Augmentology" 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]

Entertainment is associated with the concepts of fiction and non-fiction. Fiction involves the projection of a willing suspension of disbelief with variables designed to further narrative progression. Indicators of traditional fiction include characterisation, foregrounding, plot and/or sub-plot[s]. Non-fiction is fiction’s logical counterpoint; chronology, history and “fact” play clear parts in non-fiction constructions. There are many variations on the standard fiction/non-fiction dichotomy.

Fiction and non-fiction classifications are designed to map to boundaries of known forms [think: cinema, literature, television and music]. They are so designed to provoke audience responses introspectively and externally. Current synthetic practices are refashioning this entertainment base via the perpetuation of types of unintentional and deliberately augmented recreation. These recreation types are reliant on immediacy of response, play, and Pranksterism. They employ Sandboxing, Gonzoism and spontaneous engagement. This type of entertainment is termed _Presencing_.

Presencing involves loose clusters of pursuits that evolve in, or are associated with, synthetic environments. Examples include the Streisand Effect, Supercutting, Flashmobbing, the Slashdot/Digg Effect, acts by the group Anonymous, Geohashing, Image macro generation and Internet meme threading. Less defined examples include: MMOG guild interactions [think: user generated games-within-games], Virtual World involvements, and Social Networking via application adoption and creation. These instances illustrate how Presencing pushes recreation beyond a fictionalised/non-fictionalised framework.

Presencing showcases accidental or reflexive entertainment elements where the fictional/non-fictional divide is erased; associated validity qualifiers are also removed and reconceptualised. Amateur production is equated with valued expression. Presencing also offers adaptive potential for augmented attempts at mediating geophysical constraints.

Version 1 of _Unpacking the _Synthaptic_ outlined the concept of Synthapticism and its formation in synthetic environments. Synthapticism rests on an underlying set of semantic structures. These structures allow for the development of credible synthetic relationships and vary according to platform specifics. Common semantic elements include a combination of the _lingual_ and _multivariate_.

In synthetic environments, social interaction occurs through multichannelled communication. Relevant language evolution is reliant on communication patterns generated through brevity and massed consistency. In Second Life, avatars mimic the physical action of writing on a keyboard when their geophysical selves type on screen. Second Life avies may use a combination of local or global text chat or messaging. SL avies can also communicate via voice. Many MMOGs use similar text-based communication with VOIP allowing for layered engagement. Mobile technologies, social games and ARG items all encourage text abbreviation resulting in dense stylistics. These lingual variables help define the mechanics of synthaptic transmission.

Another component of semantic synthapticism is a multivariate method of data absorption. Synthetics navigate and produce constant streams of data. This data may be funnelled through specific software types [eg PMOG] or via self-selected parameters [think: RRS feeds or Friendfeed]. This filtering acts to flatten primary data in terms of acceptable methods of verifiability. Synthetics assign priority to this data through shared attentional chunking. This chunking is multivariate; filtered data transforms and embeds into a socially-elastic comprehension system.

One way of assigning comprehension in this synthaptic data refinement is deliberate _content pinpointing_. In printcentric models, this extraction would parallel the linear construction of meaning via narrative or expositional means. One hazard of the accumulative nature of this process is _rechannelled bottlenecking_. The process of multivariate data absorption creates serial flagging of emergent concepts [ie tipping-points]. These concepts create information bottlenecks via repeated flaggings. Entities may target-mine these areas in line with capitalistic reappropriation. Current examples of this phenomenon are Corporate “Social Media Experts” who mask their synthetic participation so as to claim individuated authorship of such aggregated concepts. Should limits be placed on such reappropriation attempts?

Biological science defines _synapses_ as neural units that primarily operate as a juncture between neurons. Synapses are viewed as conductors that are essential in determining functions in the central nervous system. Synaptic connections provide for transmission and production of information crucial to the survival of the relevant organism. Each synaptic connection operates via surges in a system dependent on constant electrochemical streaming. In Synthetic environments, a similar fluid process of content absorption and production, social data surging and information engagement is termed _Synthapticism_.

Synaptic performance is specific to a biological organism; in contrast, synthaptic functioning is specific to synthetic spaces and the entities that inhabit them. Synthetics engage synthaptically through a networked equivalent of geospatial orientation, biochemical triggering and geophysical body language. These equivalences are dependent on the platform[s] involved and levels of operational focus generated. This focus is represented by a concentrated mass of aggregational attention. An illustration of how this focused/concentrated attention manifests is the phenomena of _Crowdsourcing_. Crowdsourcers produce clusters of user-mediated data through surges of concentrated attention. MMOGs also utilize aggregational-generated information through the construction of guilds or collectives.

Synthetics display attentional surges appropriate to synthaptic shiftings. Synthetic environments operate in accordance with this surge potentiality, with users adopting platforms that offer a contemporary catering for the relevant surge. For instance, early adopters flock towards software that allows for adequate community transference. Synthapticism is evident in the transference of attention from one synthetic platform to another via this surging. Contemporary examples of such shifts are MMOGers uptake of the newly released _Age of Conan_ whilst abandoning their current game platforms, or Twitter users migrating to consistently usable micro-blogging software.

Synthapticism produces unprecedented connections between synthetic participants. Adjunctive relationships are constructed via Identity interfacing and cushioned by support networks with a comparable emotional weighting to those found in traditional sociocentric structures [acquaintance>friendship>family>community]. Synthaptic communication may appear as fractured or trivial to those not connected synthaptically. One important component of the establishment of these synthaptically-defined relationships is the formation of appropriate semantic structuring. This will be discussed in _Unpacking the _Synthaptic_: Version 1.1_.

In Social Psychology the concept of _Identity_ formation stresses how a subject is demarcated as an individual. Common Identity definers include geophysical locators via street, city, country and biological factors such as age, weight, and height. Consciousness contributes to Identity formation via assessments of an individual’s personality traits and corresponding _ego development_.

Identity formation is deemed beneficial via the mechanics of statistical marking and the achievable entrenching of a subject into a surrounding social milieu. Medical and psychopathological models frame the concept through a health dichotomy that positions dysfunctional identity as potentially Dissociative. This type of fragmented dissociation from a subject’s internalised concept of self is viewed as undesirable. Alternatively in synthetic environments a type of projected or distributed Identity is considered acceptable _and_ beneficial.

Most synthetic creches – whether they be gamer-pitched, environmental or social networking in orientation – form identities that emulate the ecological or topological. Instead of relying on preformed psychological or sociological architectures, MMOEs and virtual environments encourage deliberately fluctuating Identity construction. These identities, established through the use of avatars or profile creation, alter according to the foibles of specific platforms and interfaces [think: Seesmic, Facebook, Meez, ExitReality, or Vivaty]. A subject may have a multitude of profiles created across a wide distribution base. Each profile may consist of the creation of two-dimensional or three-dimensional projections such as multiple character creation in WoW. Individuals may also utilise programs that allow for cross-navigation of such profiles according to usage patterns. These staggered profiles create a type of _Socialphrenic_ functioning that eclipses solo-persona extensions. For example, a Facebook user may create a profile that constructs a user’s identity according to variables such as their name, age, education, employment and interests. However, a user is not restricted in terms of manipulating these answers to evoke an identity structure vastly removed from their primary geophysical housing. An illustration of this is a current ARG narrative strand that situates itself in two active “false” user profiles on _Twitter_ and _Facebook_. The fictionalised Identity associated with each profile encourages other traditional identity-defined users to interact and engage with it. Some of those users defined as reflecting a _true_ identity may be unaware of the fictionalised profiling involved.

Other identity intonations can be creatively interpreted via the employment of Gravatars or Profile picture selections. This selective presentation of visual Identity stamps are mirrored in channel adoptions appropriate to specific Synthaptic identities. Connected users display the slipperiness of identity markers when engaged within a synthetic environment; users may reference a fellow Synthetic by their character/avatar name even when interacting in phenomenologically-defined reality.

According to traditional psychological theory, these type of identity ecologies would represent a subtle splintering of a primary identity akin to Schizophrenia. In synthetic realities, they represent a user’s ability for comprehensive immersion and allow for seamless and aggregational engagement. There is room for an overlap of these constructions including the potentiality to learn extensively from these synthetic Identity formulations.

Alternate Reality Games [ARGs] are forms of entertainment that derive their structure from a mix of fictionalised world framing and real-world narrative components. Players create a required suspension of disbelief when connected to an ARGian world construct. This construct operates “…via interconnected narrative threads/cues beyond exclusive parent forms or individualised game parameters. ARGs make players step outside the restrictions of mono-genre game boundaries and narrative-seek through the use of webtrawling, email, phone/sms contact, real-time interactions and extensive online engagement to glean cues + puzzle pieces. These games work within a collusive reaction principle; that arousal, curiosity and search-behaviour will result if info-schooled gamers are offered teasing data as narrative tip offs.”.

ARGs display commonalities with Viral Marketing and Viral Media campaigns. All three forms have structural similarities that attempt to promote meaning formation. ARGs use a Gestalt system pieced together through pervasive content. Successful ARG navigation requires the employment of Active Narrative Gathering [ANG]. ANG involves genre amalgamation, prosumerism, and attentional layering. The Social Networking software _Twitter_ is a contemporary example of one variation of prosumerism in action. Twitterers micro-blog via text snippets [tweets] of 140 characters in length. Users can respond in the public communication stream/timeline, direct message others, or restrict their tweets from general view.

Twitter users create and absorb in concentrated attentional narratives. These tweetstreams blend observations and user-regurgitated facts. Content occurs with attentional “tasting” as users choose to collaboratively incorporate snippets into their streams. Alternatively, they can express introspective or otherwise nuanced updates without accounting for replies or additional user interactions. These integrative comprehension streams represent Synthaptic units – a synthetic network measurement that gauges attentional consciousness.

Prosumerism, like successful ARG navigation, is not passive but active in intent. Synthetics embody the attentional as an extension of a fiction/non-fiction meltdown within streams of ego-consciousness. Should notions of pop culture be replaced by a corresponding attentional conception of entertainment?