The Tiers/Tears of Reality

I was speaking the other day with the Persian~Parisian~Prowler about the issue of virtual reality / virtual realty in Second Life and he pointed me to this entry of Third Life.

After a momentary examination it became clear the post-normal manner in which Third Life exists. It is not a game played by avatars within Second Life, but rather a parody of Second Life created as an entry within a parody of Wikipedia. (Seriously, what is up with “Uncyclopedia”?)

Interlude: “Nutted By Reality” by Nick Lowe

In previous times the question of the “most real” was no less difficult, but perhaps less complex.

I mean, Plato described the unreal as puppet shadows cast upon a cave wall. But now we have to contend with satirical shadows (Third Life) cast on a satirical cave wall (Uncyclopedia) derived from a shadow play (Second Life) held in a fake cave (the Internet), which is itself a shady realm.

I suppose the machines are to blame, in part. Because we can now fixate complex notions and, once objectified, loop them back into complex games.

Consider a home mortgage—already a complex abstraction of the value of a house. Now consider the mortgage bundled with other bank holdings into a Credit Default Swap, which is then divided into tranches, which are then “sold” to a shell company (probably “located” in the Cayman Islands) devised to “remove” certain debt obligations from the banks’ “real” books. The holdings of the shell company (called a Special Investment Vehicle) are then further divided into tranches, from which derivatives in the form of bonds are issued—essentially credit derivatives of credit derivatives. And, now that this complex notion has been fixed, it can be looped back into ever more complex games. “The product development now is incredibly fast,” observed an analyst from Standard and Poor’s in 2008. “People are trying to put all different types of underlying assets into these structures—asset-back securities, emerging-market debt, or mortgages… now there are even people talking about creating a CDO cubed (or a CDO of CDOs of CDOs).”

CDO cubed? Are you talking about Third Life?! Y’all are dealing with some serious meta-mortgages! But I guess that was the subprime problem: J.P. Morgan never met-a mortgage he wouldn’t buy! PUT ME ON THE BOCA RATON KOMEDY CIRCUIT RIGHT NOW.

But: Are we seeing how the original, underlying house is represented in this psychotic hyper-collage economy? It’d be nice to dismiss this as mega-gibberish, but you can ask an evicted homeowner how “unreal” these financial instruments are. My point here is that this unreality is not possible unless we can fixate increasingly complex representations on our data machines. I liked it when Knight Capital Group lost $400million in 40minutes this summer through a computerized trading malfunction and a shell-shocked Wall Street analyst asked, pace Terminator, “The machines have taken over, right?” Umm, duh, Terminator was a documentary! I mean, shit, the same article described other recent market losses perpetrated by “a rogue algorithm”!

It goes without saying that we live in a world where a hologram of Tupac performs at Coachella.

So, yes, parsing the spectrum of reality does seem more complex in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. I mean, in Categories Aristotle allows that an animal and a picture of that animal share a name, “but the definition of reality answering to the name is different”. Adding, “for if one gives the ‘what is it’ of them… he will give a definition peculiar to each”. True, but giving a ‘what is it’ account for Third Life or Credit Default Swaps is getting pretty hairy! Perhaps Hologram Tupac understands this best: When Hologram Tupac took the stage the first thing he yells to the crowd is: “Yeah! You know what the fuck this is.” Very funny.

An further funny illustration: The most famous depiction of Plato & Aristotle is found in Raphael’s “School of Athens” (1509), painted in the Stanza della Segnatura. In the ensemble fresco, as Vasari tells us, “all the wise men of the world [are depicted] presenting their arguments”. At center, the two great philosophers are made to mime their philosophies of reality: Aristotle gestures towards the earth (the particular) and Plato points towards the heavens (the general).

“The School of Athens” is rightly considered a masterpiece of High Renaissance art, and is recognized as one of the “finest images on the English Wikipedia”. Oh no, not Rafael’s painting, mind you, but the image of the image. The image of the image is award winning! When debating selection as a Wikipedia masterpiece, Wiki Editors wouldn’t have been speaking of the merits of “The School of Athens” quote-unquote, but ““The School of Athens”” quote-quote-unquote-unquote. Hold a mirror to a mirror to a gun and kill me! I think Auerbach needs a new chapter!


One Response to “The Tiers/Tears of Reality”

  1. Roc Wieler a.k.a. Marcus Dickinson a.k.a Roc Wieler Says:

    I made a fake version of me, which version of me inspired me to become more like itself by improving myself and bringing me more into line with the other me. Where’s the line?

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