Thursday, June 14, 2007

Living in a Virtual World

Jack Myers has always been a good friend of Lovemarks. He was one of the people who got it straight away. Like me, he believes that emotion will be the driving force of this century rather than twentieth-century rationality. That’s why, when Jack writes a book, I sit up and take notice. His latest is Virtual Worlds: Rewiring Your Emotional Future and it’s a fascinating deep dive into how these virtual worlds are changing the emotional DNA of future generations. Jack is an optimist and he believes our emotional range is expanding as people participate in a new world of community and identity. I often quote the brain guru, Donald Calne, who tells us that reason leads to people drawing conclusions, while emotion compels them to take action. Jack would agree and he takes the argument right into the heart of the virtual realm. Jack points out that virtual worlds are different because they empower emotions and reward emotional connections. He predicts that the generations born in the twenty-first century will demote the brain from its position of dictatorial power over emotional well-being.

This is heady stuff for anyone trying to attract people to their ideas and images and also to their stores and entertainment. Underlying Jack’s entire argument is his conviction that we are in a "don’t sell me, engage me” environment. I’ve called the same thing the Attraction Economy. In virtual worlds, success depends on what you bring to it; on participation and contribution. In places like Second Life, MySpace and Facebook, the creators keep their own intellectual property so they have a different kind of personal commitment. No wonder these virtual worlds are proving controversial as questions around commercialization and safety increase. A couple of years ago in my book Sisomo: The Future On Screen, I commented on the emotional potential of the screen. Jack has taken the emotions deep into the virtual world. Join him and also check out his storytelling project here. A community creating a virtual world. Take a peak into the future.

1 comment:

Susan956 said...

I'll pre-empt my comments by saying that my own book being published in the US in 2008 is also about online society but from a completely different view. It is a reflexive examination of self within a particular online culture and is almost exclusively about emotion.

I raise this because obviously the topic posed today and it's assertions and commentary have a lot of meaning for me.

Firstly, bravo to Jack for opening out the interaction. I had a similar idea for my work however new, unconnected authors don't have the network savvy to 'enable' such elements as readily as someone like Jack can.

I believe I'd enjoy talking to Jack on two initial grounds.

Firstly I think most of us welcome encountering people who can bring us to see known concepts in new ways - who challenge our held conceptions. There is a vitality in that and sometimes a personal form of innocence that second life people enjoy.

I also however believe many of these books are business oriented and come from a commercial mindset. Absolutely nothing problematic necessarily within this as such however, perspectives are just that and the wheel of existence is more embracing, more fulsome.I'd like to talk to Jack about his perceptions and mine (that originated from outside of the business world initially).

I'm unsure what is being suggested in place of the demotion of the brain..? I certainly agree and have been writing about and promoting this: that many people long to return to the concept of village. It's not per se the physicality of the village (although Kevin himself has been drawn back to that re Grasmere) but the sense of village; the closeness, the qualities, the 'known', the relative predictability; knowing some 'thing' WILL be there today, tomorrow morning, tomorrow afternoon.

Two decades ago, the online medium was marketed as 'free range'; open, ever changing, endless possibilities and yet, in 2007, in the main, this isn't what people seek as such. Or, I don't believe they do and considerable research supports this. People DO want opportunity but they want people within their communities of choice to listen and to perhaps open that up. The older concepts of mentoring will return in time I believe, just in new and varied ways and for different age groups. With an aging population we need (I need!!) mentors who will perceive talent and help locate opportunity paths in return for the fulsome experiential and analytical base the plus 45's-50's hold.

In the field of education I've observed educational theories swing like a pendulum - yes to phonics, no to phonics, yes, no...a blend.. and often the result is wishy washy and lacks strength because of it's inability to commit (to anything).

I don't believe the brain needs to stop being powerful but simply that we need to raise instinct, perception, faith and belief and emotion back to a similar platform.

However, to do this I contend we not only need to consider potential new ways of doing things but why we pushed emotion down to begin with. What were we afraid of..what were people in power positions (able to influence) afraid of (and believed about humanity).. what are we afraid of now...