Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

An Extratemporal Experiment Between the Virtual and the Real

"Hypothesis 0.1," in The Laroquod Experiment's Hypothesis. Image Source: Extratemporal Perception.

With the exception of the site of the late Mac Tonnies, Posthuman Blues, I have not seen anything that nails the Zeitgeist so exactly as Paul Laroquod's strange and fascinating blog, Extratemporal Perception. I have described the basic premise for Laroquod's experiment, which explores Millennial virtual-real dualism, here.  One of his recent posts, "Swap Thing #2," reminded me of how great his blog is at encapsulating the many layers of our slow-brewing existential crisis. Laroquod combines several approaches, including comics and videos along with other Web media, to create and test a hypothetical scenario, namely, that he can shift between 'here' and 'there.'

"Hypothesis 0.2," in The Laroquod Experiment's Hypothesis. Image Source: Extratemporal Perception.

The 'here' is the here we know. The 'there' is variously an alternate universe, generated by our collective online presence, where his double (or his virtual, fictional hacker contact, sometimes also named Laroquod) interacts with people living in an almost identical world to ours. In this other world, the Tech Revolution happened, but copyright law was tyrannically enforced.

Laroquod shows that at the complicated and confusing crossroads of the virtual and the real, the whole concept of copyright has been shredded. Yet it persists. In his eyes, its restrictions now can be ludicrous, and its implications murderous. The notion of trying to control, market or sell our current bizarre condition by surrounding it with legal codes, and criminalizing anything that happens beyond that, is plainly surreal.

"Hypothesis 0.2," in The Laroquod Experiment's Hypothesis. Image Source: Extratemporal Perception.

I do not know of many people who are making a Public Domain graphic novel of their lives and musings, interfaced with a true-fictitious blog and accompanying Youtube videos, to demonstrate what is happening to us at the intersection between the real and virtual worlds.   This immersion in transmedia storytelling seeks to wrest that genre from commercial interests on the one hand and the self-promotion of small Internet egotists on the other.  The latter don't engage with the Internet in a creative or ground-breaking way.  They merely mimic the marketing strategies they see all around them.

Thus, while Laroquod focuses critically on copyright, there is a lot of other stuff going on here. In the other reality, which just happens to be virtual, a bunch of guys, who include this other version of Laroquod, banter about comics and film reviews, swap pirated data, and crack jokes. There's a fine irony running through all of this.  That is because there are two virtual realities, or rather, our virtual worlds are currently up for grabs; they are claimed and counter-claimed by different parties.  The very virtual medium that can emancipate us from our nameless dread is itself constantly a Body Snatcher candidate, a target of the corporate and governmental establishment. In other words, you never know which virtual reality you are entering, the (fraught yet possibly OK) one you made up your head while creating your online presence, or a Doppelgänger of your virtual reality, which is in fact someone else's marketing pitch.  The pointed commentary in that subtext gives Laroquod's whole endeavour an ethereal sense of conspiratorial disquiet.  This uneasiness inevitably unravels the common agreement between us and Laroquod that 'here' is here and 'there' is there.  We make virtual doubles of ourselves online.  And businesses, industries, corporations and governments make doubles of themselves online.  Doubles interact with doubles in a duplicated world.  How many rabbit holes do we need to fall through, before we realize we've created a system from which there is no escape?

The connundrum reminds me a lot of a Philip K. Dick story I read, in which a character enters a room and pulls the lamp chain - except that this room has never had a light with a lamp chain. The character habitually pulled the chain in the same room, but in another reality. He has caught the ghost of himself, trapped inside the machine. We can only wonder what Dick would have made of the Information Revolution, virtual reality, Posthumanism, Transhumanism, and Post-Postmodernism. At any rate, there are echoes of Dick in this project.

"Hypothesis 0.2," in The Laroquod Experiment's Hypothesis. Image Source: Extratemporal Perception.

One question in all this backing and forthing is how virtual-real dualism intersects with the problem of Millennial time.  Laroquod continually skirts this issue, but does not quite resolve it.  You have to hand it to him: his Linked In profile gives his work experience as a Mental Health Care Industry professional, acting as Top Chrononaut in The Laroquod Experiment.  He lists his education in the 'Ops Tower' from 1996 to 2002, including, "Activities and Societies: Rigorously trained in the manipulation of chronological events by employing a bio-apparatus to alter the positions of objects in space-time."

Swap Thing #2. Video Source: Youtube.

On his main site, Laroquod commented on the first video in his Youtube series (second installment above), which augments his Web comic: "So, I've implemented a special technology to move through this stuff automatically for you, with audio. It's called, 'YouTube'. No, it's still a webcomic; it's a genuine piece of my comic (dis)continuity. No, it's also still just a movie. It's what it is. And that is: the best way to chronicle a subplot in which I work to save a rather odd, dystopian 'Swap Universe' from jackbooted copyright thugs and/or bad Hollywood 'event movies'."


Copyright critiques aside, this is the real heart of the matter: somehow, our displacement in real-virtual space has allowed time to come loose from its moorings. The Web makes it plain that virtual reality can take any object, any event and put it into any timeline. But what does that temporal dislocation do to our 'real' reality, where time is still apparently linear? On top of that, there is the question of how time is constructed in virtual worlds, given that those environments emanate from an internal computerized logic. If that follows, then the sequential processes that determine computer languages and associated commands may demand linear time.  This is the main assumption driving one school of thought on Artificial Intelligence, which I have blogged about here.  And if that is the case, then the appearance of timelines being mish-mashed in virtual reality is merely a function of our messed-up perception inside that virtual reality.  That's the tip of the iceberg in terms of how strange things are getting.

See all my posts on Copyright.

Given this post on copyright issues and virtual worlds, I find it ironic that I discovered wholesale theft of my blog this week.  Several sites have been reproducing my whole blog - or entire blog posts. They use my republished posts to draw traffic and then earn money from advertising on those stolen posts.  So from now on, several of my posts will have the following statement:

If you're not reading this post on Histories of Things to Come, the content has been stolen and republished without the original author's permission. Please let me know by following this link and leaving me a comment. Thank you.


  1. Okay, so. What you have been thinking of as 'virtual worlds'? I have been thinking of as my 'realities'. That could mean one of two things — which is the perfect number of things. 8)

    It's double-sided. It's a kind of doorway: to describe it is to begin to open it (and beginnings are my favourite thing). So, It's just as interesting to me to see someone else describe that door — especially in so sharply observed a form as above — as it is to attempt to describe it myself.

    In other words, reading this has been the same great fun I always have reading your blog, with the bonus that I learned a few new things about my own experiment. Thank you.

    I want to add that anyone and everyone in any reality is welcome to open a few new media doors with me (they are literally, everywhere, in this day and age). That's why everything I do is released immediately into the Public Domain, as I'm very glad that you mentioned. I do not want anyone to feel there is any barrier to launching into a tangent from, or on a parallel track to, any run of my panels or frames. If people were to ask for my permission, I would always say 'yes', so might as well make it official. Anyway, I didn't ask for these 'copyrights' — why should I expect them by default?

  2. Thanks for reading and commenting, Laroquod. It was my pleasure to review your post.

    I appreciate the irony of having my whole blog hijacked more than once in a week when your work and video has made me think of copyrights and everything related to the new order. I'm coming out of academia, where copyright is still strictly reinforced. This is partly due to its being a niche culture that can be forward looking, but remains quite archaic in its core structures. As a result of being educated and trained in that culture, my perception of what the internet is doing to copyrights is mixed. I feel that copyright is an older legal form that is evolving at a rate more slowly than the technology's capacity to generate and circulate information. Since I study legal history, I look at it from that perspective - a changing legal concept. Copyright may evolve in the long term into a legal form governing something completely banal, or something apparently unrelated to what it currently addresses. Laws can be like that.

    I appreciate your Public Domain stance very much and think the tangent form idea is fascinating. I also think that seeing virtual realities not as 'fake' or 'virtual' but as 'real' is unusual (given the way people still see the internet as non-real), yet prescient and accurate on your part. We really are living our lives online. It's not a dream.

    I guess we are in a hybrid period, where bits of what existed in the pre-tech age are co-existing with a new way of living. As for opening doors through the act of describing this condition, my blog scrapers certainly did that, and turned the blog into Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

  3. I should reiterate that the most fascinating things I see in this are your hints around metatime, the possibility that opening these doors is in fact a form of time travel. At any rate, I hope it's something you pursue further.

  4. I plan to, as much as time will allow. And I'm glad you noticed the way time screws about. It's a prime motivator.

    Sorry your blog has been bot-jacked. Personally, I can always tell blogs scraped by bots from something genuine, so I tend not to think of it as a huge problem. There's counterfeiting, and then there's successful counterfeiting. Bots tend to do the blog-scraping and it isn't very convincing. So I don't really see that as a big threat to anyone's reputation although admitedly it can draw off some Google hits, etc.

  5. @Laroquod - As you see, I continued the thought on this subject in today's post (May 27). The bot-shock is wearing off, slightly.