Augmentology"...is a concise manual of reality for our digital age."

Mark Hancock,_Augmentology: Interfaccia Tra Due Mondi_

[Sponsored by The Ars Virtua Foundation/CADRE Laboratory for New Media]

_In real life_ [irl] is a phrase employed in a wide range of networked interactions and used notably in early phases of internet communication [eg IRC, ICQ and Y-talk]. _Irl_ is used as a label to demarcate a subject’s presence on-and-offline. In this dichotomy, definitions of reality are binary with a clear schism evident between the geophysical and synthetic. The title of _Second Life_ is an example of this divide via the implication of a necessary “First Life” [phenomenological reality]. _Irl_ is often relayed with negatively-inflected emotionality towards those who display a perceived preference for online/synthetic immersion.

In contrast, the term afk [_away from keyboard_] indicates an inclusiveness regarding geophysical and synthetic states. Whereas irl evokes hierarchical connotations in relation to reality definitions, afk indicates a fluctuating, fluid involvement. Afk illustrates a fuzzy presencing that eclipses easy polarisations; a subject’s physical body is removed from the synthetic environment whereas their synth/avatar is still actualised in-world:

“Away from keyboard means a user is not at their computer. There is a command, /afk, which marks the user as AFK. The name of the character will show up as <AFK>Name, and an auto-response will be sent to anyone who sends the flagged user a tell…

Example:

Person A says: /afk eating food

Person B says: /w A Hello.

Person B receives: A is Away from Keyboard: eating food”.

The afk concept demonstrates the murkiness of establishing reality gradations when considering synthetic environments. Paul Milgram suggested the Reality-Virtuality Continuum as a type of linear reality scale where at one end lies Geophysical Reality ["The Real Environment"] and the opposite end houses the Virtual. In-between lies an area defined as Mixed Reality: a mixture of augmented virtuality and the corporeal.

This Reality-Virtuality Continuum as such offers a vectored compartmentalisation of reality within scientific confines. An elastic, contemporized version of this Continuum might read:

[Geophysical]<—-—[Cartesian]–-—–[Mixed]–-—–>[Synthetic]

…with each mode spawning distinct “swarmic variables” or “notional massing”. Conditional examples of such masses/variables are:

[Synthetic] = Avatar Fluctuations / Non-Player Character Annexing / Auxiliary Proprieception / Networked Socialisation

[Mixed] = Layered Attention / Identity Extensions / Augmented States of Consciousness / Multiple Theories-of-Mind[s]

[Cartesian] = Euclidian / Non-Euclidian / Human Area Networks / Dimensional Consciousness

[Geophysical] = Primary Consciousness / Ego-Mediation / Geospecificity / Geolocation

These masses could parallel volume [in the audio sense] in terms of measurement and production of reality clusters that map and mix composite modes simultaneously. For instance, the phenomena of Geocaching or mobile gaming such as _Parallel Kingdom_ which: “brings new meaning to Role Playing Games by using GPS to place the virtual world on top of the real world“.

In relation to the creation of such a _Reality Spectrum_, one intriguing by-product could be a redefinition of established principles regarding conceptions of consciousness, perception, identity construction and associated mental health conditions related to “normalcy”. If reality isn’t what we once thought it was, perhaps the inclusion of an Internet Addiction Disorder in the DSMV should not be a desired aim. Instead, should there be a proposal to include a range of disorders that diagnose the inability of a subject to adapt to reality contouring? For instance, a type of _Geospecificity Complex_ that highlights a dysfunction perceiving modalities that exist apart from concrete geophysical markers?

Addiction [as defined psychologically] is diagnosed when displays of compulsive behaviours are observed in any given subject. These dependencies are widely perceived as detrimental. It is assumed that a deregulation of a person’s operational actions occurs when they are classified as dependent and manifesting traits that indicate an Addictive Personality Disorder. Addictive tendencies are viewed as maladaptive and indicate a subject’s inability to balance the majority of their everyday activities along a socioscientific axis. Is Addiction an inappropriate psychological construct to apply to the majority of Synthetics [individuals participating in synthetic environments] and their networked interactions?

Media channels have a tendency to label sustained engagement within synthetic environments in terms of this dependency paradigm. These reports also act to _monsterise_ Synthetics and their online participation via a condemnation of activity that results in parallel behavioural markers of Addiction. This type of _Gamer Danger_ response occurs when extreme cases of MMOE participation – and any negative consequences – are generalised as representational. These cases are often referred to as potential examples of prescriptive, as opposed to skewed, behaviour. This attempt to cast extreme synthetic interaction as the norm *encourages* the creation of fear-based assessments rather than alternative examinations.

A recent study conducted by Dr. John Charlton [University of Bolton, England] and Ian Danforth [Whitman College, Washington] allegedly concluded a correlation between MMORPG addiction and Asperger’s Syndrome. On further querying, it was found that the study *suggested* that MMO games may be addictive for gamers displaying high Aspergian traits. This fear-filtered media coverage may be driven by a need to confirm the importance of the biological-dictated, Darwin-centric “1st Life” as concretely preferential in an evolutionary sense. That is, that flesh-based/ego-mediated phenomenology is given preference over synthetic states in order to maintain acceptable definitions of _Reality_. These definitions are further ratified via media focus on this type of adverse addictive potentiality, rather than any positive characteristics enhanced by engagement within synthetic environs.