虛擬世界的人文省思

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2002 / 11月

文‧李光真


大媒體潮時代,數位內容產業快速崛起,改變了人類生活的各種面向,也引發了一連串的爭議。如何善用科技而不為科技所奴役?需要大家一起來省思。


一、圖像化思考

數位內容以動畫影音的求新、求炫為主要訴求,為了快速抓住閱聽者的注意力,各種圖像及卡通化造型被大量使用,但圖像化的表現必然導致跳接、簡化與膚淺化。

e世代習慣圖像式思考後,對於閱讀嚴肅性、邏輯性文字已經越來越失去耐性,寫出來的作文思想不連貫,連語言都傾向短捷而無厘頭的廣告式語言,結果在五光十色的一大堆雜碎資訊中,真實的意義反倒被掏空了。

二、數位落差

最「ㄅㄧㄤˋ」的數位內容都是以多媒體影音呈現,而為了更流暢的下載及播放,電腦軟、硬體都需要不斷升級,每月六百到一千元的寬頻費用,對部分家庭更是難以承受。台灣拜有線電視普及率極高之賜,寬頻光纖鋪設率已接近歐美,然而離島及山區仍有許多地方沒有寬頻。

此外,隨著電腦多媒體技術的愈趨成熟,內建數位攝影機、三D眼鏡、可以感覺乾濕冷熱的觸覺回饋特製手套、可以感受震動的力道回饋裝置等都將──出爐,有錢人可以充分享受虛擬世界中的快感,窮人的相對剝奪感則會更形加深。

再以接觸資訊的方便度而言,據估計,目前網路上的資訊百分之八十皆為英文,中文的比例不到百分之五。對高教育程度、高社經地位者,可以自由擷取國內外最新資訊,做出有利於自己的投資、就學、就業等各種決策。在「資訊即力量」的社會中,很明顯的,城鄉與貧富間的鴻溝將更難跨越,「數位落差」也因此成為全球最具衝突性的議題。

三、資訊成癮,人際疏離

網際網路興起後,大量資訊在網路上流竄,資訊爆炸,已造成各類資訊工作者難以負荷的壓力。如今數位內容又挾著各種新技術,提供我們任何時間、地點隨時瀏覽的便利,許多人因此得了資訊飢渴症,每天花五、六個鐘頭,儀式性地上網去瀏覽、下載、拼貼,隨即棄置,再去尋求更新的資訊。資訊成了新嗎啡,結果讓人更不願思考、更「弱智」。

為了防止孩子過早中數位的「毒」,許多國家在普及學校電腦設備的同時,也更強調師生間面對面真實接觸與互動的重要性;每逢耶誕節,各大入口網站除了提供電子賀卡供網友發送外,也不忘提醒,再炫的賀卡也比不上親友共聚一堂。而虛擬旅遊網站再怎麼栩栩如生,終究不如親身一遊,體會一下現場的氛圍,細細享受同遊者的言談笑語。

四、虛擬世界,處處陷阱

數位內容的焦點是娛樂,而娛樂媒體的首要內容則是「暴力」,尤其以「角色扮演」(RPG) 為模式的電腦遊戲,讓孩子化身為揮刀動槍的殺戮英雄,其專注、全神投入的程度遠比觀賞電影或電視更高。難怪趨勢專家奈思比在《高科技、高思維》一書中,痛陳虛擬暴力對美國青少年的危害,尤其場景逼真、細節週詳的戰鬥遊戲,讓孩子分不出虛實,導致美國校園槍擊案不斷,而社會迄今對此仍束手無策。

數位科技發達,「螢幕即真實」,醫學上已利用走虛擬橋、搭乘虛擬電梯的方式,成功治癒了懼高症;軍事單位更用改編自電腦遊戲的虛擬戰爭,有效地進行訓練和演習。最近在網路上交友談心、進而進行精神外遇、甚至舉辦虛擬婚禮以示盟約的「數位婚姻」,已影響了許多實質婚姻。電影《駭客任務》中以虛擬為實、真實為幻的惡夢會不會成真?值得憂慮。

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EN

Digital Dilemmas

Laura Li /tr. by Josh Aguiar

In this era of burgeoning mass media, the rapid emergence of the digital industry has changed every aspect of life, as well as giving rise to an endless stream of controversy. How can we best make use of technology without being enslaved by it? This issue merits consideration.


1. Thinking Through Images

Digital content primarily strives for novelty and excitement, employing every kind of iconic representation and cartoonish figure to seize the attention of the audience. But the use of such images invariably entails arbitrariness, simplification, and superficiality. The e-Generation's predilection for image-based reasoning is causing their patience for serious reading and logical writing to gradually erode. Their writing is incoherent and even in spoken language they show a tendency towards the abbreviated, partially formed language favored by commercials; in the end, their actual meaning evaporates in a flash of fragmented information.

2. The Digital Divide

The most impressive digital content appears as multimedia. A one-minute video clip only requires about ten seconds to download via broadband Internet, but using narrowband may require six to ten times that long. In order to ensure smooth downloading and broadcasting, computer hardware and software require continuous upgrading. In addition, monthly broadband service costs range from NT$600-1000, which is too steep for some families. Thanks to the pervasiveness of cable TV, the broadband fiber optic cable network in Taiwan is almost as extensive as in European and North American countries. However, many places in Taiwan's mountainous regions and outlying islands are still underdeveloped in this regard.

In addition, as computer multimedia technology continues to mature, embedded video recorders, 3D glasses, other installations that allow for vivid sensory experience and simulated physical contact will soon be becoming available. Though the rich will be able to fully enjoy the thrill of the virtual world, poor folk will only be left with a deepened sense of deprivation.

Moreover, in regard to the ease of accessing information, it is estimated that at present 80% of Internet information is in English, while a mere 5% is in Chinese. For educated people and those in society's upper crust, this translates into the ability to procure the information that can assist them with their financial, scholastic, and career plans. In a society where "information equals power," it is apparent that the gulfs between urban and rural, rich and poor will be increasingly difficult to traverse. Disparities in digital technology accordingly will become one of the world's most controversial issues.

3. Addiction and Alienation

The rise of the World Wide Web has produced an explosion of information which has since coursed through Internet channels, and in the process placed a tremendous burden on the shoulders of those employed in information-related fields. Now with various information technologies we are afforded the leisure of accessing digitized information wherever and whenever we so desire. As a result, there are those who are stricken with a kind of information obsessive disorder-they browse away ritualistically for five or six hours on end downloading, cutting and pasting, after which they toss it all aside to embark on a new search. Information has become a new sedative that numbs the intellect and the will to think.

In order to prevent children from getting hooked on digital technology too early, elementary schools in many countries with widespread computer facilities place great emphasis on in-person, "real" interaction between students and teachers. And when the Yuletide season arrives, every Internet portal does more than merely provide electronic greeting cards to send friends, but also serves up a reminder that no greeting card, however flashy, can compete with being together with family. Likewise, virtual travel sites, no matter how vivid, cannot compare to making the journey in the flesh.

4. Virtual Nightmare?

Digital content is chiefly about entertainment, and violence lies at the heart of it all, especially in computer role-playing games. Children assume the role of the weapon-toting commando and in the process attain a level of concentration and immersion that easily surpasses that of watching TV or movies. Trend expert John Naisbitt, in his High Tech, High Touch: Technology and Our Search for Meaning, discusses the threat posed to American youth by violent virtual reality games (especially lifelike combat games), stating that they render children unable to distinguish between real and virtual. This in turn has generated a slew of on-campus firearms attacks that have left American society reeling.

Digital technology is developed to the point where the virtual and the real have merged. Psychiatrists have employed virtual bridges and ladders to assist patients in overcoming their fear of heights; military units make use of computers to effectively perform simulated combat training exercises. And recently people have been making friends via the Internet, engaging in "spiritual" affairs, with some even going as far as having "digital marriages" to testify to their commitment-these kinds of digital involvements have already put many real marriages in peril. Could the movie The Matrix, in which real and virtual are nightmarishly inverted, be a herald of things to come? It's certainly food for thought.

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