Jul 20, 2016

Pokemon Go, as an Approach to Tourism and Politics in Albania | In search of missing pieces

Granted I don't play, but the more I read and learn about PokemonGo the more I find it curiously similar to many state-centric campaigns in Albania, especially when it comes to tourism and politics - how these campaigns are run, consequently won and ultimately deemed successful. Actually, the same can be said of any other major decision-making (reforms and rulings) event that has to do with a public audience/participant, place, and resources. 

It is curious indeed that they all propose an 'alternat(e/ive)' reality while leaving the existing one in a much worse condition that they found it. To most skeptics, this is a temporary perverse fantasy, but we've come to find out it isn't going anywhere. To the players and enthusiasts, it is a game of obsession, an addiction that has willingly made them both victim and perpetrator. To the enablers on the other hand, it is a global toolbox, a mass-marketing automation that marks progress, even though not necessarily equality or justice. In short, a brave new world, an augmented reality that promises to infuse the actual with the virtual, the real and the unreal, in a life and mind-blowing existence of continuous interaction. A holistic presence that vows to enhance the quality of life as we know it. A campaign built on trust or better yet stolen trust - whatever is promised in the ether, will be materialized in the physical realm. A public augmented to publicity. Hear, hear, for a better, fuller and happier life - lived.

Unfortunately, as we continue to bear witness to what is happening every single day, we have become quicker to react to (and forget) moments that shock - a chaotic recurrence of senseless acts, speeches and allegiances that buildup and blowup tirelessly on both social media feeds and our urban streets. What are the human ramifications of such augmentation then? They're not only seen anymore, they're felt. The world has become simultaneously better connected while its privacy better invaded. We are fuller of dis, mis, in and form-ation. Fuller of expression and hate. Fuller of all sorts of freedoms. Fuller of diversity and division. Fuller of blatant knowledge and harassing ignorance. Fuller of (market) makers, breakers, and shakers. Fuller of things to do and time wasted. How much happier though? Well, the promise of the fantastic (of the fantastically fabricated) - that better reality - is cashing in, to the fullest. It is colonizing the real world (if it hasn't already). It has made it a commodity. To live has become a commodity. 

The public has become (imho, not even properly) incentivized to catch imaginary monsters, landmarks and natural sites, thus having willingly and quite excitedly relinquish their physical awareness of actually identifying and hunting the real-life monsters. Since this is a thing now, as evasive as it is pervasive (even if not entirely and not always, but still way too often) then we're way off base calling it an 'augmented' anything, on the contrary, it is a redacted something, our reality made invisible or hypervisible (always blurred) for reasons above our ask grade - only to reappear virtually, changed, reconfigured, for the same classified reasons. If until recently we considered the image to represent or interpret the actual thing, now we're in it, experiencing it in real-time. I don't know if experiencing it virtually/digitally is better or worse, or even similar to imagining or dreaming it, but soon we'll feel nostalgic about those dream-ful/less nights when we were glad to wake up and find out that whatever we weren't able to remember anymore didn't actually happen and our bodies were in a a still position, asleep in bed or on the couch in front of the TV - distanced from an unconsciousness we could hid well, escape from and that we couldn't completely understand. This distance between the real and the unreal, at least physically speaking, made us aware of our bearings, alert of how far to reach and how close to guard our presence. Scale and sensibility. What once was a reality imagined, it has now metamorphosed into an image realized.
(videodrome, cronenberg) via GIPHY

Re-cognition patterns of understanding, behavior, language, meaning, memory and belonging are being re-shuffled, re-prioritized, re-valued - colonized and commodified. We are now swallowed in by the screen, voluntarily no less. Instead of using technology to augment our presence, awareness and sense of place - we've rendered our-selves as avatars, in pixels instead of cells, a specter of dematerialization and rematerialization between place and interface, presence and metadata, this and that. Bodies in space feel isolated, excluded the more they are connected - unable to interact seamlessly and prone to accidents, our deduction abilities stalling, cryptic, wasted. The promised 'enhancement' is being felt in the incompatibilities of the two realities, and not in their collaboration. We've got a long way to go. We are being exploited, voluntarily. 

The fear of not measuring up to real-life humanity, the banality of (what we actually dread just as much) the everyday life, has made this game, these campaigns and all their cohorts (including media) result to an 'alternat(e/ive)' reality, that is not just an image or propaganda, but a lived slogan. A promise is a promise is a promise is a promise is a ... lie is a life. It hasn't quite augmented the goods, only the bads. It has only enhanced the real by providing a brief escape into the virtual, only to bring us right back to the terrors, trials, and trivial gravity of this world. 

The question then, is not just what are the physical ramifications of such an alternate everyday, but how do we deal with them? What are the consequences of designing everything without taking into account the human factor: spatial behavior and mental state, cognition and hormones, and everything else that overly-designed environments tend to kill?

So, when you decide to play Pokemon, like or react to a campaign image or video on social media, think about these things. What we ought to believe and what we do indeed believe in are constellations apart. Yes, the truth is out there, but so are the stars and so is the abyss. Plenty of room to get lost. Again, scale and sensibility. 

Lastly, I'd like to leave you and end these scattered thoughts with this quote from The Shining: "Sometimes human places, create inhuman monsters." Plenty to think about.


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