“Playing Between Worlds”

Hampton’s article presented a very nice study about how the use of wireless internet in public spaces affects the potential for offline social interaction or relationship building. This article shows multiple images of people sort-of, “in their own world”, doing their own thing, on their mobile devices. In most cases, and speaking from experience, when people opt to bring their mobile devices into a public space, they typically desire to be left alone so they can tend to whatever work or business they’re conducting online. A great quote regarding this idea that stuck out to me came from the caption under the picture on page three. It stated that, “Cell phone and wireless Internet users are less attentive to their surroundings, even in response to unexpected stimuli (like loud noises), than are users of media like books and music” (Hampton 3). In other words, mobile users are capable of blocking out any distractions around them and focusing on their screen and their screen only.

Now if someone really has something to complete or accomplish online, their ability to block out surrounding distractions is a good thing, right? What made me laugh after reading that Hampton caption was the fact that, us as mobile users really aren’t as good at blocking out distractions as we think we are. Take this picture of the average college student’s work area during a long night of studying for example:

Image

We may be able to become less attentive to our offline surroundings, but in this day and age, our online surroundings often get the best of us. For me, Twitter, and the social interactions that occur via the forum, are too often that culprit.

But going back to this online vs offline thing, overall, it seems as if the underlining argument is that internet and online media use makes it difficult to build community and connect with others. As we have discussed in class and seen first-hand already by playing around with Second Life, connecting with others virtually really isn’t that difficult at all. Taylor’s article gives an excellent explanation for this towards the end of the writing. The key to managing online verses offline reaction is to “play between worlds” as the article puts it. The article states that “Playing EQ is about playing between worlds-playing, back and forth, across the boundaries of the game and the game world, and the ‘real” or non-literal game space. It is about the moves we make between the corporeal and the “virtual”” (Taylor 10). With this in mind, I think it’s safe to say that offline space and perceptions may affect the way we relate to one another online, however to what affect it may have is totally up to the individual and how they are able to “play between worlds” and balance that “back and forth”.

Now as we’re coming to a close, it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t play a little “devil’s advocate” or examine the view point of the “other side”; the “rebels”. According to Laura Portwood-Stacer’s writing, there actually are a few people who, for one reason or another, opt to remain offline instead of  joining the trending online use. The article quote another article from CNN.com. It is as follows: “The holdouts are everywhere – and many are not the technophobes you might think. […] Many are making a social statement by not joining” (Portwood 13).

Portwood calls this type of resistance to participation “media refusal”. The article cites many different examples of media refusal, whether it be smart phones, television, or social sites like Facebook. Apparently, there are people whose abstention from Facebook is actually a deliberate, “performative act”, as the article puts it. In other words, there are people who actually refuse media to try to make a point….which is pointless in my opinion. The list of reasons why people may choose to do this is endless. One reason the article gives is family related; for example-setting purposes. It will be interesting to discuss in class what some of the other reasons for media refusal could be.

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