Thursday, 10 December 2009

751 - Quote From 'Spent' Supportive Of Storying

Spent by Geoffrey Miller is providing me with some valuable insight into the evolutionary psychology behind pop culture and consumerism. The quote that follows sums up, in a flourish, our long history of role-playing: where, evolutionarily, it comes from, and where, technologically, it may be going.

This is just the kind of scientific perspective my arguments about the art of storying need to build on if they are to amount to anything, so it is encouraging to catch in Miller's writing such joie de vivre, such engagement with the imagination. The paragraph follows a discussion of avatars in the role-playing game World of Warcraft:

Most animals have very little behavioral control over their physical appearance. They can groom themselves to keep feathers or fur clean, but they cannot select a different species, sex, age, shape, color, or body texture. Ever since humans invented body ornamentation at least a hundred thousand years ago, however, we have been able to transform our bodies in ever more dramatic ways. Tribal peoples wear animal masks; British civil servants cross-dress; children play dress-up; the Florida elderly don toddler-bright colors. As people do more of their socializing through virtual-reality worlds such as World of Warcraft and Second Life, their visual appearance is becoming less constrained by their true physical characteristics, and more constrained by their psychological traits, such as aesthetic preferences and idealized self-images. Virtual-reality users will soon be able to create avatars that resemble a mini-Mao, a Botox syringe, a mantis-legged cantaloupe, a pearl necklace, Nigella Lawson, or the evil Archimandrite Luseferous from the Iain M. Banks novel The Algebraist. Such customized avatars will reveal nothing about the physical appearance of the users, but a lot about their psychology. They will demonstrate more forcefully than ever before that consumerism is not about owning material objects, but about displaying [the "Central Six" individual differences that distinguish human minds from one another]. [pp. 142-3]

I particularly note the mixing of fact and fiction, literary allusions, and reference to idealized self-images. The Storying argument is that the opportunities laid before us in virtual-reality function because they are already radically present in true-reality. Storying is about winkling out and expanding these opportunities in first as well as second life. It is music played on the strings Geoffrey Miller and others have analyzed.

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