Zizek (presciently) on virtual reality

From all the way back in 2004 (!), in “Conversations with Zizek”, between Slavoj Zizek and Glyn Daly:

As a result, the taste of reality we get today comes from products, situations, or actions deprived of their substance: In today’s market, we find a whole series of products deprived of their malignant property: coffee without caffeine, cream without fat, beer without alcohol. And the list goes on: what about virtual sex as sex without sex, the Colin Powell doctrine of warfare with no casualties … as warfare without warfare … up to today’s tolerant liberal multiculturalism as an experience of Other deprived of its Otherness.

Virtual reality simply generalizes this procedure of offering a product deprived of its sub­stance: it provides reality itself deprived of its substance, of the resisting hard kernel of the Real – in the same way that decaffeinated coffee smells and tastes like real coffee without being the real thing, so virtual reality is experienced as reality without being real.

The many nostalgias of Harry Potter

I had pre-ordered the illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which arrived this week (more on that later!) and made me think about the layers of feelings related to this … world.

First, there is the nostalgia of just being a series of books but one has read 20 years ago. That is, of a world that is different from the regular world, and which one has inhabited in detail through the books. The “wizarding world” is something familiar … and something left behind.

Second, there is the nostalgia of having the “normal“ word in the book be one that has itself been lost — in the sense of not being at all recognizable amid the world today. The way people act and relate to each other is … very much a “90s world”.

Third, there is the nostalgia of this world not only being “a long time ago“, but also being separated from the present by the huge gap in technology in human lives.

The magical people can be chuckled at for saying “fellytones” when they mean “telephones”, but wtf is a telephone today?

It isn’t just that the technology used is different, but that the modern current world is

a fundamental transformation office into a sort of cyborg individual call Ma which has changed utterly how we act, how we behave, but also what we believe in or aspire to.

Fourth, it is further nostalgic and that there is no point in imagining a separate parallel world of magic anymore, or at least not in the way of a group of people existing alongside us, as the book describes. Ubiquitous surveillance cameras would spot them, amateurs would find Hogwarts Castle on a map. And wait till the magical kids discover the legalized brain drugs of social media.

Finally, fifth, the forms of allusion and manipulation alluded to sound trivial or ridiculous, when compared to even “cheap consumer technology” in the present day. Moving pictures? Yawn.

So, what of it? Is there anything that could count as an equivalent today? Dunno yet.

There is no lack of yearning for a different world, just the inability to imagine one, which lends our current dystopia a desperate “there is no alternative“ tinge to it.

Yet, the “magical“ people in Rowling’s world are able to display a sense of camaraderie and ethics and just basic goodness. This essential human-ness is likely what still allowschildren to relate to the characters today, and … this might be a quality to aspire to when thinking of a similar counter-world, in the present day.

Egregore

I’ve been “on the internet” for about two-and-a-half decades now, and … I like to think that I’ve seen it all.

Still, these are strange times. Neologisms abound. Confusion reigns. The future is murky. Etc. etc.

So, I do encounter genuinely new things roughly once every month, if not every week at times.

One of these is the title of this post.

I’ve seen it mentioned in conjunction with recent political trends, recent cultural trends, and unfortunately, more on the junky side of forums.

Without mentioning anything else, here’s an “Ngram history” (I’m curious what that blip in the early 1800s was !):

And just for fun, a comparison with a random word:

On catastrophe

From the blurb of a book by John David Ebert

Disasters, both natural and man-made, are on the rise. Indeed, a catastrophe of one sort or another seems always to be unfolding somewhere on the planet. We have entered into a veritable Age of Catastrophes which have grown both larger and more complex and now routinely very widespread in scope.

The old days of the geographically isolated industrial accidents, of the sinking of a Titanic or the explosion of a Hindenburg, together with their isolated causes and limited effects, are over. Now, disasters on the scale of Hurricane Katrina, the BP oil spill or the Japan tsunami and nuclear reactor accident, threaten to engulf large swaths of civilization.

These efforts are breaking down. Nature and Civilization have become so intertwined they can no longer be separated. Natural disasters, moreover, are becoming increasingly more difficult to differentiate from “man-made.”