Today at the first plenary of Internet Research 13.0, the discussion turned to the reality of realities. Some of the heavy hitters discussing identity and online ethnography stated once and for all that it "Virtual Reality" was not where we were going, it was all realities. Susanna Paasonen arguing for the importance of materiality, Tom Boellstorff countering with the analytical power of virtuality.
Flashback to 1998 (yes, last millennium), and the discussions of IRL (in real life) and IRT (in real time) in games (MUDs, can it get more last century?), and how these were indeed parts of real lives and happened in real time - nothing virtual about them, the real virtual reality is between our ears.
I am feeling extremely old on this conference. It's not just the cancelled flight sending me on a 4 hour busride from London to Manchester in the middle of the nights, nor the fact that I can't eat most of the food (I expected that. We're in UK.) (Quick word to the organisers here: I don't doubt the quality. Others say it's really good.)
No, the sense of being ancient comes with the sense of having been there, done that. Even the most engaged of discussions trigger layers and layers of earlier discussions. The floods of literature now published in the many different digital research areas carry with them a sense of "good, somebody wrote about that, so I don't have to stand there explaining it singlehandedly."
I want to be wowed again. And not by another release of additional content. Not the pandas of Internet research, please, but... but... Well, if I could tell you that, I'd implement it. I'll get back to you all on that.
In the mean time: Internet researchers at The Lowry, Salford. Young, fresh, lovely, and I am so happy to see them, I get all warm and fuzzy over being here, really.