Seeds of Doom

From: kerry
Subject: Re: VR to RL: The seeds of their own doom?
Date sent: Tue, 16 Feb 1999 03:25:46


>   Do online relationships require a 
> certain irreducible amount of fantasy, so that they unravel once nothing
> is left to the imagination? 
Enok posted here not long ago the 'life cycle of mailing lists' which may still be relevant when the conversation is between 2: 1. Initial enthusiasm (recognizing one another as kindred souls).
2. [Affirmation]('moans' about how few others share ones p.o.v).
3. Growth [Intimacy] (conversation gets more off-topic).
4. Communion (lots of information and advice; both are comfortable asking questions, suggesting answers, and sharing opinions).
5. Discomfort and confusion (the novelty of sharing wears off; not every topic is fascinating or every opinion in synch; both get annoyed but dont know how to adjust).
a. ['Programmatic'] ('humor' or minor issues, little discussion, no surprises -- or argument and desperation).
b. Maturity (both adjust to the other's styles, accept that they live real lives, explore possibilities).


> Does online interaction come to seem 
> inherently deficient next to rl interaction, so that people prefer 
> to interact with people in their offline lives thereafter?  Or does the 
> transient enhancement of the online relationship by rl interaction lead 
> to a tension thereafter, that can only be resolved by stepping back from
> the relationship?
Is there anything 'inherent' in a digital relation, or in transience in general, beyond what one 'inheres' from (other) experience? For the sake of argument, suppose our humanness operates not only on the material (actual) and ideational (verbal) planes, but also in a intuitional or synthetic way: we do things, we say things and we feel things, and those 'things' are 3 different critters. Most of us by the time we're on line are pretty good at doing and saying and at observing our own doing and saying: that is, we can change what we do and say according to circumstances. Most of us of course also feel pretty well ;-) but I want to raise the question of how well we observe our feelings, and thus how readily we can change them. Specifically, don't we tend to let feelings fall where they may ('hope for the best'). Don't we often ignore feeling altogether as a 'plane' of existence, merely tolerating its tagging along as we go about our doing and saying?

My idea is, the difference between 6.a and b turns on this. The first step of 'recognition' is intuitive; well, we say, any relation has to start somewhere. 2,3,&4 are essentially active in analog 'real' life, and verbal in digital 'virtual' life, and go along plausibly enough. 5, 'discomfort' -- essentially the converse of 'recognition' -- is back in intuitive space, where we dont know what to do (or say): do we go forward or back, do we risk what we have for the unknown? Or do we fake it?

Thus 6 a: One 'goes through the motions', perhaps 'pushing' for greater sensory bandwidth (as if doing more things and saying more things will smother ones qualms and everything will 'turn out okay'), perhaps subsiding, withdrawing, giving up, settling into routine meaninglessness, 'whatever works'; in short, 'disillusionment.'

Otoh, 6 b. builds on the exchange, accepts that discomfort is a real experience on the intuitional plane, and takes it up as another #1 encounter, in which both parties are not only participating but know they are participating. Words and deeds -- whether digital or analog -- become subordinate ('tools') to that end; the relation works.


(1) The Cyberculture list began in Dec 1998 after many an agonizing debate on CM about the interference/ complementarity between 'community' and 'philosophy and psychology'; that is between participating in (a) cybermind and talking about it.
    [Feed] credits Katherine Nagel for the 'life cycle' piece:
[In December 1994,] she posted a curt, sociological summary called 'The Natural Life Cyles of Mailing Lists.' According to her theory, all lists went through initial stages of 'enthusiasm' and 'evangelism' that rapidly spiraled down into 'discomfort with diversity,' and then to 'stagnation,' 'smug complacency' or (if you're lucky) 'maturity.'

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