Drunken Pirates, Anyone? or “Interlife Realities 101”

I’ve been asked to comment on Ms. Stacy Snyder’s recent travails. I’ll start by making sure everyone knows these comments are my own, not those of the company or companies sponsoring my blog. Further, these comments are coming from your friendly, neighborhood NextStage, so you know they’re going to be a little off sides, right?

All cards on the table dept: First, I knew nothing about this until I was asked to comment about it. For those as equally in the dark as I, “Stacy Snyder was a student at Millersville University who, like so many others in her generation, had a MySpace page where she expressed herself freely. This free expression has come back to bite her. Snyder was pursuing a degree in education and had completed most of her degree and was a student teacher at a local high school, but was denied her Education certificate because of a photo on her MySpace page that exhibited errors in judgment that conflicted with the Pennsylvania’s Code of Professional Practice and Conduct for Educators. Snyder has now filed suit against the University for $75,000.”

B) I’ve been offered some professorships for this coming fall. I actually had that fact flash through my mind when I thought about responding to this.

Oh, well…on with it.

The situation Ms. Snyder finds herself in doesn’t surprise me. It’s an example of something I pointed at in Second Life is Experiencing Society’s Woes! Surprise!, the lines between reality and virtuosity blurring. I remember the actress Jane Alexander being in hearings before the Senate regarding President Clinton’s appointing her Chairperson of the NEA. Most if not all the senators lauded the characteristics of Eleanor Roosevelt, a character she portrayed on television. They didn’t know anything about Jane Alexander, but by golly, she’d portrayed Eleanor Roosevelt and everybody knew Eleanor Roosevelt would have made an excellent Chairperson, therefore Ms. Alexander would make a good one, too.

That realities boundaries are breaking the way they are does not surprise me. The how and the why form a nice manifold in social consciousness and similar manifolds have existed in smaller social consciousnesses before, as explained above, so this is not a recent phenomenon. It’s more obvious because of the internet, yes, and it’s always been around.

Reality reveals its cracks in certain ways and in certain places. One great thing about reality is that it only exists by consensus. Another way of stating this is “perception is reality”. The earth was indeed flat until its flatness no longer served the greater needs of society.

Let me explain that a bit further; The earth stopped being flat about the same time ships capable of circumnavigating the globe became commonplace. In other words, reality and technology tend to shape each other in strange and mysterious ways. Follow the great revelations of history — be they technical or otherwise — and you’ll notice that great revelations don’t occur until the larger part of the population is ready to accept them. Einstein’s Relativity could never have existed until the existing relativity — Newton’s Gravitation — started failing to explain some things people were seeing in their bell jars. Disruptive technologies are only disruptive until the greater population finds a need for them not to be so.

So Ms. Snyder’s virtual life has more reality than her real life does, and right now the greater population requires this to be case.

I do feel sorry for Ms. Snyder and offer my services in removing arrows from her back.

My greater sorrow is that there is an assumption of intimacy about the internet that I don’t believe it should have, something I wrote about in More Thoughts on Blogging. The immediacy of the internet creates an assumption of an existing social space (covered in the SEND glands arc). The conmixing of relative time and virtual space is creating a reality which, like Einstein’s, could not exist until technology allowed society to accept a space for it.

As I wrote in Live and Dead Tired from the US NextStage offices, humans weren’t designed to cover these distances in the timeframes that are available. We forget to see what’s within reach and assume we have the right to grasp things we are not designed to hold, then wonder why, like Prometheus, the gods punish us.

The gods in this case are society’s inability to clearly separate virtuosity and reality. Ms. Snyder didn’t steal fire and in a relatively short period of time her story will no doubt be yet another internet blip.

Until then, though, I stand ready to both fan the flames and drench them…as Ms. Snyder desires…

– Joseph Carrabis

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