On friendship and technology; or, FRIEND COMPUTER!

I’ve been reading Nunberg’s edited volume, The Future of the Book, for class, and so have been wading through a fair bit of anti-techno-utopian rhetoric. Normally, that’s cool, because I’m no techno-utopian. But the way in which I am not techno-utopian is that I recognize the continuities and remediations (thanks, Bolter and Grusin) in new media forms. So I don’t like the rhetoric that relies on assuming that new media fundamentally alter the ways that we connect to one another.

So, that said. I appreciate when people put effort into exploring how people will be people through a variety of media forms. And recently, Maureen O’Connor, writing for NYMag’s The Cut blog, penned a great post about friendship in the digital age and group texting and dress rehearsing nudes.

I have to admit, I think The Cut does a consistently thorough and thoughtful treatment of elements of modern culture from the perspective of style and fashion. But this post in particular came at a good time for my mental universe, just as I was grappling with a rhetoric of rupture and social revolution. It’s about how a group of childhood (maybe young adulthood is better?) friends came together through texting. It’s about how two friends share their insecurities by texting pictures to one another. And it’s nothing utopian or too idealistic, but it shows how people manage to keep a sense of social interaction because that’s the point of all this.

My personal experiences certainly bear this argument out. I keep up with my best friend from college through a daily barrage (I mean this in the best way possible) of texts and gchats. Hell, I started my tumblr because I wanted to continue the casual ritual we had of sharing our outfits before going about our respective days (we had basically a suite situation with two separate rooms and a connecting bathroom). I know other people look at it now, occasionally, and I doubt she does so regularly, but she is still my audience for those posts. (Hi!)

I’ve had a blog of some sort or another since 2003. For me, writing on blogs is always a quasi-meditative task, with a nameless, faceless audience. I take pleasure in this distance, sometimes. I know that part of my process is just writing things out, and if people happen to comment and leave their thoughts on my writings, then I can incorporate those and be an even better writer. But this is different from friendship. Friendship requires a sense of reciprocity, or at least of mutual recognition. (Feel free to substitute any kind of positive human relationship for “friendship” there.) The faceless nonexistent audience that I imagine when writing a blog post, the echo chamber of my own metaphorical shower stall, that is emphatically not the kind of engagement that O’Connor is describing. And that’s kind of a great thing. All kinds of engagement are possible, we just have to make it so. Not our technologies, ourselves.

In closing, O’Connor offers an insightful (and hilarious) meditation on the freedoms of a child-like perspective:

Some may find the constant chatter and creep toward co-dependence childish — but the art of friendship has always been one that children perform more naturally than adults. (Other things children do better than adults: imagination, texting, wonderment, recovering from the shame of shitting in your pants.)

Maybe allowing ourselves to explore—new technologies, new forms, new social networks—brings us closer to that wonderment that makes magic happen.

Also, the “Friend computer” is a reference to Paranoia, a hilariously enjoyable role-playing game.


Connecting through porn, or just creeping?

Preface: since this is about porn games, any links should be assumed to be NSFW. The games linked also include a huge variety of fetishes, so. If there’s anything you know you don’t like, it’s honestly probably best to avoid the games. Besides like, hardcore gore, it’s mostly “anything goes.”

So I’m sitting here at my computer, and I get up to brush my teeth and as I’m getting up I pass my boyfriend at his computer. I ask what he’s up to, and he responds, “it’s in alpha,” and points to his screen where I can see a rudimentary interface and porny text.

It’s a text-based porn game, like Corruption of Champions (at the time of writing this post I don’t know the title of this particular one, or have a link to it; a day later, here’s a link to LEWD. As the boyfriend said, it’s in alpha, and moreover, I haven’t tried it. No guarantees. I have no idea about the content although I’ll assume there’s some transformation fetish going on).

As I was brushing my teeth, I got to thinking about how porn games work to realize this fantasy of sexual prowess and how it’s all about making your fantasy happen within the confines of the game world. I’ll be honest here, I think porn games have figured out a long time before mainstream games that your embodiment in an avatar is crucial to the experience (especially to the experience of virtual sexual pleasure) and that giving players the ability to customize *everything under the sun* is a huge part of this embodiment. But I digress.

So there’s this fantasy of being the one that is attractive to everyone in this world who you are attracted to. It’s been written about with respect to Dragon Age; that everyone in the game is Warden- or Hawke-sexual more than they are any other sexuality, and that real people’s sexual appetites are more subtle than that. But this is the guiding principle behind porn games. (It’s actually more nuanced than that because many of them, especially the text-based ones I’m thinking of, will have character preferences encoded into the NPCs. But I digress again.)

I was thinking, and this is where it gets weird: this is the same fantasy that real-life prostitution materializes. The idea that this person is here, completely sexually interested in you, and only you…for as long as you have scheduled together. And real-life prostitution has time limits and more importantly, you can’t barge in on a session if someone else is in the middle of their own private fantasy.

What if we take this and apply it to a multiplayer online porn game? The multiplayer aspect being completely invisible, except when you try to do a scene that someone else is in the middle of doing. Say you decide you want to try to fuck the bartender with the robotic horse dick (yeah that’s a real example), and you’re turned away because, hold up, he’s fucking someone else right now. I don’t think I’d go so far as to have the players contact one another in the game or see one another or anything, but just being aware of the presence of other real people engaging in their own sexual fantasies in the same imaginative landscape that you’re using for your own. I wonder what that would do to people.

ETA: There are a couple links I can’t not add…

Also I should also state explicitly here: I am not against sexuality. I really hope that didn’t actually need to be said.