Will the real body please stand up?

Stone's powerful article on the out of body effects of cyberspace seemed to attack one of the extremes of cyberspace while ignoring a far more interesting human characteristic that can simply be attributed to being human. Stone argues that people are envious of cyberspace and the unlimited creativity it involves. She points out that "reality hackers experience a sense of longing for an embodied conceptual space like that which cyberspace suggests." (193) She continues to describe "cyborg envy", how the adolescent male part (regardless of the sex of the actual user) gets addicted to the freedom and "puts on" cyberspace. The only real limitation that Stone puts on the out of body experience is her example of the cyberpunk with AIDS (196). She makes a point of saying that the cyber experience is grounded in reality because "Even in the age of the technosocial subject, life is lived through bodies." (196) While I don't necessarily disagree with her point on one level, I do feel that it represents only part of the cyber experience. It is indeed true that the phenomenon called cyborg envy does exist as Stone describes it, it only represents part of the reality of cyberspace as it is.

An example that comes to mind is World of Warcraft. There are indeed some users who fit into Stone's example extremely well. The stereotype of the nerdy male WoW player using a hyper masculine character and role playing shows only part of that example. However, the other side of the WoW example is the player who chooses the hypo masculine character (dwarf or other small character) and does not take role playing seriously at all. In this case, the character does not embody the user's desires of themselves in cyberspace, nor their representation. In this case the best explanation is simply entertainment. People who play a number of games or use interactive social networking mediums (not social networking sites but places like Second Life) are often in search of entertainment or even profit. The example we discussed in class regarding the user on Second Life who stole whatever amount of material using a bank proves that Stone's limitation can be applied to some, but not all users.

This brings me to another limitation of Stone's assertions: the realm of imagination. Stone argues that cyborg envy is unique as a media idea. However, in my opinion, cyborg envy is simply an extension of the basic human envy that is coupled with our natural imagination. People experience escapist fantasies using all mediums of communication, and such fantasies, to varying degrees, is part of our very existence as human beings. As children, we are told stories of heroism, values and ethics. We are taught to be like our heroes, real and fake, so that we may mature, learn and have ambitions. When we do this, we are imagining ourselves as similar to our heroes, and by extension, as our heroes. This can be achieved through books, verbal story telling and even first hand experience. Take, for example, a small child who dreams of being a firefighter after being read a book by his or her parent. The child imagines themselves driving the fire truck, saving the day and living happily ever after. Even as adults our ambitions and expectations are driven by media all around us.
I imagine that after my education is finished that I will become a lawyer or diplomat. My imagination runs wild with how wonderful it will all be. I imagine the smoothness that Stone talks about as seductive in the cyberspace world. In the cyberspace world, I can be a diplomat or lawyer, using, say Second Life. My imagination can pare up with the seductiveness of cyberspace. But in this case I already created the realm in my head. Second Life only gave me a screen and more complications to go with my imagined life. Cyborg envy to me seems only an envy to have more interaction with the creations of our mind. Yes, this in itself is seductive, but the seductiveness is not from the smoothness that Stone presents. It is from having a place to express the smoothness we find in our imagination. When I imagine my future career I do not imagine the troubles of paying bills, performance reports, missed job opportunities or any of the bumps that always come up in any master plan. I imagine doing something amazing, changing the world and being celebrated, all the while having the perfect life. Cyberspace is a place where my imagination can run wild because I can create a world like that and make it appear in front of me. If I play Second Life and I do become a diplomat with a beach house and ten exotic cars, I have achieved nothing, because like Stone says, we are ultimately grounded in reality. However, I may be satisfied that I have a clearer image of what my imagination looks like.

I think that no one really imagines a truly rocky path for them to travel in life. People do not fantasize about being second. The seductiveness of smoothness is simply part of being human. Cyberspace is a virtual playground not because it creates smoothness as a new experience, but because it allows us to see the smoothness created by our imaginations in front of us on a screen.
While I do have my arguments with Stone, I think her article is an excellent read. My final thoughts, however, must go to the Matrix. The world of the Matrix is intentionally imperfect because the past Matrixes that were perfect (read smooth) caused a massive number of the humans to reject the programming. While we may long for smoothness, we are still grounded in reality.