KIVI_NIRIA Lectures Series No.1: Johnny Soraker on Virtual Worlds and Personal Well_Being

Abstract – Whether my life fares well or not seems inextricably related to whether the states of affairs that contribute to my well-being are real or not. We are constantly exposed to and troubled by claims of unreality: Is this real love? Get a real life! What is my real identity? Is she a real friend? Am I escaping my real obligations? Is there really a God? We are either relieved or disappointed when a particularly lifelike dream turned out not to be real, or by realizing that a particular state of affairs turned out not to be true after all. When so much of our lives and well-being is tied up with concerns and claims about reality, it should come as no surprise that the impact of virtual worlds on our lives is a controversial topic. Indeed, philosophers, policy makers, researchers and journalists often make claims to the effect that wasting one’s life on virtual surrogates for the real thing amounts to being bereaved of what real life has to offer; that virtual worlds, entities and experiences might give immediate gratification, but not deliver the kind of authentic happiness that a life engaged with reality can offer. These questions raise strong intuitions in most people, ranging from immediate dismissal to utopian visions of lives freed from the shackles and contingencies of our physical existence. In this presentation, I will first disclose and discuss some of the assumptions that lie behind our intuitions, and subsequently highlight a number of ways in which virtual worlds may be conducive or detrimental to well-being. In doing so, I will draw heavily on empirical research on subjective well-being and discuss the applicability of these findings to virtual worlds.