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CHARACTERS IN THE INTERFACE:
In dark moments, I sense a curious and rather insidious amorality as regards the future of personification in the virtual domain. To counter that, we must do with digital characters what my daughter did with her Barbies, when she chopped off her hair and tattooed her - namely instill them deeply with our own spirit. The intent of true characters is to guide us through a process of self-discovery, a process more commonly called "Storytelling". It is not an obvious process, in that its underlying purposes can only be revealed over time. This process, which we have been engaged in from early infancy, asks us to inhabit the simulacrum of the character and to perhaps subsequently modify our own real-life actions based on experiences garnered inside that character-centered simulation. If we are to preserve the integrity of this process in the digital and electronically networked crossover, we cannot do less than exercise full awareness and responsibility over our characters.
There is a significant social dilemma involved here that seems to me to necessitate our asking some direct questions. Who puts these characters there? What is the intent behind their appearance? What is the nature of the transformation that they ask us to undergo? Is it to relieve us of certain repetitive tasks? Fine. Is it to make certain computational processes more intuitive? Fair enough. How does it do that? By limiting the field of my responses? I question that. By reducing complexity to a few easily programmable choices? No, I don't think I want to do that. By giving me a mirror in which I have a hand in trying out new and previously untested options. I'll give that a try. I'll see how that feels. I'll take a step in that direction. My point is that there is no absolute verdict that can be delivered on characters in the interface. The computer/human interface, as we all know, is growing ever more transparent, ever more resembling the world it presumes to reflect, and as such, the arrival at this juncture of entities, presuming to reflect ourselves, is inevitable. Our challenge then is to recognize the symbolic force in characters and to govern that force as wisely as we can. As Obie-Won said, and I think it can apply as well to the moral puppeteer, "Trust in the Force".
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