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Outlets of Expression

There are people that are captivated with virtual reality. Has the virtual world taken over the real world? Sherry Turkle the sociologists, explains the relationship between the virtual and personal psychology in her interview on Big Thinkers. Turkle is fascinated with people’s connections to objects as a way of creating their own identity. Her MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, focuses on the deeper relationships we have with technology and how it changes the ways we see ourselves as people. Interactions, relationships, and personal issues are being dealt with through the virtual world.

Social Outlets

Through computers we have new forms of social life which help us interact with one another, form relationships and vent. Social outlets such as VR, MUD’s, social networking, chat rooms, and even news groups are ways people connect.

“People use social outlets to bring out how they actually feel through expression on these entities,” says Turkle in her “Big Thinkers” interview.

Could this be considered a positive thing? These outlets can help people work through issues of self which is usually harder to do in the real world.

We may not directly think that on our Facebooks, Twitters, Instagrams and so forth, we’ve created avatars. The idea that Turkle brings up about what technology is doing is interesting because it actually affects us more than we know. We want to be connected to others and it is no longer a physical connection we desire. She states in her interview that “we are vulnerable creatures when asked to nurture something we connect with it.” We nurture the images we want to portray on our social interacting outlets. On our social networking sites we take multiple pictures until we get the one suitable for the image we want projected. Many people post differently than how they speak.

Role Playing Games

In Sherry Turkle’s essay Constructions and Reconstructions of the Self in Virtual Reality, we are shown through different people’s experiences how role playing games in the virtual have been therapeutic. MUD’s are referred to in this essay as “identity workshops” (210). Players in these worlds are able to leave their real lives and problems to get involved in the game. Turkle says “you are who you pretend to be in the virtual world” (211). People are able to create an avatar designed how they like and act through them.

In Turkle’s “Big Thinkers” interview she also says “computers are a great example of how the objects we use become a part of our lives.”

How can this be so? Well, Ric Hoogestrat in Alexander Alter’s article “Is this Man Cheating on His Wife?”, is an example of Turkle’s statement. By creating his avatar in the virtual reality game Second Life, we see that he is always on his computer interacting with the virtual world. This world becomes his life. This also connects to the statement that players leave their real lives and indulge in virtual ones. Mr. Hoogastraat is married in the real world but develops a relationship with an avatar in the virtual world controlled by Janet Spielman. He formed a relationship that was stronger than his actual relationship with his real world wife, Sue Hoogastraat. The idea that people become emotionally attached to their avatar is shown through this article.

Virtual Reality and Personal Growth

Using virtual reality games to remake yourself or even events of your life can be a form of therapy. USC Institute for Creative Technologies article on Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy, aiding veterans that have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Patients are exposed to retelling and even reliving their traumatic experiences through the virtual reality outlet. Inspired by Xbox games are the scenarios of combat which reopen the moments that these PTSD patients have been effected by. These situations are safe and in controlled environments reducing harm to the patients. Many of the younger military personnel prefer using the virtual approach to therapy procedures rather than the usual “talk therapy.” This supports Turkle’s statement that “using the virtual to increase our quality of life in the physical reality,” from her interview.

While computers grow and become more advanced the future of virtual reality may do the same. Turkle sees the virtual world as a positive place of help. It seems that once you learn how to function in these virtual environments they can consume you. Our computers are more than technology they have become a part of our lives, Turkle is correct on that note. Is everyone a citizen in the Virtual World?