Pamela Anderson is virtuality is virtuality is virtuality is virtuality…

Posted: 31/08/2010 in ARIN6901 Network Society, Uncategorized

When I was in high-school (1994-1997), the “in” word in that new, enigmatic medium called the Internet was “virtual”. That “computer program” (that is what most of the people I knew considered it to be; some even asked, politely: “Can I borrow your Internet?” or “How many Internets do you have?”) served not only to download images of Pamela Anderson covered by a miniscule red one-piece swimsuit, but also to engage in “virtual” worlds, in chat messages where you could “be yourself” and where, hopefully, you would get a girlfriend. Albeit, a “virtual” girlfriend who would only be represented by a series of flashing dots on a computer screen. I became obsessed with this new medium, and the beeepppp-crrrr-beeeep sound of the modem would be music to my ears. My piece of equipment, a now archaic Compaq Presario, was a gate to access what promised to be a “virtual” reality where you could escape from the tribulations of the “real” world, the carnage of high-school, the same stories from your friends. But the promise was not fulfilled. This virtual “world” was but a wasteland of binary code that lacked any real human connection. Sure, I had a couple of online “girlfriends”, but it was surely nothing like having a real one (which I got as soon as my affaire with this unfulfilled virtuality was over). In “Virtual Communities or Network Society?” Manuel Castells argues that those post-apocalyptic views of the Internet causing social isolation and producing individuals that are immersed in a virtual reality are far-fetched and ill informed, and that Internet interaction is actually based in real-life relationships. This opinion was constructed by “building its statements on the observation of a few experiences among early users of the Internet.” (Castells, 2001: 117). This opinion also lead, I think, to the implosion of the dotcom era, as many companies disregarded physical, real-life ties and thought that users would immerse in new, “virtual” words and develop strong ties with new brands or news channels. 15 years after my first encounters with the Internet, most of the sites I visit on a daily basis (LeMonde, NY Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Reforma) are the online arm of media I previously had a tie with. Moreover,  the friends I keep in touch with through Messenger or Gmail chat are people I met in the “real world”. Thus, Castells’ words resonate: “The Internet does not seem to have a direct effect on the patterning of everyday life, generally speaking, except for adding on-line interactions to existing social relationships.” (2001: 119) The sci-fi scenario envisioned by 1990s technological determinists is far from being fulfilled.

In your case, how “virtual” is your life?

This meat grinder is NOT the Internet.


Castells, Manuel (2001) “Virtual Communities or Network Society?” in The Internet galaxy, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 116-136.

For ARIN6901, Network Society, The University of Sydney (Master in Digital Communication and Culture).

  1. David Miklos says:

    Not long ago, my dad truly believed there was an automatically generated account for himself on the Internet. It took me ages to make him understand that he had to sign up to get an email address either on Hotmail or through his Internet provider… Go figure. It make me happy, though, that my Dad has only one personality and is ages from the virtual era.

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