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 2008, several articles here at Augmentology examined the concepts of Synthetic Presencing and Synthapticism. Both concepts are part of a theoretical framework that attempts to explain developing cultural > augmentological patterns. Presencing embodies a rethink of conventional entertainment modes:

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 EffectGeohashing, Image macro generation and Internet meme threading…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.

The complementary concept of Synthapticism involves:

…Crowdsourcers [who] produce clusters of user-mediated data through surges of concentrated attention… 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…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 contemporary example of a Presencing/Synthaptic Campaign centres on a PR-created character called “The Old Spice Guy” or @OldSpice. This campaign, which makes extended use of social media > network dynamics, initialized with a Synthaptic threading system directly developed from conventional advertising:

Anything is possible when you smell like an Old Spice man and our hero, Isaiah Mustafa, is back to illustrate just a few of the amazing things that an Old Spice man can do. The latest effort is a fully integrated campaign with TV, print and digital executions, targeted at both men and women.

On July 13th 2010 [USA Portland time] the Old Spice brand extended this “personalised” social presence/character via synthetically dependent platforms including Youtube, Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook. “The Old Spice Guy” character urged cross-platform users to AMA [a popular internet thread on several boards which means "Ask Me Anything"]. The humorous > quirky responses included almost instantaneous @OldSpice micro-video answers to selected users, including meta-referencing by Isaiah Mustafa:

One response that encapsulates the Synthaptic aspects of this campaign began with the user @Jsbeals asking @OldSpice to make a marriage proposal on his behalf:

@Jsbeals later tweeted that his girlfriend had accepted the proposal:

@Jsbeals: @OldSpice SHE SAID YES!!!! #OldSpice @Jsbeals

….and who then changed his Twitter Biography to:

The Old Spice proposal was real. Thank you Old Spice for helping me with this.

A second response set resulted in the sending of roses [referenced in a micro-video response] to Alyssa Milano. A third instance that highlights the episodic > cross-platform > Synthetic Presencing aspect is summed up by Twitter user @rob_sheridan:

Presencing In Action: @OldSpice + Reddit Contributors

Each episodic response illustrates the flattening of traditional entertainment factors [think: @OldSpice responding to "everyday" users as well as more established Hollywood/Internet celebrities]. The campaign realigns passive entertainment construction and distanced absorption via real-time Immediation and Regenerative Comprehension. The Old Spice Guy Synthaptic threading is currently ongoing with replies continually being posted via Youtube.

_Convergence of the Real and the Virtual_: The First Scientific Conference in World of Warcraft was held over the weekend of May 9th to May 11th 2008. It was an attempt to host a definitive synthetic gathering of scientific practitioners through the use of WoW’s Guild system. The conference involved three separate conference sessions and expeditions [or in-world adventuring scenarios]. Each session consisted of a selected team of “panelists” responding to moderated questions via the guildchat interface. The expeditions were an attempt by the organisers to appropriately adapt a traditional conference model to an online format. Other real-world conventions were replicated completely, including a hierarchical separation of Professionals vs the Audience. Text was the only channel utilized publicly; VOIP was solely employed by the moderators as a monitoring tool and was not infrastructurally incorporated to allow audience participation.

The Second Session of the Conference explored the interplay of relationships in synthetic environments and the geophysical world with specific referencing to World of Warcraft. The chatlog listed below is a _textshot_ segment of the session. This _textshot_ incorporates several text streams that were generated at the event, including emotes, whispers, trade chat, general chat, and guild chat.

5/11 02:31:48.796 [Guild] Southerncal: THIS IS MY WAY OF GETTING THINGS STARTED. Hi, all. I’m Dmitri Williams at USC and I’m chairing this session. Please do not type in /g while this is going.
5/11 02:32:18.171 [2. Trade] Oldirtyblu: wts Heavy Clefthoof Leggings 115g
5/11 02:32:21.390 Ronaan’s pet begins eating a Chunk of Boar Meat.
5/11 02:32:21.890 Gontrus dwddd
5/11 02:32:24.296 Hycintha has joined the guild.
5/11 02:32:24.296 Forthewin tells Tiral NO. Not going to happen.
5/11 02:32:27.687 Gonzorina’s pet begins eating a Stormwind Brie.
5/11 02:32:29.593 Noralore’s Lionel is dismissed.
5/11 02:32:29.593 [Guild] Southerncal: We have 4 excellent panelists here today, and I’m eager to get started
5/11 02:32:29.593 [2. Trade] Asmodius: Enchant Boots – Fortitude 19G my mats….
5/11 02:32:29.593 [Raid Leader] Lightsydor: a few of us have joined “/join sciencechat” for a place to chat outside of guild chat during the conference….
5/11 02:32:30.109 Yasura goes “Shhh”
5/11 02:32:30.125 [2. Trade] Asmodius: Enchant Chest – Major Resilience 39G my mats… Nice PVP Enchant………..
5/11 02:32:33.296 [Guild] Southerncal: So:

<continued here>.

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.