When we’re so messed up with virtual

We forget what’s real — a reality history check.

Here have a pen and paper. Better still nothing. Now what do you see? Next, how are you going to make sure little Johnny, Getrude and cousin Kwame see that too?

Oh, remember Grandma. Her hearing ain’t that good. Ok, go on then, go!

Wow, what are we like? Yeah I’m down with all that VR stuff, but scale back a minute. Are we so absorbed, or divorced from reality that we need to make virtual our first call?

Talk about false dependencies. That’s like having a crack addict so wracked in cocaine world, that the only way to feel life is in those rainbow states. Everyone sober is unnatural.

If you’re going to sell VR cuz it makes a point, be nice if you went beyond what reality could bring and isn’t, otherwise, shiny object syndrome is doing nothing to solve famine, or kill wars — though Yuval Noah Harari in Homo Deus says things have got better over the last 300 years.

Now that’s not say I’m not into the tech. But the fetishism thing, I can only take so much. If I can’t feel the emotion of the real thing through the craft skill of a great cinema maker, then how soon do I divorce myself from virtual reality on the basis, it’s virtual so it’s not worthy of being part of my long term memory.

What next unknown reality? Rumsfeld’s (Johari Window) unknown unknowns!

Hey you guys, pen and paper I said.

But you’re typing on this screen [pauses thinks].

Yeah, well I’ve done me some time in this paper realm. Eight years in Ghana where the closest you came to a computer then was people riding a bus...

That’s commuter.

…that’s riding a bus taking fares. Have you see how fast Trotro mates ( bus collectors to you and me) can calculate a fare. Human computers. Really!

There’s a reality we side step, because either it’s too painfully, mundanely the same. Bored of that already, or let’s say we just didn’t know.

Take newspapers. Everyday we rile against newspapers and media as if in a free market they represent the people. In the UK the most popular newspapers were produced as organs of the government. Proprietors were given incentives to put their money into what was once deemed a grubby, unworthy business, that no person of so called repute would be in the business of wanting to produce.

Governments were against the idea of people outside the Westminster bubble knowing the house’s business and the idea of a newspaper in which working class people could nail their own thesis on the doors of power was unsettling shed loads.

Two hundred years ago, the radical press supported by trade unions and working class people ran rings around the elites who governed. One newspaper The Northern Star would have have queues of people awaiting its publication. The press elevated the respectability of working class, tackling corruption and attacking the profits of capitalists.

The British parliament first responded with seditious and libel laws. It might have cut circulation, but reforms to the judicial system meant juries would not deliver the verdicts sought by the powerful. Grrrrr!

The government tried taxes — a stamp duty — doubling the cost of printing to price out them lot. If the price was too high to publish, it would be equally too expensive passing on the costs to working class people.

Fewer newspaper copies were published, but the government didn’t bank on people power ingenuity. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Working class people in the 19th century crowd sourced, proving also the Internet wasn’t behind this phenomenon. They would pool together what little money they had, gather in pubs and bars and circulate the paper amongst them. Some English pubs have kept that tradition — that rack of newspapers for punters to read and not to take home.

That didn’t go down well with the whigs— foiled again. The next move though was a blinder. Whilst the government was thinking of hiking taxes even more. They abolished it in favour of creating a free market.

Now that to some was suicide because those wretched hoi polloi would now flood the market with anti-government rags. A free press was the answer then. Not free as in libertarian values, but to frame social and political order.

The government coaxed its friends into the idea of this free press, which had rich land barons who wouldn’t dream of entering the grubby or otherwise tedious newspaper market. And after all where was the profit? However, they were guided into giving the business a go.

There would be something in it for them that reflected their services to society, invites into government circles to gather information for citizen knowledge whilst at the same time making business contacts; perhaps a knighthood or sir-in-waiting.

The rapid press expansion that followed produced: the Daily Mail (1896), Daily Express (1900), People(1881) and Daily Mirror (1903). The tone of the papers appeared to have the interests of the working class to heart. Dissenting voices in the radical press were either absorbed by other publications or collapsed. To make a profit, mass circulation was the answer.

These organs of journalism were news by name, but arms of the government’s wishes of the day — an extended ideological press release, which zoned in on working class patriotism to royalty and cheaply reworked over-the-garden hedge gossip.

What’s more they were privately owned and would either attack those who disagreed with them, or their own kind from long standing feuds. George Osbourne, the former Chancellor, was speaking on the BBC last Saturday. As editor of the Evening Standard (you couldn’t make it up) he’s been critical of the PM Theresa May — who er, sacked him. A dish served cold.

Virtual reality, if we’re not careful could take us down a similar path of socialised norms. Here, go and talk to someone with a pen and paper.

Top Writer & Creative Technologist, Int. Award Winner. Cinemajournalist. Cardiff Uni @jomec. PhD (Dublin). Visiting Prof UBC, Ex BBC/C4News. Apple profiled.

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