chapter  8
Research in the Technological Sense
Pages 12

Technological mediation rules our lives. The blood and guts realities of our forebears are being erased by the virtual realities of our moving image makers, our sound recordists, our photographers, our illusionists. Our experience of the world is increasingly mediated by the cold dispassionate technologies of fibre optics, silicon, lasers, CD ROM. We will shop for groceries or take a walk through a museum by flicking switches in the front room and inserting our smart cards. We are extending our presence over time and distance via the huge, ungovernable networks of communication. It is not surprising that research is embracing this world. How it does so will become a central issue in research ethics. The debate between quantification and naturalistic approaches has often hinged upon the degree to which the former dehumanizes the realities lived by respondents. One can imagine virtual futures where this is taken to the extreme. Already, programs exist which project scenarios of devastation for military planners, three-dimensional building plans under seismic shock for architects and patients’ cancerous bodies for surgeons. One can foresee research using similar computer modelling devices to pilot new products, predict changes to the environment, project public attitudes to new laws or evaluate policy on practice. Whole populations of ghosts will exist within machines, with their biographies created to emphasize individuality and difference, homogeneity, class, ethnicity and gender. These zombies categorized as ersatz communities will be bought and sold according to their apparent effectiveness in modelling the population ‘out there’. Meanwhile the population ‘out there’ will emulate, act out and wilfully mimic the ghosts presented to it through the media and over time the gap between real and machine will close, disturbingly. It is argued by some (for example, Docker, 1994) that the media can only exist within an arena involving audience participation, either directly, as in game shows, studio debates or indirectly through popularity of serial melodramas, sport and so on. However, a more caustic view of such phenomena would suggest that participation, itself, as a real-time descriptor of lived reality is undergoing metamorphosis. Inexorably, we are learning the process of mediated participation. Virtual participation is just around the tv tube.