Platonism, Gowalla, and the Digital World

Categories: Sociology

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Jason Staples Substack

Much to my wife’s chagrin, I enjoy location-based social media like Gowalla and Foursquare, fully participating in the various games nested within these applications. She, on the other hand, finds such things silly, if not a bit creepy. Today she was again poking fun at my effort to procure a low-number “item” on Gowalla, which would replace the same (but much higher-number) item I presently have in my online vault, highlighting the fundamentally worthless nature of said pursuit. At that point, I tried to explain,

“It’s like a scavenger hunt; what do you typically get that has any real value in a scavenger hunt?”Gowalla wallaby


“Well, it’s basically the same thing here.”

“Yeah, but with the scavenger hunt, you actually have something, you’ve gone and gotten something you can actually hold.”

It was at just this moment that I realized the problem: my wife is quite simply not a digital Platonist, while I am quite happy with the virtual and ideal realm of ones and zeros. She wants the physical representation of scavenger hunt glory, while I’m far more of a practical Platonist in this sense. It’s really the idea of getting the item that matters, not actually getting a tangible item itself. (Yes, I realize that the digital representation is itself not the ideal Dasein either, but it’s closer.) That said, I do agree that once these clever little games actually begin to take time and energy away from more useful exploits, it is not a good thing. (Hence my distaste for things like Farmville—I actually saw a guy at the Apple Store the other day who had brought some food and other items in, set up on a computer, and proceeded to play Farmville from the time I arrived until I left at least an hour later. Fascinating.)

At any rate, I wonder how much the present experience of cyberspace can really be made to tie into Platonic philosophical instruction; at the very least, it seems that it would make a great college course: “Platonism and Cyberspace: Images of the Ideal.”

And yes, I did get the item.

Tags: Apple Store, Farmville, Foursquare, Gowalla, ideal realm, Plato, Platonism, virtual reality

2 Comments. Leave new

  • Tell your wife that you’re ordering Viagra on your iPhone.

    Sorry. Couldn’t resist. You can ban me now for life :).

    Just did my own riff on Plato murdering divine inspiration in Ion. It didn’t go over too well. One of the pastors (a “Reverend”) accused me of an N.F.L. type lockout against divine inspiration. Don’t ask me what that means. Beats me. No clue. Maybe the Reverend was playing Gowalla? And Gowalla did an N.F.L. lockout on him?

    Do the platonic emanations (I hate Plotinus!) of Gowalla ever touch down on – earth?

    Cheers! ~ Jim

  • You are a nerd in the highest degree.


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