Interesting essay in CTheory by Belinda Barnet, about 'virtual graffiti' or the 'convergence between the industrial technical system, globalisation, and mnemotechnical systems like writing and photography, to form a global mnemotechnical system. This system incorporates digital information networks like the internet as well as the real-time information events of individuals.'
She illustrates this idea with travel vignettes: sitting outside a cafe in Marrakech, where she can look at a virtual GPRS map, get virtual reviews of the local cafe, take digital photgraphs and post them, and "With every step, I emit a smog of data; my journey is being archived too. Every few seconds, my device "pings" the network and receives a response.... I am conscious that I leave a trail of digital breadcrumbs for Maroc Telecom through the ancient city".
She concludes: "A mobile device is a promise; this promise inhabits our awareness, like a peripheral anxiety. It is constantly in the background, and it shapes our experience of life and the "taking place" of events within our lives. A mobile promises the instrumental possibility of reproduction, of capturing and distributing the minutiae of our daily lives, even if these experiences can never be faithfully recorded."
I'm not quite sure what this has to do with smulation (though it echoes my own thoughts in an earlier post about the massive creation and storage of data).
I suppose the 'reduction' of experience to virtual graffiti, or the interweaving of reality and virtuality, is relevant to our ability to simulate experience. If you half expect 'reality' to appear on a small screen, then it is easier to accept it when it does.
Ms Barnet also makes the point that most of the people around her in Marrakech were unaware of the 'virtual graffiti' which were, in a sense, on 'their' walls. (ie about their location.) Thought has always been a private activity, of course: if Byron or Burton wrote snail mail from Marrakech in the 19th century, most of the locals would never read it. But this time thought is shared and often public: your images are on Flickr, your thoughts on your blog, within seconds, if you have the right connections to the internet. This is not a point about the distribution of access between the rich and poor worlds.
It applies just the same to where I live. There are two Richmonds: the 'real' one and the 'virtual' one. I am at present in the one, but not necessarily in the other. Someone on the other side of te world, is now looking at a photo of Richmond on Flickr or reading a blog (chosen at random from a google search for 'blogs richmond london') about the life of someone living here.
I suppose you could always look at pictures and read someone's published works, but never before
(a) so immediately (the blog entry is a week old, but might have been posted ten minutes ago.)
(b) so easily, thanks to search engines
(c) so extensively, in heaps of detail that I don't want about other peoples' lives.
Where does this leave me? Well, hyperspace is larger and more immediate than I often realise. The boundaries between 'real' and 'mediated' experience are weakening. Perhaps I was wrong to think about simulation in terms of choosing a subset of reality. Perhaps the narrowness of our subsets is expanding, and one day we may just be able to simulate whole chunks of reality, even (conceivably) all of it. Where would we be if instead of modelling the weather, or the economy, or the progress of epidemics, or traffic flow around a busy junction, or human interactions, or the way our body cells react, we could model them all in one big equation?
Maybe that's the real challenge for simulation: to break out of silos and to link 'unrelated' simulations together in new ways?
I'm off for my Saturday morning cup of coffee in 'real' Richmond, though in my present state of mind I may feel obliged to post a picture of myself drinking it.