The disintegration of the real-virtual binary

One facet of human thinking that intrigues me is the idea that we often believe things to be black and white. While shades of grey is probably the norm, and things aren’t usually as simple as we make them to be, we tend to think in binaries. A binary system is one that consist of two, and only two, units. For example, we tend to think in terms of male and female (disregarding all the other orientations that exist between the two extremes), white and black, real and virtual.

You can blame this CNN article for this Saturday morning rant :). In it, the reported describes how ‘A British couple who married in a lavish Second Life wedding ceremony are to divorce after one of them had an alleged “affair” in the online world.’ I increasingly see stories of the real life blending into the virtual one, and of the virtual one blending into the real. I have always been a proponent of the idea that we live in a world where our “real” activities cannot be distinguished from our “virtual” activities, actions, work, and thoughts (- as a side note, in a job interview once, I was asked if i think that virtual existence is the same as real existence and replied by asking what a real existence means). In other words, the real vs. virtual binary is non-existent, especially considering the fact that what we think is “real” may not be “real.” Confusing? Consider this: You walk down the street and you come across someone who is completely and utterly different than you (e.g. a cypriot professor who studied in the US and currently works in the UK – I am guessing other than me, noone else of that description is reading this blog). What do you “see” whan you see this person? You “see” this person with your own worldview and (positive & negative) stereotypes. What you see therefore, is not “real” as such, but it is your own understanding of this person. What is real for you may not be real for the person next to you.

Some of us – those who have access and skills to take advantage of the technology – live in a world where the distinction between the real and the virtual bends and blends. And this has immense implications for not only teaching and learning which is the focus of this blog, but living and experiencing the world.


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