A Virtual Life
May 12, 2007
One of the key sculptors of culture – particularly in this Age of Information in which we live – just happens to be technology.
Popular culture across the world has been virtually revolutionized by the internet sub-cultures, from Internet pornography to weblogs, to sites offering individuals the option of posting their profiles online on several pages.
Guyanese society, like any society, is not so much a single definable homogenous culture than it is an amalgam of subcultures combining to form a unique society in much the same way that various cells combine to form a unique organism. One of the most popular websites is the social networking portal, MySpace.com, which serves to host online portals of anyone from the average American teenager to the globally recognised pop phenomenon.
In Guyana, and indeed in the CARICOM Caribbean, the equivalent of MySpace.com is Hi5.com. There is hardly a person between the ages of 15 and 30 living in Guyana who has an e-mail address and does not have a profile on this website.
With technology becoming cheaper and more user-friendly, the techno-culture is becoming increasingly able to deliver greater levels of interactivity and power into the hands of the user. Whereas a decade ago simple chat messages formed the zenith of real-time communication between two Internet users, today people can use their online chat programmes ("messengers") to virtually meet online using voice transfer technology and web-cams.
There is no other techno-culture more committed or indeed more submerged in technology however than the online video-game culture. Users pay millions of dollars annually to log on to various websites where they get to play as various characters or avatars – medieval warriors, futuristic scientists, or fantastic alien creatures-- depending on the setting of the game or world.
According to a BBC report on the popularity of the online gaming industry, "The thought of shelling out around £10 per month, on top of the £30 already paid for the game, should turn people away from such adventures. But clearly the compulsion to play as a virtual character in a virtual world, full of other people's virtual characters, is enough of a draw. World of Warcraft alone now has more than 3.5 million subscribers across the world."
Of course, the global techno-culture also has its downsides, the biggest of which is too much commitment, particular in the area of online gaming. In China for example, a country whose huge population has made it a key target for online game developers, there is an Internet Addiction Centre where online-gamers and other internet addicts can go to get treatment. And recently, in America, MySpace.com was featured in a number of cases where older men used the extensive personal details posted by underage girls to lure them into sexual relations.
Dangers aside however, the global techno-culture constitutes an increasingly significant strand in the tapestry of sub-cultures which makes up the fabric of Guyanese society.
For the young, and the young at heart, there is indeed a brave new world out there.