Monday, January 23, 2017

Spurn the alternate reality political game

An alternate reality game (ARG) is an interactive networked narrative that uses the real world as a platform and employs transmedia storytelling to deliver a story that may be altered by players' ideas or actions. - Wikipedia

Language has always been confusing. With the advent of alternate reality games in the last decade of the 20th Century, there has always been a chance that the terms "alternate reality" and "alternative" could be appropriated in a confusing way by those with a political agenda.

Beginning this week we were confronted with:

The problem is that "alternative" in most discussions means "available as another possibility or choice." In olden times we believed that an alternative was viable only if it was a "real" alternative where "real" meant "actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed."

But "Holy Hoodwink, Batman!" Somehow there has been a confluence of technology that turned basic definitions on their ear.

When in 1980 we looked at dictionary definitions for the term "information" we read something like
  1. "facts provided or learned about something or someone" or
  2.  "knowledge gained through study, communication, research, instruction, etc.; factual data." 
The key term was "fact." A piece of "data" was, or digitally represented, some piece of fact, hence "information" which became the focus of the "Information Technology" department.

In the 21st Century something happened to the word "information". As explained by Wikipedia: "Information is any type of pattern that influences the formation or transformation of other patterns."

Yes indeed, today there is no difference between fact or fiction so long as the information used influences the formation or transformation of other patterns. Conflicting fact and fiction can be lumped together as "information" offering the same sense of authority.

As one newspaper columnist noted: "Welcome to Donald Trump's America, where facts don't matter. Where it makes no difference whether or not what you say is true, as long as you say it loud enough."

What the columnist is referring to is the iWorld in which information itself is simulated - digitally formatted to feel and look like realistic facts.

For instance, the climate change denial alternative is being reinforced in the iWorld by a sufficient number of people who have repeated simulated research data until it has become a mass delusion.

The iWorld is a world in which people confuse computerized escapism with reality whether
  • they lose themselves in fantasies viewed on a screen or through electronic 3-D goggles or glasses,  fantasies that are more pleasing than the world around them, or
  • instead of  focusing on the reality around them, they focus on short texts and tweets which have no physical substance and no immediately verifiable basis in fact.
Consider these images.

In which version of the world would you choose to live, the one at the top that is fed to the brain through "devices" or the one at the bottom that is fed to your brain by eyes, ears, nose, and skin interacting with the real world directly?

What makes recent political debates befuddling to many is a muddling of the word "lie" for which offers the following first definitions:
noun. a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional untruth.
verb. to speak falsely or utter untruth knowingly, as with intent to deceive.
Consider this definition of the word "error":
1. a deviation from accuracy or correctness; a mistake, as in action or speech: His speech contained several factual errors.
2. belief in something untrue; the holding of mistaken opinions.
3. the condition of believing what is not true: in error about the date.
A false statement isn't a "lie" if the speaker or writer believes it to be true when it is spoken or written by the speaker or writer. It is an "error." A "lie" must include the intent to deceive.

Accusing someone of lying is to accuse them of intent to deceive. If your goal is to make that person angry, instantly accuse them of lying. Remember, they likely believe something that has been reinforced many times within the iWorld.

What's subtle here is an intended language muddle. Consider again that Wikipedia statement: "Information is any type of pattern that influences the formation or transformation of other patterns." Compare it with this in Wikipedia:
Propaganda is "information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view". Propaganda is often associated with the psychological mechanisms of influencing and altering the attitude of a population toward a specific cause, position or political agenda in an effort to form a consensus to a standard set of belief patterns.
It becomes quite easy in the iWorld to influence folks to join an alternate reality political game using a focused form of "information" which is simply "any type of pattern that influences the formation or transformation of other patterns."

The challenge is that the wings that lift us up too high today are not made of feathers, but money. So far a large majority of Californians have resisted the Neoliberal ideologues who assert that market metaphors, metrics, and practices should permeate all fields of human life.

In no place is there more iWorld  "alternative information" created than in California. Even when we've lived with Silicon Valley for seemingly forever, we struggle to reject being drawn into their alternative reality game.

The game is simple. Provide easy access on the internet to conflicting information with links to simulated supporting documentation literally created out of "alternative" facts. Then "share" it on social media.

Kellyanne understands what "information" is in our brave new world, the one created by those for whom she works. It offers alternate realities with alternative facts to support belief structures underlying the 1% economy.

California must continue to spurn this Neoliberal alternative reality political game. But to assure our success we need to know more about the Neoliberals who hide behind alternative labels.