Hamlet on the Holodeck – 1st Reading

September 17, 2006

 Janet Murray’s first chapters of Hamlet on the Holodeck provide an interesting if sometimes disquieting glimpse into the potential of cyberspace.  The readings are interesting because she enthusiastically describes the educational potential to reach more resources in the blink of an eye.  She paints a picture of the computer as a portal (window?) or passage into information space.  Her descriptions of the four categories of digital environments (procedural, participatory, spatial, and encyclopedic) are clear and concise.

The rest of the material is disquieting and maybe even a little irritating because of the inordinate focus on games and other escapist entertainment.  The talent and technology behind the generations of games she describes in so much detail seem wasted doing the heavy mental work that game players should be doing themselves if they want to really expand their minds.  In the digital game environment there isn’t any need for imagination – the game takes the players to exotic locations, endows them with super powers, allows them to kill and be killed without consequences, and transcends time as well.  If the player is happy with their game environment but isn’t satisfied with their own appearance, shape, gender, race or age, there’s no need to lose weight, change your personality or undergo costly surgery – the digital environment handles all of this by allowing the players to invent and re-invent themselves.  The restrictions and realities of the real world don’t matter in cyber play-space.  The only problem is what happens when the power goes off.

Murray states in her description of the encyclopedic nature of digital environments that “…stories can twine around and through the nonfictional documents of real life and make the borders of the fictional universe seem limitless. (p87).  The borders of the fictional universe have always been limitless, even before the portals to cyberspace were opened.  The fictional universe just took more imagination to explore then.

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