Humans do not simply manipulate or control machines, data, and networks any more than machines, data, and networks simply manipulate or control us. […] Networked Affect considers how individual, collective, discursive, and networked bodies, both human and machine, affect and are modified by one another.

 

At first glance it sounds like a film scenario about apocalyptic end of the human race controlled by machines – we all have watch and read about that modern theory of conspiracy and there is actual fear in my parents and grandparents generations that we are losing our human characteristics living virtual life in that ‘boxes’ (which now are as big as our smartphones). Perhaps to be embodied to the latest technology inventions is not natural for those who were born before the digital era and in this line of thoughts for them networked affect in the online space would be something quite different that the real life affect. As someone born just after the invention of World Wide Web I feel my digital self as important and real as my physical self. In fact, the merge of human and machine, the overlap of a human affecting networks and networks affecting the human can be acknowledged as next evolutionary step and it may have for us more answers to the present global problems and concerns than we can ever imagine.

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Within the framework of new materialist theory, rather than understanding the virtual as separate from the actual, as was the case in much early utopian cyberculture theory, the virtual is understood as that which orients the actual as it unfolds. The virtual, therefore, can be understood as the potentialities, investments, and imaginations concerning the present and the possible shape of things to come.

 

In that statement I find two driving life forces – the desire to learn and develop and the capability of being affected. Cyberspace is like, I would say, parallel reality for us – we can represent real life situations and we can ADD information, we can enrich them and ‘play’ with different possibilities without the worry that we are actually going to destroy something, get hurt or hurt someone else in real world. But still, our body plasticity allows us to be embodied and to ‘feel’ with our real bodies what is happening to our digital bodies. In such situation we get affected which is what makes these game scenarios more than games – in fact, we could gain real knowledge how to improve ourselves, our communities, our reality.

 

Most definitions of affect highlight the central role of intensity and agree on the presence of a quality of excess, a quality of ‘MORE THAN’. The human being is fascinating because of its never-ending striving to do MORE, to achieve MORE, to become MORE and that is why I believe being affected is part of our evolutionary process. In parallel, creating our virtual realities is something like additional value to our real reality which could also be interpret as quality of ‘more than’, creating a cycle, or more accurately a spiral, where we start from the centre and with every round expand our bodies, minds and lives (and according some theories our universe is ever expanding, too).

– Have you been dreaming again, Dolores?

Imagining yourself breaking out of your… modest little loop?

……………

– Well, I suppose I can’t begrudge you that.

My father told me to be satisfied with my lot in life. That the world owed me nothing.

And so, I made my own world.

(Westworld, S01E05)

 

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Does playing World of Warcraft make me feel embodied? Does this expand my mind? Does this affect me, adding ‘more than’ to my own reality? Yes, definitely yes (and this is ‘yes’ from a person who would not be considered as ‘Player’). Even though I do not play regularly I still can feel deeply connected with my avatar exploring my emotions during the game, there are number of factors, both consciously and unconsciously reached, which are essential in the affect I experience during and shortly after playing.

 

In order to understand the cyber world there is relationship build between two-dimensional virtual images and three-dimensional real objects which creates metaphorical correspondence. It would not be fully correct to say that in WOW I am affected by environment by itself, it feels more like everything from the very little visual details, music, story, other characters and, of course, my avatar is what creates the affect while I am playing. I believe there is no isolated factor and every piece of the game’s virtual reality has its contribution to my whole experience.

 

If we think about it just for a second… it is colossally impressive!

While playing, I exist in two worlds at once – I do not leave my physical world, I am still using the chair and desk, and the space in my room and in the same time I have my digital representation, a source code inhabiting the cyberspace, to explore a magic land; I still have part of my mind wonder in the physical world and I can hear people around me talking and in the same time I am on a mission and I have tasks to complete, trying to stay alive (virtually). And if I think of us as one, then my physical self is the mind which using a desktop device controls the body of my digital self to complete our mission. OR is it the opposite? My digital self can represent the idea of completing the mission as self-improving stage, using the body of my physical self to manage the keyboard controls and pursue what matters to my other self in order to be successful.

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Considering my real body and mind being embodied in my virtual body and mind in World of Warcraft, and vice versa, it comes quite natural to be affected by my avatar’s experience during playing the game. And because of this feeling of affection I find the embodiment to be stronger than before which will respectively make my affection more intensive next time and so on.

Remember the spiral as metaphor of ever-expanding?

 

Reference:

Networked affect, Ken Hillis; Susanna Paasonen; Michael Petit

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