Really near where I’m staying is the London renowned gamers cafe Meltdown. All weekend the cafe is packed, the pavements around are packed with really nice happy people smoking / cooling down / chatting before they return in to the funky cave to plug back in to World of Warcraft / League of Legends / Dota / Call of Duty / Mario / Counterstrike etc etc.
I’ve been building up to write about the digital body / the virtual body – and Meltdown seems like the only place I can start. It has to be an amazing example of a harmonious duality between the virtual self and the actual self, both socialising, both being stimulated – in their own according worlds (virtual or otherwise).
Some theory: Deleuze’s concept of the virtual has two aspects. First, the virtual is a kind of surface effect produced by actual causal interactions at the material level. When one uses a computer, the monitor displays an image that depends on physical interactions happening at the level of hardware. The window is nowhere in actuality, but is nonetheless real and can be interacted with. This example actually leads to the second aspect of the virtual that Deleuze insists upon: its generative nature. This virtual is a kind of potentiality that becomes fulfilled in the actual. It is still not material, but it is real.
Though your virtual past and future are elsewhere, within the game (or however you conceptualise it), they are actualised in the present. The prototypical case is a reflection in a mirror: it is already there, whether or not one can see it; it is not waiting for any kind of actualization. This definition allows one to understand that real effects may be issued from a virtual object, so that our perception of it and our whole relation to it, are fully real, even if it is not.
What’s weird is that virtual mirrors exist, you can view yourself in the virtual mirror, and see yourself trying on clothes without undoing a single button:
Technology is changing the ways in which we need to use our bodies. Lepecki touches on this also:
“Between pens and cigarettes, computers and cellular telephones, it seems that the number of objects controlling our gestures, our desires, and our movements is limited only by availability—particularly in “the extreme phase of capitalist development in which we live,” characterized by “a massive accumulation and proliferation of apparatuses.” In other words, as we produce objects, we produce apparatuses that diminish our own capacity to produce non-subjugated subjectivities.” Lepecki (86)
You can see how this notion is fulfilled in the extreme in the film Wall-E. Humans are immobilised, whisked around on comfy chairs, consuming all nutrients in a sippy cup. However fun that would be for a day or two, the idea is pretty scary. Wall-E was made before the iPad, yet all humans have an iPad-esque screen in front of their face, constantly video chatting their friends. Technology has subjugated the humans of Wall-E’s subjectivities, to use Lepecki’s words.
Generation Y’s relationship with technology is really interesting: technology has improved exponentially through our lives, we started with pixilated games like Pokemon on the Game Boy; Walkman’s, Tamagotchi’s, Wii’s, Xbox’s, Playstation’s, iPods / iPads, smart phones. Our smart phones have as many apps as storage will allow us, alongside hundreds of photos of important things like pigeons / clouds / lookalikes. Increasingly students in lectures type not write, order taxis / food on phones, and show tickets for travel / clubs on our phones.
Meltdown seems to provide a environment that develops a healthy relationship between technology and the body. I think generation Y needs more places like Meltdown. Gaming and technology can absorb the body so much that the actual body is immobilised. However, places like Meltdown provide balance and slight hope for generation Y’s bi-digital-body.