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At the recent iCE07 conference held in Toronto, the future of entertainment was the main topic of conversation. The conference is touted as a premier event for tech savvy designers, new media artists, and interactive and television producers. With an influx of evolving technologies and a new generation of wired consumers, speculation about how people will consume and produce media ran rampant at the event.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /> The keynote speaker of the event, Robert J. Sawyer, futurist and science fiction novelist, noted that new multimedia technologies, coupled with empowered consumers (or ‘prosumers’ as they are now being called), are the key to the future. Riffing off of Telus’, ‘The future is Friendly’ slogan, Sawyer announced with some glee to a crowd of media executives and independent producers, “The future is not only friendly, the future is a slut that you can take home with you every night.” The opportunities that come with these technologies are endless. But how is this future taking shape? In Japan, it seems that the future is moving further away from reality as we know it. Years ago when Tomogotchi was introduced into the market, the virtual pet was a huge success. It appeared that overworked business men and school girls alike enjoyed the moderated companionship of the digital equivalent of a pet rock. Blurring the boundaries of fantasy and reality even further is the latest addition to the Japanese virtual world, life size dolls whose realistic features are so convincing that some men have chosen to live with them as ‘partners’. Made of silicone, and, supple, seamless and soft to the touch, these dolls are light-years ahead of the blow-up dolls of yesterday. In Japan, it appears that the future is both friendly and slutty, with a liberal helping of creepiness thrown in for good measure. But it’s not only the Japanese that have pushed the boundaries of reality. The worldwide phenomenon of Second Life, an online digital game, allows its ‘residents’ to live out an entirely alternate reality. Residents can socialize, dance, work, play and buy virtual real estate. Second Life has a fully developed economy and goods, services and property are bought with Linden dollars, which can be exchanged for US dollars. There are a reported 5 million residents in Second Life, and they can shop at digital stores like Adidas and American Apparel. Wired Magazine, BBC 1 and Warner Bros. Music have all established Second Life offices. Welcome to the faux future.
While Robert J. Sawyer may believe that the slutty future is upon us, there were a fair few sceptics in attendance at iCE07. After all, ‘old’ technologies are not being completely displaced by new technologies; they are moving more and more towards convergence. Prosumers often consume more than one type of media at the time, which provides some comfort to traditional media producers. But even Sawyer had a word of caution to offer about opportunities the future may provide. “Yes, the future is slutty, but even the future has a big brother that doesn’t want you to date it.” There are barriers to accessing new technologies, to producing new content and figuring out just where that pesky, temperamental prosumers’ interest will go. But one thing is for sure, whether it’s in an extended online social network, an alternate reality game or a life lived online, there are greater possibilities for the way that new media will affect the way we live, play, and yes – fall in love with dolls.
Read more from Naomi at www.capitalmag.com
Naomi has worked in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />South Africa, Japan, Australia and Canada as a researcher, producer, journalist and teacher. She completed her Masters degree in Media Studies at Concordia University with a focus on race and representation. She is currently Managing Editor of www.capitalmag.com and is based in Toronto.