We digital immigrants consider our (media-saturated post-modern) physicality as the ‘real’ world. For today’s young digital natives, their transmedial realities — the elseware of MySpace, Second Life and the rest — are equally valid. Unlike many, we don’t think they’re escaping from, or denying ‘real’ reality: they’ve just internalised the precept that all reality is socially constructed, and vanished off into someware more fun, of their own making. And why not?
Their generation is busily — knowingly — creating their own be-ing. The rest of us, in denial, still privilege a ‘genuine’ reality, while all the time, we are also moving (not retreating or escaping, but simply moving — inexorably), into digitally-mediated realities (The-World-According-To-Google is as much a virtuality as Second Life) where the temptation of easy self-selecting tribalism leads to ever-reducing direct contact with others’ world views — and thus a weakened shared ontology of the World.
At least the kids acknowledge their departure. The rest of us media-immersed first-worlders could do to be more honest about the future we’re making. Forget a ‘Clash of Cultures’ — cultural evolution far outpaces the biological kind, and is equally senseless and free-floating: we’re not heading onward-and-upwards towards some glorious technotopian dawn, we’re setting course towards a fundamental schism with the reality experienced by the rest of our species.
Without a common ontology — an origin story of the metaverse of divergent cultural shards — we no longer have a shared basis for debate, resistance or synthesis; let alone understanding, or reconciliation. This contemporary chaos of dysculturation jettisons dialectic: the paths of our private realities may start separate and parallel, but we fear those tracks will soon diverge, leading off into ever more isolating futures.
We no longer talk, but damned if we aren’t in love with tools for Social Network Analysis, ‘reality’ content, all such proxies for actual engagement: touching from a distance, further all the time.