Saturday, February 26, 2005

Restricting the New Communication

To open, a quote taken from one of the Appendices in the back of the Illuminatus! trilogy:

"Each step forward in the technology of communication is more heavily tabooed than the earlier steps. Thus, in America today (post-Lenny Bruce), one seldom hears convictions for spoken blasphemy or obscenity; prosecution of books still continues, but higher courts increasingly interpret the laws in a liberal fashion, and most writers feel fairly confident that they can publish virtually anything; movies are growing almost as desacralized as books, although the fight is still heated in this area; television, the newest medium, remains encased in neolithic taboo. [...] When a more efficient medium arrives, the taboos on television will decrease."

It seems to me this quote, though years and years old, holds true (at least for now). The whole realm of digital media is, in broad terms, still in its infancy. Things like instant messenging services, Massively Multiplayer Games, file-sharing, voice over ip, blogging -- all these and more are currently being debated by cultural critics, the news media and various proponents/opponents.

When the Internet was first gaining mass public exposure, there were predictions that it would be a massive revolutionary force. There were also predictions that it would signal the fall of society since it would be a haven for child pornographers, evil hackers and black market dealers. Neither of those predictions panned out, though there was a very small kernel of truth in them.

Now some people are saying the Internet is completely worthless, overinundated with advertisers and spam and control (they're right about that), and it's time to create a whole new one, a better one, a utopian one (I think they're misguided about that). And those wishing to censor the Internet feel that it needs more regulation and restriction of content; In other words, exactly what they wanted from books, movies and television.

I see video games as part of, um, what I'll call The New Digital Media. They are, in fact, communications, imparting ideas and tasks and behaviors and emotions. As a result of this, there is a lot of attention on exactly what sort of reactions they might be inducing or encouraging.

Because, let's be honest, any kind of communication can certainly suggest behaviors. But, and this is to all those killologist fuckheads, they do not cause behaviors. Until everyone can admit and realize this, we'll still see tons and tons of bickering and contentious debate and overblown news articles.

The self-regulation of the industry, to me, works. I understand the ESRB Ratings system. But some parents think it's not enough, even though it's essentially the exact same system that movies use. Yet another example that the younger form of communication becomes the whipping boy.

I think all forms of The New Digital Media should have this warning on them, in honor of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (can't wait for the upcoming film): Don't Panic. The New Digital Media is merely undergoing that difficult early period of all communications wherein they are viewed with hostility by many and accused of causing all sorts of dissent and bad mojo and subsequently should be considered by calm and rational minds only, when possible.

We are sorry for the inconvenience.

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