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Virtual World and its Impact on the Life-World

Chapter IV: Chapter IV: Phenomenological Quest for the Inter-subjective Dimensions of Transcendental Subjectivity

5.5. Loss of the Meaning of Life in the Life-World

5.5.2. Virtual World and its Impact on the Life-World

It has been seen that virtual environment has introduced an entirely new mode of being that transcends the usual human limitations of being in the world causing us to re- think the question of what does it mean to be ‗human‘ in the sense of a ‗being in the world‘, and how having bodies affects that being? Now, the users of digital representations act in a virtual world that provides us with the possibility to perceive stimulus beyond the physical boundaries. It can be stated that technology is giving us a signal of a post human future without having the traditional limitations of time, space and quantity on the availability and openness of information and communication. Resultantly, people started to spend more times in the virtual world. To quote Wankel & Malleck (2010) ―The virtual interactive worlds of Second Life, with 15,464,773 residents as of October 13, 2008 according to www.secondlife.com, and World of Warcraft, with 10,000,000 subscribers as of January

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2008 according to www.blizzard.com, boast populations lager than Sweden‖ (p. 2). In this regard we can refer the case of Second Life, which is a virtual world, where people can own land with their virtual currency called Linden Dollar which can be obtained through real currency as well and vice-versa. Moreover, virtually people could undertake jobs in that world and also could manufacture products and goods in order to earn money (ibid).

Virtual world which is also referred as a computer based simulated environment (Bartle, 2003) can now be accepted as a replica of the real world. To understand this point the example of ―video game‖ can be mentioned here. Video games can be regarded as the most popular mode of entertainment in today‘s world. It is the most well-liked medium of entertainment for childrens as well as for the adults. But, if noticed it could be seen that most of the video games are violent in nature (Berger, 2002). These games are designed in such a way that the players always need to harm or kill the opponents by using weapons or guns. Therefore, these games could attract the childrens very easily and playing of these violent video games may increase the aggressions or emotions of the players which is really very harmful for the childrens. Though the wars and enemies of these games are not real but still they might affect the childrens as they cannot differentiate the virtual world from the real world. As a result in their real life also they start behaving like a game player. In this regard Berger (2002) maintains that certain video games may create personality problems. Excessive playing of these games might isolate a person from the others. In this regard Lahti (2003) by referring Ted Friedman says that computer games make us to think like a computer. In playing the video games the body of the player dwells in the physical world at the same time the mind of the same player inhabits in the virtual world. It is the mind only which interacts with the other minds within the virtual world. The reason behind this fact can be explained in the words of Veerapen (2011) who writes:

To an outside observer, the inworld activity consists of a person sitting, seemingly immobile and inactive, and staring at a computer screen while losing awareness of the physical surroundings….by starring at and focusing strongly on a highly active onscreen world, s/he bridges a connection between the mind and the virtual world. As a result, the user seems to be absent, lost in a different world on the other side of the computer screen while the body remains, empty of its essence or mind, in this physical place‖ (p 83).


Thus, excessive playing of these games may isolate the person from the real world or from the others. Moreover, this may also create certain psychological disorders like Communication disorder, Language disorder, Social anxiety disorder etc.

Moreover, in the virtual world one can do anything with his/her body or identity. In video games also one can leave her/his body, can exchange their looks with others, and can change their skin, hair and everything. They can delete undesired characters and can increase or decrease the power of their oppositions and in case of the female players they can change their figures in order to look more attractive and appealing (Lahti, 2003).

Thus, the players of the virtual world develop a tendency of deleting, recreating and exchanging their body parts and their identity as well. Thus, virtually a person may become a complete different person. The players of these games become accustomed to all these practices and these kinds of practices within the virtual world leave lots of inklings to the real world and as a result in the real world also they start seeking for an ideal look, figure, colour etc. Finally, they become unable to bridge the gap between the virtual and the real world.

Therefore, these types of behaviour may create certain serious psychological problem like split personality.

Similarly, here we can also discuss about communication, which can be regarded as a shared experience based on our day-to-day incidents. The role of communication could be understood from the method used by the great philosopher Socrates known as the Socratic Method where he concentrates upon the dialogue forwarded through questioning. In Socrates‘ dialogue there can be seen a social role played by communication, where not only the self but the others are equally involved in question solving.

Communication makes human being more perspectival and broader in a way. By following G.W.F. Hegel‘s philosophy communication can be defined as the combination of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. In our day-to-day communication we discover different perspectives and horizons of things and events in question which helps one to survive in various situations arises in various times. But, it seems that technology has challenged this wider horizon of thinking and as a result the dialogue has been lost and there could be seen homogeneity in each and every aspect of our life. We are in a virtual world where we communicate with others through mobile phones, internet etc. and which has become a part of our identity.

Mobile phone can be regarded as the post modern identity which is not only for talking but it serves various other purposes like banking, facebooking, talking etc. But, if noticed it will be


clear that through mobile phones we project our individual world only, as in mobile phones more than we talk we listen to others. Thus, the mobile talk has transformed our communication to yes/no kind of talk. While company like Nokia sells their mobiles with the guidelines that the more you talk more you human or connecting people but these kinds of guidelines can only be regarded as connection but not as communication because, it is limited to some particular group of me like people. The same is the case with the internet generated social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn etc.

Thus, from the above discussion it could be said that Husserl is not against technology but, he would prefer technology to be adopted in a human way than allowing it to de-humanize us. By following Husserlian phenomenology one may try to understand the question ‗what it is to be a human subjectivity‘ in the context of the virtualization of the life- world. It can be said that Husserl recognizes the need for a concrete description of embodied and embedded subjectivity that still remains within the transcendental register. The concept of personhood thus, intended to provide this description by demonstrating how the embodied, intersubjective, and axiological dimensions of experience are integrated in the pre-reflective domain of the life-world.

Husserl maintains that we all live in the world sharing a common bond with others that remains disclosure of the essential intersubjective nature of human subjectivity. A human being is an embodied entity, who lives in this shared world with others. According to Mohanty, we live in a society, all the time we encounter some relations with others. As Natanson writes, ego is always ―clothed with the garments of society‖ (Natanson, 1970, p.

17). Mohanty said that a person encounters itself in the society always in connection with others. Human being does not live in an abstract isolated objective world but rather in a society, from where one receives new experiences all the time and one always has to face new challenges (Mohanty, 2000). This changing everydayness may reshape one‘s identity in the horizon of one‘s lifetime. Husserlian phenomenology does not dispute the possibility of gaining a ‗view from nowhere‘, understood as the a-perspectival, theoretical, ‗objective‘

understanding of things provided one remains explorer of re-storing the lost sense of meaning and significance buried in the sedimented layers of the life-world. Thus, Husserl through his transcendental phenomenology particularly by introducing the concept of the life-world tried to heal the situation created by the crisis of the sciences which led to the World War II. The


devastating aftermath of the First World War had shaken all aspects of human life, its existence in the world and relations with the others. While on the one way the War influenced Husserl‘s personal life at the same time he also suffered a profound philosophical and professional discouragement and as a result he was unwelcomed in his own land. It was such a situation of crisis where humanity lost its meaning, its belongingness, its interconnectedness or empathy. Husserl therefore, talks about the elevation of humanity, which he wrote in the Japanese journal The Kaizo written between 1922 and 1924 and advocated the ethical renewal of the humanity. So, now, it is necessary to discuss what Husserl meant by this ethical renewal in his phenomenology and how he tried to overcome this crisis situation in his phenomenological study.

5.6. The Ethical Renewal or Phenomenology as Ethical Life in Husserl’s