The Virtuous Rift

The Oculus Rift

Palmer Lucky is the CEO of Oculus VR, the creators of the Oculus Rift™ Virtual Reality Headset. Having used the Oculus Rift (or Rift for short), I can speak to how amazing it is to put on a headset and literally feel like you’ve entered a different world. The Rift headset is equipped with a 720p display split between two screens that are adjusted perfectly to give the user a sense of the third dimension in the virtual world. The headset is also engineered with gyrometers and accelorometers, allowing the user to turn their head with 6DOF (Six degrees of Freedom) and experience their virtual world change.

The Oculus Rift was merely an idea in the mind of a Head-Mounted Display Engineer from California. That is until he decided to create a Kickstarter Campaign in August of 2012. The goal of the Kickstarter campaign was to raise $250,000 to better develop and refine the Oculus Rift Prototype. Within Four hours of their Kickstarter announcement, they had reached their goal of $250,000 dolllars. Within 36 hours they had reached $2,437,429.

The World Is Ours…

What limits us? The idea that a person can go from a thought and a whim to a quarter million dollars in 4 hours is a testament to the awesomeness that is our day and age. Friends can gather within a minute’s notice because social media has given us the power to communicate exponentially. Knowledge is a Google search and a Wiki-away. We have all of the tools we need to be heard and to make a difference in the world.

Yet the voices that need to make the difference are all but absent.

..But so few of us claim it.

The very technological innovations that enable us, have also held us in stasis. Constantly consuming high-volumes of information, our minds can become dull and catatonic as we search aimlessly for something that will peak our insatiable interests. Seriously, the next time you’re on the bus, or the light rail take a look around you. What are we doing with the tools that we’ve created?

And most of all, what should we be doing?

The People Utility

Ok, first of all, it’s not anyone’s place to say, definitively, what another person should be doing with their technology. By all means, watch your Nyan Cat. But let’s, for the sake of argument, say there is an ideal way you should spend your time on new media. What would it be?

I think that new media’s prevalent nature lends itself well to a particular school of thought. Today you have the potential to influence hundreds of thousands of people in 140 characters. I thinks it’s only right you’d utilize this potential to maximize any benefit one could get at the receiving end of your influence.

Utilitarianism is basically the idea that an act can be considered virtuous if it’s benefit is maximal and suffering (or any negative effect for that matter) is minimal. There’s no doubt that the benefits of things we share on social media are open for interpretation. Some would argue that the Hacker group, Anonymous, exposing the Chicago Police’s use of the “Stingray” to intercept phone calls during an Eric Garner protest benefits us because we should know what forces within our judicial system stand with us and stand against us. Others might argue that knowing this information is problematic because it compromises the well-being of officers who are otherwise doing their jobs and secrecy is a necessary tactic used to protect citizens. It would all be up to interpretation.

That’s precisely where we’d come in.

I need an interpreter

As communicators in the world of new media, interpretation is where we thrive. New media users, from the idiotic to the patriotic, all provide the world with their own interpretations of  unique subject matter. The other side of Utilitarianism that really connects it to new media for me is the idea of communicating a message as being “Virtuous”. Again, a concept that’s open for interpretation but at the scale that new media allows (coupled with some awesome analytics), we have at least a quantitative way of measuring our own virtue. We can see our number of likes, shares, comments and retweets! Something Jeremy Bentham could have only dreamed of.

What does this all mean for MDST 485?

To really “Maximize the benefit” of our tools, I believe that we have to grasp what it is our organizations are providing for the community. The most virtuous thing we can do, is help strengthen their messages by developing strong communication frameworks to help build their online presence. The beauty of it all is, each of our organizations has a powerful message to tell the world. And each of our groups has a strong sense of how to assist them in getting their messages out there. It’s really a utilitarian match made in heaven. I guess the question really is how virtuous do we want to be? We could always just post a bunch of videos of orgasmic reactions to rainbows.


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