Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Virtual Affairs: lessons not yet learned...

This article is about infidelity that occurs in the virtual world. Published on the web at MSNBC on April 16th 2007, this article goes into the emotional aspects of what can happen when online romance interferes with real world relationships.


It is written not by a social psychologist, not by a sociologist nor by a marriage therapist, but by a game editor which is the critical problem.

The author Kristin Kalning is sadly missing the entire depth and breadth of the subject in which she has cleverly exposed. A quick search finds that Miss Kalning writes for technical book publisher PeachPit Publishers a small print house for software tutorial texts. So to ask her to delve into societal or emotional pathos that her subject touches upon is beyond her breadth of knowledge at least as it appears in this article

The article primarily focuses on two couples Sam and Kat, and Max and Sarah. Though, it touches on other online worlds such as World of WarCraft (Action role playing game), the meat is about an online world known as SecondLife. As opposed to an online quest game in which the user is fighting dragons or killing secret agents, SecondLife has no quest, no death, no violence, and no crime. It is a creative simulated world where users can build, buy and own anything they can create in the virtual world. Even real world things such as paintings or music can be purchased in the online 3-D stores. Yet the article is about the jeopardy about falling in love online and its consequences…

In brief, Sam becomes obsessed with Kat in the virtual world. This online affair of avatars affects his real world marriage. Kat leaves Sam, and Sam is emotionally distraught. The other relationship, is one where Max becomes a real world jealous husband because of Sarah's constant need to be online in her second life. The two come to an impasse when Max finds that Sarah has become "virtually" married online. Sarah leaves Max, when she realizes that what she wants is a real man, that treats her more like her virtual lover. An irony that is poorly illustrated yet made by Miss Kalning.

The article uses a SecondLife Blogger to point out some of the pit falls of falling in love in a virtual world. The one that is stressed immediately, is that Sam met Kat as a female avatar. So technically, they were having a virtual lesbian affair, despite being in reality man and woman.

Now despite glossing over this as salacious, which Miss Kalning does, she avoids the entire realm of gender, power, and simulation. Understandably, these issues need more room, than her editors could have afforded. Yet, we have entered an entire world where Baudrillard's hyperreality and Haraway's Cyborg Manifesto map an entrance into a PostModern view of emotional attachment and its vast emotional cartography.

The question that the author careens around, is can romantic attachment be attained without gender? So that 3-D animation, sound effects, and a chat window can provide enough for the human to bond. Based on the examples, the answer is yes. That despite complete physical separation, the hormones are released to have us bond to these virtual mates.

Thus the essence of the article is not about the pitfalls of personal romantic destruction, but how technologies can destroy our sense of gender and identity. If a man falls in love as a women avatar with another female avatar who is also in reality another man, can there be any more proof that gender may be indivisible from biology, but that our ability to fall in love can with the use of technology be extricated from cultural chains that bind us to gender.

Though this requires deeper analysis than this paper can provide, we also must acknowledge that other than idealized avatars and their 3-D environment, the only window of real-time interaction is a chat window. Thus, we also must note the stream of sentences are our only unfiltered connections in this simulated world. Does Whorf-Sapir provide a navigational instrument for digital text and its distilled rapid shot use as a paramour in the attachment . Yet based on the interactions, and long term relationships of these virtual players, is language gender specific? Are there metaphors, phrases, words, verbs or adjectives that would betray the virtual illusion, Miss Kalning has not a clue nor does she attempt to approach the subject.

On the other hand, I have not only approached the subject but navigated it as well. As an individual who has entered SecondLife, both as a male avatar and female avatar, one can not be truly post-modern until they have fallen in love in a virtual world and let gender slip away. Once the body is eliminated from the equation of attraction and replaced by a simulation of body, the biology of passion in a 3-D world resembles "a map of an empire" of power politics which we use gender to control our social compass. A map that covers us as completely as the skin that reacts to the touch of another human.

As J. L. Borges points out;

"On Exactitude in Science . . . In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography." ----- From Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions, Translated by Andrew Hurley Copyright Penguin 1999 .

Therefore, if we do not analyze these monumental changes, if we do as Miss Kalning not honor the perfection of our virtual maps, we just might like Max, Kat, Sarah, and Sam be beggars or animals in the tattered ruins of our human geography, at a longitude and latitude where history and biography meet.

Thursday, May 17, 2007
Chris Kaufman
Article 6?

Article: Christian Science Monitor

Expand the pool of America's future scientists

Public schools must improve in order to engage more minority students in the sciences.

By Andrew J. Rotherham and Kevin Carey

As I accept my failure in Calculus, I realized why America is failing ( to compete in math and science. The fact remains in mathematics as in other schools of higher learning we have departmentalized these institutions to such an extent that science has lost much of its creative force and art departments have lost a lot of their scientific relevancy. It is not the lack of good teachers in minority schools that reveal the facts that Rotherham and Carey declare. It is our society approach that shows a problem across the board of education and its approach.

Yet before I rant about Film schools that won't let you touch a camera ( until you get a PhD in cinematic studies. I am going to focus on Mathematics.

Math is a language, an amazing language that paints by numbers. Like the books of clown faces, galloping horses, and county side cottages with thousands of tiny numbers. It is a language and should be taught as a French, German or Italian is taught. It should be taught for the purpose to be used in situations that require precision and accuracy. "Where is the train station" needs to be precise. Where English or French approach precision, math provides the precise language to describe any object moving or not within the smallest degree possible. Something is small in English, but 1.2 X 10^-32 is more accurate and leaves even our best words like tiny in the dust.

Math is not a set of symbols to recognize specific operations to manipulate more symbols, so that after a series of more symbolic tricks we get less symbols. It is not a set of exercises to recognize rational equations to reduce to simplest means for fun and profit. Nor was Calculus created to test your memory of tangent and cosine functions as a value approaches a limit.

Yet that is what is taught. Newton did not develop Calculus to test someone's skill in applying algebraic functions that are to be tested with specific definitions or theorems. Rather he created it, to model the universe ( But you would be hard pressed to find a professor to teach the modeling of any environment with math using calculus as a tool. In fact I doubt you could find it at all. Unless you are not in a math class, and I am sure then in Astro-Physics it will appear. And I know of so many horror stories of students that loved science only to die in advanced classes due to weak math skills.

This not to say practice of using polynomial rational equations is not needed. Obviously it is, you can't model motion or many other phenomenons without them. Yet...


No one will tell you, why because the man or woman teaching math has little idea what it means. Not to say they do not know what a limit of a function is, but rather what in the world it represents. Is it the growth of a virus? Is it the economic cycle of a third world nation? Is it the feedback from two gears shifting?

But that, that right there requires some of that right brain stuff. That part of the emotional and gestalt part that you would be hard pressed to find from a mathematics professor. Imagine a math professor with emotion or passion; I can't seem to remember a single one. I am sure they exist, a few rare weird apples...

Why what happens? Why there are right brains so under utilized? Let's take a look at the differences:

Right Hemisphere Style


  • Responds to verbal instructions
  • Problem solves by logically and sequentially looking at the parts of things
  • Looks at differences
  • Is planned and structured
  • Prefers established, certain information
  • Prefers talking and writing
  • Prefers multiple choice tests
  • Controls feelings
  • Prefers ranked authority structures


  • Is a splitter: distinction important
  • Is logical, sees cause and effect

---Draws on previously accumulated, organized information

Left Hemisphere Style


  • Responds to demonstrated instructions
  • Problem solves with hunches, looking for patterns and configurations
  • Looks at similarities
  • Is fluid and spontaneous
  • Prefers elusive, uncertain information
  • Prefers drawing and manipulating objects
  • Prefers open ended questions
  • Free with feelings
  • Prefers collegial authority structures


  • Is a lumpier: connectedness important
  • Is analogical, sees correspondences, resemblances

---Draws on unbounded qualitative patterns that are not organized into sequences, but that cluster around images

Imagine a math class that had used feelings to illustrate time critical problems as drawings that fit patterns, and all variables were real life objects as if x or y were not just variables but actually stood for something like a out of control spaceship or a deadly virus, and imagine a teacher asking how do we get to off Mars before our oxygen runs out? Or how can we slow the rate of growth of a deadly strain of bacteria to save a population?

But so far I have not seen a college math teacher capable of any of these qualities. Yet why do I care?, what could my reasoning be, I should just shut up and learn the seemingly random non-sensical symbols that require operations from past math classes because I am told to use when I see this specific set of math symbols?

Because I think it is important that America succeed in science, and if we are to solve energy problems, and fix the pollution problems, and deal with diseases that plague us, then maybe we should develop a system of math that uses the whole brain rather than the half.

We also know that emotion, patterns, and connections’ ( entrez /query.fcgi? cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=16478342&dopt=Abstract) increase plasticity in neural networks, and there is a real biological reason you can't remember those trigometric identities.

To often those real world problems are left to be solved by the left brain people, Oh you know, the ones that use only emotion and conjecture to explain why global warming does not matter. Or other non-scientific stuff like stem-cell research or in-vitro fertilization.

I will continue complaining, even to my graduate degree professors, on the splitting of left and right brain systems in academics and how it has put science on the defensive, against leaders who use very little left brain logic. For I do not advocate one side over the other, in science or politics.

And sure we can import minds ( news_mathscience.html), and we do, just listen to a math lecture at a major university, chances are the accents are so thick it will take three TA's and an independent study group to decipher. Why do we have to import ( /2004/06/10/schools_import_singapore_math_style/) them?

But as we approach the end of the first 21st century decade, what systems have we installed to prepare the 21st century generation for the problems we have left? We can as do Rotherham and Carey stare at the broad sociological injustices that no one really questions exist. Or we can begin to look at the path of distillation of academic perfection, a flying running mission to reach a quintessential reduction, and begin to mend the fences not just in the departments of schools and colleges, but also in the brain every student has when faced with a polynomial equation.