Sunday, November 30, 2008

Must female characters in children's properties be merely vehicles for an ethical lesson?

My wife works in the Transmedia industry. She has dealt with properties ranging from adult to teen to children to general marketing. For those who do not know, Transmedia refers to a larger storytelling medium that creates a world that transcends merely one medium. You can't just have a novel, a movie, and a video game, but you must have a contiguous narrative.

In preparation for a possible contract on a famous girl's property she began to read the book, "Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers' Schemes" by Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown. It was also inspired by the fact that we have a young daughter, and so does her boss. So in general because of career reasons, and family reasons it is a topic that has become near and dear to our hearts. There are few things more revolting than Bratz dolls. Unfortunately though, even as natural allies to the book's message, it has managed to turn us off to it's subject matter. In a stereotypically academic way, the authors are out of touch with mainstream society. I won't even go too deeply into their penchant for picking properties that never really found purchase, who people are largely unaware of, while missing out on perfect examples that would have resonated for a much greater audience, or their recommendation for documentaries that cost hundreds of dollars, ensuring that those documentaries bypass the concerned parent market almost completely.

The main thing that we have noticed, as we are very concerned with narrative, is the notion that characters should be reduced to mere objects for a moral lesson. In adult literature/film, it is considered a masterpiece if the characters touch on something deep within us. Yes, the ethical lesson is there, but it need not be there as a result of the characters exemplifying it. Many a great tragedy has touched our hearts with characters who are destroyed, never redeemed throughout the course of the entire film. In Darren Aronofsky's "Requiem for a Dream", none of the characters, not even Ellyn Bursten's innocent single widow is saved despite the warnings of her more worldly son played by Jared Leto. Everyone in the film ends tragically. Leto loses his arm to Gangrene from shooting up, Marlon Wayans goes to a southern prison, Jennifer Connolly cuddles with the heroin she earned by being part of a double anal penetration show, and Ellen Burstyn goes insane from a speed induced craze as prescribed by an inattentive doctor. No one in that movie ended up in a good spot. But it made it's point about the horrors of drug addiction, in a way that few films have before or since.

In "Packaging Girlhood", Lamb and Brown make various complaints about some really nitpicky details of some fictional girl's lives. They range from the extremely trivial, such as Peaches Tickle's 50s housewife style in 'Jojo's Circus' where they completely ignore the dynamism inherent in the character, who is an attentive Mother and wife, who is treated well by her husband, has lots of supportive friends who she is supportive of as well, and helps run the family business as clowns in the circus. Jojo Tickle, the main character an Peaches's daughter is a very happy well adjusted child who is the leader of her group of friends. It is one of the best and most uplifting shows that show girls in a positive light without presenting some sense of arbitrary opposition between men and women. The men are men and the women are women in the show, but there is no conflict between them and their identities. No one tells people what they can and cannot do because they are women. Jojo's parents perform stereotypical tasks, her Mom bakes and her Father fixes things, but in both cases they teach Jojo how to do what they are doing. In making a nitpick about Peaches's clothes, they diminish their point.

Another example, is speaking of the American Girls franchise. They make one good point about it in that the pretty white girl characters, the word pretty is used over and over, but in the book about the black slave's book, the word fancy is used over and over. That I believe is a legitimate complaint, but their other complaints about Addy the girl who escapes from slavery is that no one compliments her on her many accomplishments. They don't point out that she is a capable person. Ultimately she is congratulated on her ability to control her emotions to keep her opinions to herself. In a society where there was a very real danger for an 'uppity' black girl opening her mouth, this is an important lesson to learn. It's an important lesson for anyone to learn regardless of circumstances, controlling one's emotions is one of the highest arts and the core of self-discipline. The book itself is about her containing her rage at being a slave, so the lesson about restraint is the core message. There are, however, character considerations as to why it is especially important for THIS character. In their desire to make girls feel good about themselves, our academic critique would have us completely ignore the literary merit of the time and place in which Addy lives. They do not want her to be human, they want people to build her self-esteem like a clueless Boomer parent raised on 'The Power of Positive Thinking'. Is there anything telling us that a slave Mother might even consider thinking about making a production of raising her daughter's self-esteem? Would that even be in character for her? Why would it be something that she even values? Raising self-esteem for it's own sake is a very 20th century bourgeois conceit and not something I would expect from an early American culture. As is the idea that every accomplishment requires fanfare. She knows what she did, she knows she saved her Mother's life when she almost drowned, she knows she escaped from slavery, is pointing this out really necessary?

The authors would enslave characters to the notion of making girls feel empowered. Somehow this to me does not seem empowering. It is an idealization of what they want girls to be, and not a continuous tradition as to what girls historically have been. It also propagates the notion that girls still need to be pandered to to find their own power. The implicit assumption that girls ARE inferior and need to be built up until they no longer are. The idea that it is not ok for girls to resemble girls in the past is just as undercutting as many of the stereotypes they decry in their book.

No doubt Girls are underrepresented in children's properties. On the Disney channel, in both 'The Wiggles', and 'Imagination Movers', the female characters are tokens and completely subservient to the male characters in the show. This needs to change, but people within the industry such as my wife and her company are actively working to do so. As it is, a girl's property that she worked on has come out and they can see the fruits of their labor in how it is presented by the owner of the property, but it is not because they explicitly set out to empower girls by harping on the way they dress as much as it is that they portrayed girls with thoughts, feelings, aspirations and most importantly projects of their own.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Hollywood's Technological Rot

So here we are, it's about an hour past dawn of the information age, and I find myself incredulous. Those best positioned to benefit from such an achievement are unable to get over their old business models.

Television has been the standard mode of communicating fictional properties for the last half of the twentieth century. The audio/visual medium has been refined to an enduring artform. It has revolutionized the way we do business and facilitated the rise of an unprecedented technological culture. It's biggest drawback? It only communicates one way.

Big businesses have relied on TV commercials ever since we saw the successes of Betty Crocker and Lucky Strike Cigarettes in the 50s. If it were not for television it might have taken a bit longer to put a washer and dryer in every home. You wouldn't have a dishwasher let alone Cascade dishwasher detergent. You can positively forget about a Microwave, and your George Foreman grill would be who is George and why do I want his grill?

Now, all of this has been measured through statistical means. If you have a commercial running in a locality you can measure whether orders for your product are up there or not. But what if you are already a common brand? How can you tell if your commercials are reaching their target audience once you are no longer trying to teach consumers that your brand exists? How should Coca Cola know that it's advertising investment is reaching the maximum number of eyeballs per dollar? Well, as far as I can tell, they rely on Nielsen ratings. Nielsen ratings rely on people keeping a diary of their viewing appetites. Knowing how well people maintain their diet diaries should tell you something about how effective this all is. I participated in a study related to a heart condition I have, and I didn't even fill out all the paperwork properly to study a condition that I have which is potentially life threatening. While I am not the most dilligent when it comes to things of this nature, I imagine that I am probably not an isolated demographic.

This brings us to where we are today. A world with DVR and On-Demand, stop-gap measures intended to satisfy the needs of a vestigial TV organ located somewhere in the Frontal Cortex. These are intended for those of us who simply cannot accept the reality of where we are today. Proprietary delivery networks are a thing of the past. They are obsolete. They are not yet extinct but they are outmoded, and unecessary.

They are also the entirety of what makes Hollywood. Hollywood is a distribution system, a brokerage, and little more. It has been one of the most multinational institutions in the world for quite some time now. It has outsourced its filming every chance it got. The greatest example of this are the Mountains behind the Bronx in, "Rumble in the Bronx.", I know, I know that's not really a Hollywood film, but that's a part of my point, the distinction of 'Hollywood' really only matters in terms of the distribution. Where it is filmed is likely not Hollywood, where the actors are from or even live currently is likely not Hollywood. What makes something 'Hollywood' is if the bigwigs behind the scenes decide whether or not to give it access to its distribution networks. Now that's Hollywood. The second thing that it is, is a brokerage. People go there to get funding for a film. It is less necessary to kowtow to Hollywood as a Brokerage than as a distribution system however. Hollywood as a Brokerage will remain more relevant than Hollywood as a distribution system in the long run.

Now Proto-OnDemand video as you see from your cable television will eventually yield to actual On Demand video. Why no major studio is on top of this yet, I do not know. They content themselves to be delivered online by Netflix and iTunes. This makes no sense at all. The reason for this though? They don't know how to 'account' for non-traditional mediums. This is patently ludicrous. There is nothing that allows you to more accurately track your viewership and it's habits, than a website. The amount of data one can glean from the usage statistics available in your standard web server package is far and away more comprehensive than that of a television. We're talking Ox Cart vs Mercedes C-Class here.

Certainly, Hollywood should continue to milk its DVD/Blue Ray distribution system, no reason not to, but it needs to recognize the necessity for it to make every effort to put a bullet in that model as soon as possible. The big studios should be working to own their own distribution networks via the interweb. As it is, the difference between On Demand cable, and internet is a polite fiction. It's about proprietary networks, but the underlying technology is essentially the same. The only advantage that cable companies have is dedicated hardware.

I'll now present you with BBB. The three B's are:
1) Brand
2) Bandwidth
3) Back End

1) Brand
This is the most important aspect of your product. It is the overall view of your product, how do people feel about your product? What does your product do? Does it do it well?

2) Bandwidth
This is currently the second greatest hurdle after the lack of imagination at media conglomerates. This is where you are going to incur the bulk of your fixed costs.

3) Back End
This simply refers to the quality of your web presence. The nuts and bolts that keeps your delivery system up and running.

If you have a solid brand, like Warner Bros, Fox, or Legendary, people will come to you to seek your films. Right now you likely have videos that almost no one is watching. How many sales are you receiving on Gallipoli right about now? Your brand will drive people to your site. There is no good reason why someone should go to the site of a major studio and not be able to have instant access to their entire canon right then and there. Don't withhold parts of your canon, keep the entire canon up for download at any given time. Indulge the whims of your audience. Bring them in with the summer blockbuster, and upsell them on the older film of the same genre.

I'll skip the bandwidth issue as it's being properly addressed and I have no good advice for it. Instead we'll go straight to back end, which will touch on some of the bandwidth issues. Something you need is the ability to have a community on your website, and also to connect to other people's networks. You need to be able to embed your videos on Facebook, MySpace or Blogspot. In fact people should be able to set up to X amount of time of your video, keyframed anywhere they want to display on their blog. Sampling of this nature should be encouraged. It's viral advertising, and will drive traffic to your site, totally free of charge. You should develop a method similar to bittorrent where the content is downloaded from other users who are currently connected to the download seed. This will drastically reduce your needed bandwidth while the users download Act 1 Scene 1 from you, but everything else from the other users who are currently watching the video.

As a quick addendum to back end. You need a warez hacker department. Don't spend so much money on your legal team that goes after piracy. Spend money on your team of College undergraduates who will while away their days for $ 15 an hour seeking ways to foil torrent streams. If 9 out of 10 copies of your video up online illicitly are actually a boring infomercial or scat porn, people will give up and associate piracy with poor quality. If you combine this with a cheap model, they'll come to you first. Take the incentive for piracy out by making it less work to pay for your film than it is to find a decent pirated copy. This cannot be done at a rate of $ 20 per DVD. There is too much incentive for piracy at that price.

Let us return to Brokerage for a moment. Not the kind I was speaking of before, but a new kind. Venues like iTunes and Netflix can be brokerage services. They sell your video for a cut of the profit. This should also apply to your users. Your users should have API access to allow them to earn rewards based on traffic that drives new business to your site. So not only do you not seek to stop them from using your IP on their website, you encourage it, so long as it's not the entire finished product. If you need to understand more about APIs and how they work, consult the models used by Amazon and CCP. CCP is the maker of Eve Online, they have a model that allows you to access personal game data in web applications.

Now this part is to Jesse Alexander and Jeff Gomez, with whom I've had conversations about this sort of thing before.

Don't accept gripes concerning old business models to be equally valid. They are not, and they should not be considered as such. The newer models are not only inevitable, meaning non-negotiable, they are also superior in every way. Nielsen ratings are archaic and primitive compared to the most basic webstat programs. There is no reason you shouldn't be able to get data up to the minute, or even up to the second regarding who is watching what.

If you build a new distribution model, make sure that it's cheap. Don't charge $ 4 a rental for new releases. Charge $ 2 a rental. Make it so cheap that people will think nothing of paying to watch it ten times. Also, have an advertising revenue model. Give people a cheaper account upon which they can watch advertisements rather than pay for the account. Give your back catalogue to people for a monthly subscription cost. $ 20 a month gets you up to 40 movie views. The people that will max out that number are few and far between. It's likely a certain number of your accounts won't even watch one movie some months, and it will all balance out. Make sure you or whoever you represent maintains control over the content delivery. Stop farming it out to distribution systems. After the cost of maintaining the website and the servers, all of the profit stays in house. Don't draw a distinction between hi-def and lo-def in your pricing model. Just give it all for a low price. The distinctions of picture resolution are going to matter less and less to your audience.

The key here is high volume low margin. The cheaper it is, the more often people will utilize these services, aka, the higher your ratings will be. The more control you have over your own distribution, the more nimbly you can respond to market shifts.

When you show your film/show on TNT, TNT controls the delivery brand. Put TNT out of business. If you must outsource don't outsource the brand, outsource the labor. Your site can be maintained by a third party and marketing can be handled by a third party, but don't send people to TNT to watch your video, send people to 'My Film Studio'. That is how you can ensure that you know every last little minute detail about who is watching what, and their habits when doing so. When approaching potential ad buyers, giving them them the data, will be a simple matter of cut and paste.

A TV and a Computer are the same thing. Just repeat this mantra to anyone who doesn't understand. A TV and a Computer are the same thing. Don't allow them to think otherwise, it's not good for them and it's not good for you. There is only one network, the internet, period.

One day, and one day soon, you will be able to map hyperlinks to what is going on on the screen. Imagine being able to click on Vick Mackey's Dodge Charger while it's on screen. This is the future of Quicktime and Flash video they can already do this today. These tools are not being utilized effectively, because the people who control the content cannot conceive of why they might be useful.

We have gone from the release of "I am Legend" dominating the ad space in 'Rainbow Six: Vegas' because they didn't get enough ad buyers, to Barack Obama buying ad space in a dozen video games on the cheap in a short period of time.

All digital delivery mediums are rigorously logged. There is no excuse for not comprehending how to know who is watching your videos.

Friday, October 24, 2008

I've never been entirely comfortable in the world of the stone worshippers. It is a world that found it's culmination in the industrial era, where everything can be separated into constituent parts, a function of mechanism, inert matter, finding purchase, pivoting, using leverage, maintaining structural support through the force of counter-balance. Though I do not feel entirely comfortable within it, I understand it very well. I've always had a knack for engineering, how pieces fit together, why a wheel has spokes, why an undercarriage has struts. Despite this understanding I have never quite found four walls and a roof to be quite the protective structure it is meant to be. Certainly I like to be sheltered from the rain as much as the next bloke.
I've always pined for a more natural and organic world. Where edges are less sharply defined, where one shape grows from another, where water flows unimpeded by a sudden and incongruous form placed there simply to cause its flow to cease. In the ancient world we can see the rise of Rome and the culmination of stone worship. The way of life that we currently understand, where we find comfort or distress stems from ancient Rome. It is the world of coinage, Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns, and a structured system. The idea of being ruled by a system as opposed to our kinship group comes from these grand Empires whose systems persist through the ages.
When Caesar conquered the Gauls he did through the use of wealth, fancy beads, wine, and other trade. Things that the Celts did not ever know they missed before they had it. The Romans used the protection of trade as a pretext for the militarization of Gaul. As trade became more established the encroachment became ever more well established.
Few stories tell the tale of the conflict between vegetable and mineral alchemy quite like the fall of Vercingetorix at the hands of Caesar. Even as the system of Caesar was replaced by the Catholic church, the nod to the conflict was put into place by the ancient Masons. Grand Cathedrals were built atop sacred groves. Supposedly the site upon which Chartres stands today, was once the sacred grove of the Carnutes, a proud Celtic tribe. Carved into Chartres stone is an homage to the vegetable alchemy that preceded it. Columns that resemble the trunks of trees and numerous floral patterns mark the stone structure.
Today the world of the Stone Worshippers is being replaced by that of those who worship information. No longer do we carve our knowledge into stone to be held for posterity. Now we save what we know within the encapsulation of electrons. Binary data holds the keys to our memories. I find a grim satisfaction in this. I am more at home here, all the while sitting within my square domicile. The stone worshippers are finally being overthrown.
Of course every faction believes that they have a monopoly on spirituality. The Neo-Pagan Hippy thinks that their love for Mother Gaia is more sacred and deep than that of the vulgar Evangelical Christian in their Boxen Mega-church. The Catholic Church still harbors resentment that it is not the premiere spiritual authority on Earth. And of course us information worshippers, we believe that we are beyond all of those luddites with their worship of crude matter in whatever form it comes in.
The Matrix for all its Hollywood ugliness is the hallmark of a new era. It recognized the change in our culture, and brought it to the forefront of the consciousness of even the least self-critical among us. It made people rethink the solidity of the stone they had always worshipped. The bare understanding of String Theory and Quantum Mechanics that permeates society makes us all question just how solide the ground we stand upon really is. For the psychonauts among us, we pretend to see green letters hiding behind every solid object. We think that we can read the code hidden just beyond the veil.
Nothing renders us as bits of information quite so succinctly as the flash mob. On your little communicator reminsicent of Star Trek, you can receive information about how you should move, how you should arrange yourself. These messages don't come from on high, they come laterally. We can choose to heed the call or not. Yet flash mobs have affected the outcome of elections in third world countries where not everyone involved even had internet in their homes. I myself participated in the organization of a crowd of thousands of revellers taken from a park in Manhattan through the subway, on a parade through Brooklyn where we were met with games and Sound Systems. I watched in my linen suit jacket and faerie wings as the police department mobilized our escort, spontaneously and out of the blue. We parties to Techno blasted from the side of an old charter bus on the pier in Red Hook Brooklyn. Then when finally the fire trucks, police boats and a chopper came to shut us down, we mobilized again and took the remaining few hundred and sought a new venue. With the power of our intelligent mob I was able to negotiate an after party venue in a local club. I direct you to take notice of the wiki article on flash mobs. It is a picture of an event coordinated by someone I know personally.
How's that for the power of information? As we navigated the world of the stone worshippers, that of our ancestors we we able to adapt to new situations as they arose. A certain power and magic was tapped. Through this technology we helped pioneer we now receive updates from the savvier of our two Presidential candidates.
Yet, I still feel trapped within the world of the stone worship. I still am a life lived, a real person, blood and bones. Aesthetically I may prefer my neurons and hormones. I may approve of the fact that DNA is a literal information system holding together proteins to build the greater structure that facillitates my existance.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Why diegetics?


Di`e*ge"sis\, n. [NL., fr. Gr. ?, fr. ? to narrate; dia` through + ? to lead.] A narrative or history; a recital or relation.

Diegesis is

  1. the (fictional) world in which the situations and events narrated occur; and
  2. telling, recounting, as opposed to showing, enacting.

For a very long time I wanted to start a blog. I didn't know where to begin or to whom I wanted to write. With a word, 'diegetics', I found my voice. I have spent quite a long time examining the epistemology of perspective, and how it impacts our world. Not so much as in how it informs our worldview, but how much informs our world. When we think, we act, when we act we shape the world around us. While the world is a real and tangible thing, full of exigent circumstances that must be acknowledged, it is also mutable. We have the ability to affect our environment.

This post-modern notion is quite discomforting for many people for whom the idea of a static reality, a reality that confirms their thoughts, their beliefs, their biases, is vital to their ontological well-being.

At this moment in history, that is stripped from them, brutally, by a society that doesn't care for their notions of propriety. In this society you can be anything...supposedly.

You get to choose what role you play in the grand drama of your life. Again...supposedly. We use narrative to describe our lives, to understand history and our place within it. We craft a story where for better or worse we have chosen a role to play. Some of us are not even the protagonists in our own lives.

Diegesis refers to the flow of the story. Diegetics, as I am using it refers to the study of context. How does the thing being viewed fit into the broader context? Sometimes it doesn't, and that's when we come to an ontological crisis, where the paradigm shifts and we shift with it. Our ability to shape our world suddenly comes into question as our circumstances drag us kicking and screaming along with them.

In our world, we are beset by virtual realities, little mini worlds where we can assume another role, but it fits seemlessly within our larger role, as we devote part of the greater context to this lesser context. On occasion it is for a night, when we chat up that beautiful girl we met in the bar. Other times it is for an extended period of time, as we cultivate an online career in a Massively Multiplayer Online game.

This blog is dedicated to how our virtual worlds, the worlds inside our head come out and become our real world. When we emerged from the muck, it is possible that the voices in our head seemed to us like the voices of the ancestors, or of Gods of some kind. At some point the voices of some came to represent a greater validity than the voices of others. That leads us to where we are today.

I intend to address epistemological issues that I am exploring, but this blog is also about media, and how we use media, and how media uses us. My posts will alternate between a philosophy of the historical narrative in which we reside, and an analysis of how we present our crafted narratives to ourselves and each other. So expect the occasional pseudo-intellectual meandering, (I am crafting one now) interspersed with discussions of media, information systems and more specifically the transmedia medium in which we reside here on the internet.

Alternate Lives and Virtual Realities

Alternate lives within a life are no less real than anything else that occurs within them. To illustrate this point, I will put my thesis in contrast to this thesis eloquently stated by William S. Lind, the originator of the term, 4th Generation Warfare, which refers to war where some of the principles are non-state actors. 4G War is the natural state of an atomised culture, one where conflicting ontologies and epistemologies war with one another for supremacy in an abstract, virtual space. On occasion, these wars become phenomenological, they become real, and they wield real knives and fire real bullets. There are very few things that people tacitly agree upon more than the coherence of matter. Physical death is the final arbiter of ideological conflict. If those that believed in an idea are dead, then so is that idea.

The Discarded Image
The Discarded Image is the title of C.S. Lewis’s last book, and perhaps his best. On the surface, it is a discussion of medieval cosmology and the Ptolemaic universe. In reality it is about very much more, including the medieval refutation of the modern notion of “equality,” which decrees that people are interchangeable. That vast error lies at the heart of many of the ideologies which made the 20th century such a horror and which still gnaw at the vitals of Western civilization. Lewis recognized that on many matters, our medieval ancestors were wiser than ourselves.
This is the first place where I find myself in disagreement with Lind's thesis, and by extension Lewis's. Both of these men have had a profound impact on my worldview, and that I choose this essay is out of a great respect for what is being said, however, herein contained is the seed of Lind's virtual world. The basis for what he is saying is that in essence, the Medieval world is more real than the world in which we live today. That is not true. People who live in the real world do not drown women in order to determine whether or not they are a witch.

In the face of this possibility, or maybe probability, what indeed are individuals and families to do? I think the answer, if there is one, begins with my friend David Kline’s farm.

David Kline is an Amishman. He farms about 200 acres in Holmes County, Ohio, good land that supports a herd of forty to fifty dairy cows. He has some modern equipment, such as milking machines, but his life does not depend on any of it. In today’s world, his farm provides him a good living. In a Fourth Generation world, his farm would still provide well for him and his family.

I am not talking about “survivalism” here. The Kline farm represents much more than that. As I have said to David more than once, what he and other Amish are doing is preserving an understanding of how to live in reality for the time when all the virtual realities collapse.

Within his own wording, he gives the us the key to his virtual world. In this virtual world, the Kline farm is representative of something. It is an icon, an idol. Lind pines for a time where connection to the soil reminded us of the reality in which we live.

Virtual realities lie at the heart of Brave New World, aka the New World Order, “globalism,” “democratic capitalism” (as the neo-cons define it), etc. The bargain Brave New World offers is this: if you will only do as Marcuse advises and trade the Reality Principle for the Pleasure Principle, we will enmesh you in virtual realities that will make you happy. True, you will lose your free will, because our virtual realities will condition you to think as we want you to. But they will also give you anything and everything you want. So what if none of it is real? All that matters is that you feel happy, right now.

Here he has a point. We do trade the reality principle for the pleasure principle. Just not in the way he believes. Feeling is indicative of experience. Engineering one's feelings is the quickest path to self-delusion. The totalitarian pursuit of pleasure leads us to override the genuine experience that the feelings we are turning away from communicate to us. The feeling of experience is poignant in direct relation to it's truth. This is why pleasure seeking behavior diminishes. Wine is less sweet when gorged upon. Sex is less ecstatic when abused promiscuously. Drugs have a rate of diminishing returns, requiring a greater dosage for similar effect.

As our medieval forefathers would quickly recognize, this is Hell speaking. Hell has always loathed reality, because in reality, Christ is king. Wiser than we, the medievals were interested not in felicitas but in beautitudine – not in being happy but in being saved. Had they been given a television or a video game, they would have smelled brimstone.

William Lind's thesis is refuted by his own source material.
John 18:36
Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place."
So where exactly is this 'reality' of which Lind speaks? What he is saying is true, to a point. There are truths higher and more noble than the pursuit of physical pleasure, which when broken down are merely the stimulation of neural pathways. The place where he makes a mistake and where the hedonist also makes an equal but opposite mistake is that happiness is an indicator of well-being, just as fear is an indicator of danger, and pain is an indicator of damage. Placing felicitas and beatitudine as opposites is a mistake. There is no reason why being saved should not make one happy.

So while Lind has a very important lesson for us, ultimately he is wrong. The process of modern life is intrinsically tied together by virtual worlds. No longer do we live with our physical neighbors. I spend more time with the members of my corporation in Eve Online than I do with the people whose doors are next to mine in the hall.

The implication of the bible passage that I quoted says to me, if anything, that Christ was here to save us from such virtual worlds. If William Lind is still here, then he is still living in a virtual world. We are participating in the grand atomised faction war, the 4G War where the state is no longer the primary social unifier. Our Asabiya is no longer primarily dominated by state or religious affiliation. Even within our allegiance to such grand and unifying ideas there is wide division.

The problem for Lind is the same as the problem for so many Conservatives, they see the certainty of the world they wish to cultivate slipping through their grasp, and they enshrine their own perspective as though it is the only valid and true perspective, as though they have a grasp on reality that others do not. When they get together in a group, they may not be able to agree upon a suitable description for reality, but they will circle the wagons to agree that the outsider's view most certainly is not it. It is a war of virtual worlds. Lind is right, those virtual worlds cannot and will not last, but so what? We are here now, we are where we are, and if we were created in God's image, then our ability to shape our reality in accordance with our will is a divinely attributed gift.

By denying the reality of the lives that people lead, Lind does damage to the meaning of the word reality. If you devote much of your time to a virtual reality, it is your reality. While you cannot buy a loaf of bread with Eve Online's ISK, the relationship between you and the people you interact with as mediated by that currency are very real and can impact your life outside of the game's context.