile and have good days and bad days and who deserve not to be treated like interchangeable tokens in a game.

Which brings me back to hugs. Physical hugs make me feel warm and enfolded and safe and secure. So do virtual hugs. It's all a continuum of ways to care. Unfortunately, it can also be a continuum of ways not to care.

Caitlin (holding each of you warm and close as you read this rather rambling missive)


Posted to Cybermind 16 Aug 1995 09:13:38
    Here is the central character of a culture which has abstracted itself so far out as to be in again. Language which once was clearly not a thing now is a thing in deed, and we -- for Caitlin and T-Bone are far from alone in the dispute -- struggle to find a place to stand, to (@)treat/attract a thing with the thing itself. (The converse -- to energize talking about talking-about -- is the theme of the E-Lekh in its entirety.)
     "Culture" is not merely a documentary collection of "folkways"; it involves the preservation and continuance of those ways by the wayfarers themselves. That this propagation necessarily integrates two hemispheres, the thinger and the talking, is not either intuitively or rationally obvious. Cyberspacial "interaction," in providing a "place to stand" from which to see this fact, also points to the essentiality of the dialectic mode. One does not know light until one knows darkness; but knowing both leads to their synthesis in a "day." We have never had things without names before now; only as computers antithetically "embodied" thinginess without language and "generated" speech without referents did the synthesis (culture/ language) become apparent. As we recognize and acknowledge the synthetic cybermind, I expect within another generation -- say five years -- we will speak of, and be, "mind," as comfortably, and ambigously, as "day" also refers to daylight. (The same argument should apply to cyberculture; is it the deeply embedded connotation that it is always something "out there" that makes this seem unlikely?)
    "It all depends on the context, doesnt it?" someone says. Describing the etiology of context is a first step towards that synthesis. 9328sem

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