25 February 2021

Phygital: when the boundaries between real life and online life fall away

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In the beginning was Second Life!

Second Life is a virtual digital world online which saw the light of day in 2003. Anyone can enter the game by assuming a avatar (a semblance/character), to move, relate, act using that 'character'.avatarand create the content of the entire virtual world through interactions. One can get lost in this virtual reality of 'total immersion' and 'parallel reality'.

It is difficult to say whether 'Second Life' generated the phenomenon, predicted it, foretold it or inspired it. The fact is that today there is more and more continuity between life online and life-off-lineso much so that the 'word of the year' is Phygital.

Phygital is the cross between Physical e Digital and refers to the continuous interchange and undifferentiation between moments online e off-linean integrated ecosystem in which the human experience consists of a continuous line between real reality e virtual reality seamless. The Phygital is immediate, immersive, interactive, borderless, to the point that we now talk about on-lifei.e. of life lived in the virtual world.

Life in the virtual world, in addition to being constructed and unfolding onlinecan also 'see' the real world through different lenses. This is the case with the so-called 'augmented reality'that is, a reality that is not visible to the naked eye, but which can be enhanced by using tools that allow you to choose details to emphasise, aspects that you want to see and appreciate in a decontextualised way: what to insert to complete and make your sensations more pleasant (user experience), what to eliminate because it is considered disturbing for the blissful and solipsistic enjoyment of this 'world', be it images, sounds, 'noises', ideas, people. One therefore gets into the habit and the mental habit of create the reality you like. Playing, mixing, manipulating, transforming.

Talking of 'transforming', and remaining in the virtual world, perhaps also the Transformers has played its part in this mechanism of shaping virtual reality 'in its own image' and attempting to project this image into the real world. Who knows!  

Nothing new for those who have a page, an account, a social profile. which are both a meeting channel and a stage for theon-life. Nothing new either for those who study the phenomenon of interactions on social networks and place the emphasis on the formation of 'bubbles' or echo chambersIn other words, groups of people who share interests, arguments and worldviews in a self-confirming, polarised and selective way. Increasingly homogeneous and homologating. Because this virtual homeostasis is also helped by the algorithm, which is at the basis of how social networks work, and which 'profiles' accounts, bringing together people with similar interests.

Purpose of the algorithm è to create an environment where people meet and feel at ease, in an environment that deals with and conveys issues that appeal to their interests and contribute to their loyaltyThe better he knows the subjects, the better he is able to propose an ecosystem in which the person is comfortable, feels at home, surrounded by other people who share the same points of interest, join together like-minded people, feed and conform to each other in alliances 'for' or 'against'.

Nothing new for the psychology. They are in fact reminiscent of Sheriff's (Realistic Conflict Theory) and Tajfel's (Social Identity Theory) experiments on group functioning. In simple terms, Sheriff's theory stems from an experiment conducted at an American youth camp where two groups were created. It was seen that conflict increased as the groups acquired autonomy and identity and decreased as they shared a common goal that could only be achieved as a unit. Tajfel's theory is also based on conflict, self-exaltation and the 'dehumanisation' of the opposing group.

Virtually - excuse the triple play on the meaning of the term 'virtually' (as in 'virtue'). vs immorality', 'internet world' and 'that exists in power') - is a description of the interactions that take place on social networks, where 'bubbles', unaware of the narrowness of their visual, social, numerical, presence and real influence horizons - confused and misled by the vocality of their groups and activism on social networks - construct their own existence on-life and they lash out at anyone who brings different experiences and interests, who is an obstacle to their omnivorous design.     

The other side of the coin of the social algorithm and of the aggregation in 'bubbles', in fact, is the re-discovery of the existence of other groups, people, ideas, interests, both in the social world and in the real one, bearers of different interests, often contrary to this construction. It is an experience that upsets the balances achieved by eliminating the other person.

One enters social networks from a tangible reality, with one's own identity or with the 'real world'.avatar (and here there would be an analysis of "who is the 'who'").avatar or what it represents': the hidden self, the real self, what I would like to be, how I see myself, what others see in me, what I would like others to see in me?), one finds one's niche or builds it, one lives the parallel life on-life and then, on the social networks themselves or in real life, one encounters those who have a construct different from one's own, which threatens that 'perfect world' of which one is the sole, absolute protagonist and among like-minded people. One feels threatened by this presence that 'dismantles the construct' and the 'constructed identity'. And so the enemy must be opposed, attacked, defeated, threatened, annihilated.

Hard to say whether the cancel culture was born, grew, proliferated before or during the emergence of socialon-life. The fact is that the blacklistThe possibility of 'banning', blocking or deleting people on social networks is a shortcut to silencing and avoiding confrontation with what is considered an 'obstacle' to one's own designs. It simply eliminates those who do not think in the same way and do not allow the realisation of the desired. This is the pseudo-power of those who have no real power. Or, on the contrary, does it translate into targeting people and/or groups in order to make the shitstormIn other words, joint verbal and denigrating attacks to encircle, belittle and isolate the other person. To the extent that one speaks of mob rulei.e. mass pressure for the purpose of intimidation.

Here too, psychologists and sociologists have asked about the "effects" of the "culture of erasure". The effects depend on the centrality or otherwise of theon-lifemany if theon-life is their primary existence (with depressive crises, sense of social exclusion, isolation, alienation), few when life is lived less on social networks and more in reality. The other side of the coin is the impact that real life has on those who leave the 'social network'.on-lifewhere he was immersed in the 'bubble' of affinity and fuelled by social consensus, and meets and measures himself against real reality.

The strength of social channels is their pervasiveness, the speed of dissemination, the possibility of building personas/avatarthe comfort of the pack, group ostracism towards other groups and individuals. The weakness of theon-life is the loss of contact with reality, the inconsistency of and in real life.

In this humus There is a proliferation of groups and clusters that are disconnected from reality, or that decide to disconnect from reality and re-birth virtually, co-creating a parallel reality with respect to the real reality that does not recognise them.

Groups such as Telegramin which a 22-year-old man shared with 500 other individuals hatred of women or hatred of The Woman insulting the female sex, showing inability to relate to them properly, complaining about phantom advantages enjoyed by women and loss of privileges suffered by him and other men, planning a massacre in a school (with the intention of killing as many girls as possible) and an attack during a feminist demonstration.

The attempt is the passage from cancel culture physical deletionaka murder.

From theon-life at life-off of someone else

Tiziana Luise


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