by Karyen Chai
“There’s a fine fine line, between reality and pretend.” ~Avenue Q
With the quickly improving techniques of the digital age, reality can be more closely mimicked. The most apparent concern is to distinguish between reality and its portrayal. On a more profound level, the concern lies not in the ability to distinguish between the two, but rather the acceptance of a manufactured imagery as the reality.
Concerning the ability to distinguish between reality and its portrayal, the question is whether there is a cause for alarm. Doubtless, people are against being trapped in a virtual reality by evil enterprises (although some are happily exploited by the enterprises that they outwardly condemned).However the overriding concern is the masses’ readiness to accept this manufactured culture. Examples of well-constructed reality-mimics, with complete sensory stimulation as presented in the visual and audio mimicry of movies and films, provide inspiration for other reality constructions. The border between imagination and reality becomes blurrier when other support of the construction, such as themed parks and costumes, become available. Disneyland runs the multibillion-dollar business based on this construct, extending business beyond movies and animation to themed parks, hotels, costumes, and other commodities.
Disney has a great infrastructure not only for children to live their fantasies. Some may argue that this is harmless, since this sparks imagination. And perhaps it really matters very little, since children use imaginative play to learn about the world.
However, if the fantasy continues into adulthood, there is a risk of dissociation from reality and societal rejection. Take for example the anime and manga culture in Japan, which result in fairs where people can dress up as their favorite character in any manga and/or anime. In a recent documentary filmed in Japan on this topic, the working class can be seen actively participating in this culture, adopting their favorite characters not only during huge fairs, but also every day after work. It appears that such behavior is exhibited out of an escapist intention, for these participants are able to transform into a different persona, one that they are unable to manifest otherwise, when they put on a costume.
Reality and manufactured space becomes a blur, because of a circular feedback between advancement in technology to more closely mimic reality, and the physical construction of the imagination. The non-distinction is further supported by people’s readiness to embrace it. Whether this is going to develop into a healthy culture or a discriminated behavior in the long run, only time will tell.