Perfect Mirrors

By on April 24, 2013 in Uncategorized
Mirror Neurons

Mirror Neurons

“Perfect Mirrors” are what Sherry Turkle calls video games in which the players achieve a sense of control, and of perfection if they work hard enough, because of the altered state the games put them in. “The game itself is perfect in its consistent response,” she says, which gives the players the chance to “see how long they can be perfect,” to be “uncompromising in his or her concentration on the game.”

This article was written in 1984, when players had to go to arcades. Nowadays, I assume they are on every mobile device, and available to infants, or at least to children who can push buttons with their thumbs. I am one of those mean mothers who did not buy video games for her children, so I have no first hand experience on how the culture might be changing via video games. Societal fears are different now than they were in my childhood. It is not only in Blacksburg that school lockdowns for loose gunmen are more common than tornado drills or air raid sirens. Can we draw a line between screen time exposure to desensitization and therefore to increased violence? And if we could, how could we preserve what is good about social media? As Tony puts so well, the message of social media is:

I matter!

and that matters to extroverts and introverts, social butterflies and geeks. And Alma’s post was so positive and healthy and I liked the references to running, swimming, and bouldering so much that I am reluctant to say that I disagree with Sherry Turkle about benefits of video gaming, if indeed that is what she is saying, but I don’t think any game or online experience can replace interactions with real live humans in an environment that must obey the laws of physics.

And what about mirror neurons? Humans have developed the ability to read each other over the last 100,000 years, and it may be this ability that has allowed us to store food, build shelter, and defend against or even dominate predators. Are we in danger of losing this ability? Or have we found a suitable substitute for our fellow humans who were lacking it?   Sherry Turkle’s gamers were able to immerse themselves in a world more satisfying than the real world because they could push themselves, test themselves, perhaps become a better version of themselves.  Do those of us who prefer to push ourselves by running, bouldering, asking a new person out for coffee have an obligation to support the people who prefer virtual reality?

I don’t know the answer to that, but I know I’d prefer to discuss it face to face in real time.


 One Response to “Perfect Mirrors”

  1. alrobins says:

    Kimberley, as soon as I saw the title of your post, I was thinking about mirror neurons too! What an interesting question…I love the idea of real life communication, but maybe these simulated realities can help those who struggle with conventional social interaction. Or maybe it just enables them to continue to avoid it…

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