Sunday 17 July 2016

Thought Picnic: The reality beyond the augmented

Another life of games
Some events just overtake the newswires in a way that you wonder what is going on. One such issue within the week of the morass of #Brexit with the Tories squaring up and the Labour Party falling apart, terrorist attacks and any other bad news was something called Pokémon Go.
By definition and I refer to Wikipedia, Pokémon Go is a free-to-play location-based augmented reality mobile game developed by Niantic and published by The Pokémon Company. It utilises GPS and the camera of compatible devices to capture superimposed Pokémon characters in different locations.
What has made it big news is the uptake of the game that has exceeded the records of other kinds of mobile telephony games in such a short timeframe.
Now, the only mobile telephony game I play is Sudoku, yet, I wonder about computer-based neologisms like 'gamer', indicating a person who plays games. Though I have also come across ‘gaymer’, apparently, a gay person who plays computer games. I am not a fan of neologisms that change nouns into verbs or convert activities into nouns.
Realities abound
However, this is a digression because I read an article in the Time Magazine where Matt Vella writing for the Technology section analysed the Pokémon craze within the context of augmented reality. The Pokémon Fad Shows the Unnerving Future of Augmenting Reality [Yahoo! Tech], in the closing paragraph, he said, “The fundamental question AR (Augmented Reality) will ask of us will likely be: How do you coexist in a world where people literally see things you cannot?
Maybe Augmented Reality presents this alternative world, but there is a more present world that we coexist in but dismiss, the one where you literally see things that others cannot. I have seen things that others could not and that terrified the hell out of me, besides having heard things that others could not too.
A vivid imagination
I wrote about an episode where a discussion between my aunt and our house boy covered bizarre stories of the paranormal, to my fertile and impressionable young mind of 10, I found that I had enough of a vivid imagination to bring these thoughts into my reality. That night, my parents having guests, I cleared the table and took the dishes to the kitchen.
As I laid them there, I was scolded and told to take them to the washing area in the unlit backyard whereupon in the dark there appeared a tall red-chested fiery beast, I thought I had seen the devil and I let out a terrifying scream. Everyone came running out to see what the tumult was, whatever I told them, they dismissed as I trembled, so completely shaken and eventually went to bed.
A terrifying reality
I woke up in the middle of the night, sandwiched between two friends in bed when I heard two words, “Pufau! Pufau!”, this is the first time I have written the words, I do not know what they mean, but I always have goose bumps remembering this. Again, that terrifying scream, a dismissive father and a concerned mother came out to comfort.
As my father returned to bed and I sat in the living room with my mother, this beastly creature appeared again to me and I was the only one to see it and thankfully, that was the very last time I saw it, but that night was the beginning of a life-changing experience and the crash course lesson in the power of fear and terror.
Don’t dismiss it
Yes, children also sometimes see, hear, feel or experience things that others cannot, but not just children, it can happen to anyone and that episode is by terms their reality, a reality pooh-poohed, dismissed, rubbished or ignored. The child left bereft of comfort and support in what is a rather grave situation, life for that child can be hard.
This is not augmented reality, but an existential threat to mental health, the consequences of which can definitely be life-changing especially to outlook and confidence.
I know, the need to understand and empathise, the need to make some allowances for realities in the lives of others we may not understand or perceive, yet, the senses of the affected are heightened and besieged with stimuli that only they can respond to and describe in terrifying detail.
Dismissing the personal evidence will not eradicate the situation, it would rather accentuate the isolated circumstance that person is in. In such settings, help is needed and professional help at that.

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