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Reality as a sense check

With this post, I want to consider the idea of reality serving as a sense check for what we might experience in a more abstract or virtual way online or in other activities.

In making that distinction about what’s virtual both online and in other ways, I’m thinking of questions raised in my posts on “Response Ability” by Frank Fisher and also in Tech as an evolving second life: ways that technology or machine-thinking spills over into other more human or environmental aspects of life. It may seem at times that tech is all there is, given that it’s made its way into so many areas of our lives, but here I want to think again about what is real, what’s actually happening behind all this in the real world, and what we’re creating there.

For example, within the realms of communication, relationships and interpersonal interest; our actions there have a counterpart in real world. Increasingly that is becoming quite detached from reality – we may click Like or send a sequence of messages, which are then received by the other out of context within their quite separate reality. So much of communication – tone, body language, intention – seems lost in the ether, as we must in a way ‘hear’ these messages through the lens of our own perception and voice. It seems to me that much of the reality of the other can be lost, if we are not careful.

And looking at the business world: what’s behind purchases and purchasing systems in terms of human and environmental costs and also market influences? Everything we repeatedly or occasionally buy sits within these realities of its impacts on nature in terms of resources and waste; then within the human or business realities of those people involved in its production and how that company operates relative to others in the commercial world. To my mind, all of that creates real world impacts and perpetuates systems and standards we may or may not be so aware of.

So, going back to the Frank Fisher post, his concern seemed to be that tech distances us from real world consequences, depriving us of important feedback or information about ourselves and our relationships to the world around us. Could that be a valid concern? In doing so much through a user-friendly interface are we living in our own little bubbles, happily distanced from what goes on behind the screens?

Surely every action we take, every word we cast out there has an impact both on others and in how we are choosing to be and to relate ourselves to the world that surrounds us. Are we more careless than we once might have been because these impacts are virtual, invisible to us, out of sight? Maybe taking the time to imagine those impacts might actually have a huge impact on the world.

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