Stacy mentions going out with a group of friends she has met through Echo,
adding: “If virtual communities didn’t lead to this sort of thing, I
wouldn’t use them.” I find this enormously encouraging; it suggests that
for her (as for myself), electronic communication serves to enhance life in
the physical world rather than substitute for it. The problem, though, is
that many people *are* beginning to accept the verbal representation of a
club, a bar, a person, as a viable substitute for the real thing (John
Perry Barlow, for example, claims we’ll soon be leaving the carbon-based
world entirely); they’re literalizing the metaphor, taking the trope
seriously, and in doing so, they’re blurring the already thoroughly smudged
line between what is real and what ain’t. The majority of us already spend
the waking hours of our days (as Howard suggests), in a simulacrum — in
the represented worlds offered to us by the various media. Do we need or
want a technology which will expand the domain of the unreal immeasurably?

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