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Title: What is it like to be a (digital) bat?
Authors: Gualeni, Stefano
Keywords: Philosophy -- Introductions
Nagel, Thomas, 1937-
Video games
Video games -- Design
Issue Date: 2011-04-07
Citation: Gualeni, S. (2011). What is it like to be a (digital) bat?. Philosophy of Computer Games Conference, Athens.
Abstract: Could a person ever transcend what it is like to experience and understand the world as a human being? Could humans ever know what it is like to be another entity? In the last century, similar questions about human subjectivity have often been raised within the context of post-metaphysical thinking. In particular, the ones presented at the beginning of this paragraph were tackled from the perspective of philosophy of mind by Thomas Nagel in his 1974 essay What is it Like to Be a Bat? Nagel’s reflections and answers to those interrogatives were elaborated before the diffusion of computers and could not anticipate the cultural impact of a technology capable of disclosing interactive and persistent experiences of virtual worlds as well as virtual alternatives to the ‘self’. This paper utilizes the observations, the theoretical insights and hypothetical suggestions offered in What is it Like to Be a Bat? and Martin Heidegger’s framework for a philosophical understanding of technology as its theoretical springboards. The scope of my reflection is precisely that of assessing the potential of interactive digital media for transcending human subjectivity. The chosen theoretical perspectives lead to the preliminary conclusion that, even if there is no way of either mapping or reproducing the consciousness of a real bat, interactive digital technology can grant access to experiences and even systems of perception that were inaccessible to humans prior to the advent of computers. In this context, Heidegger’s analysis of Dasein is employed in order to define in which specific ways the experience of virtual worlds enables humans to experience and understand previously unattainable aspects of reality. What is it Like to Be a (Digital) Bat? proposes a modal realist perspective, where digital media content is recognized as having an expanding and fragmenting influence on ontology. At a higher level of abstraction, this paper advocates the use of digital technology as a medium for testing, developing and disseminating philosophical notions which is alternative to the traditional textual one. Presented as virtual experiences, philosophical concepts cannot only be accessed without the mediation of subjective imagination, but take an entirely new projective dimension which I propose to call ‘augmented ontology’.
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