Milgram vs McGonigal: The question of group immersion

The readings this week reminded me of several elements of previous weeks such that addressing the readings for this week without referencing readings from previous weeks seems impossible. So, I think I’ll start with the references and then see if I can isolate the ideas from this week’s readings.

Some examples of connections I saw:
Towards the end of the Slater reading, the author focuses on how Milgram’s experiment had the effect of teaching many of its subjects that they should reevaluate their relationship with authority and build a stronger moral background (62). The Chess and Booth reading reminds us that this teaching moment would not have been possible without the debriefing at the end of the immersive experiment and in a sense, the continuation of the learning by the subjects was done by them further deconstructing their ideas regarding authority and then putting their experimental ideas into practice (much like ARG students made their own ARGs after debriefing on the ARG they played in class).

Then there’s the McGonigal article, where the lines “To make people believe is to make them act” (6) and the warning against “the ability of pervasive technology to inspire moblike behavior” (8) screamed of Massumi’s and McIntyre’s ideas (respectively) from last week’s post-truth readings.

But at the root of it all, I realize there is the question of the best kind of immersive situations, as Slater talks of Milgram’s live-action immersive experiment while McGonigal claims that “the Web was actually the largest and arguably most affecting component of the immersive experience” of the Beast.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I’m wont to agree with McGonigal when it comes to ARG’s and collective play. When isolated in a situation where other people are telling you what reality is and how to navigate it (such as the reality created by the actor pretending to be electrocuted and the actor pretending to be an experimenter in the Milgram experiment), it’s easy to fall into the trap. However, I believe that the more people are subjected to that kind of situation together, the less likely they would be to fall prey to such a situation. They could work together to oppose or see through the alternate reality, in a sense.

However, technology has a different aura to it. Perhaps it’s the ease with which we can make a fake website (or instagram post or other platform post) fit into the expectations we have for a “nonfiction website,” as McGonigal calls it. Perhaps it has something to do with how we socialize that makes seeing a ruse together in live-action play easier than when face-to-face interaction is taken away. I’m still trying to figure out why technological interaction feels like it can create more of a sense of immersion for large groups of people than a live-action event would, so let me know what you think. At least I feel a little better that McGonigal seems to agree too.

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