Media as a complement

‘A man travels the world in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.’ – George Moore

It is paradoxical as to how the experience of travelling to faraway places helps us appreciate our own home better. The same paradox might also apply to technology media.

We often think of media as a substitute for real-life experiences. The painting takes the place of a real-life scenary, and the photograph the place of the painting. A play on the life of Julius Caeser stands in for his real-life legacy, and a movie takes the place of such a play performed in-person.

An interesting question for the 21st century is that if virtual reality can some day replace reality itself, in all its aspects. Could VR turn out to be the ultimate real-life substitute?

Yet, there is a wholly different way to think about media – as a complement rather than a substitute.

If you simulated a virtual VR jungle right next to a real-life tree, what is most striking is how real the tree is. One notices the subtle movements of its branches, its leaves and the intricate texture of the tree’s bark. One realizes how rich in detail a simple tree is, and how the VR simulation pales in comparison.

Had there been no VR, it was likely that we simply walked past this tree without paying any attention to it.

In a similar vein, a recording can help us appreciate a live performance better. A book or a movie that depicts a person’s legacy also helps us observe how wonderful, complex and intricate life itself is.

Instead of considering technology media as a substitute for the real-world, what if we recognized it as a complement? That way, our apprecition of media doesn’t subtract from our real-lives. Instead, it adds beauty.

Inspiration: Jaron Lanier

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