It would not be too much of an exaggeration to say new media is exploding at a grand scale that has never been witnessed before. Its application and involvement in every aspect of our lives are countless, and the ripples of its effect broaden so vastly that our society nowadays has called it as a culture: new media culture. It is interesting to know how this new culture creates or blurs the boundaries between fiction and reality as well as how our everyday lives are described today, thus raising some consequences of this new culture in terms of social and communication.
New media culture/Cyberculture is the culture where ways of our lives are shaped by using computer networks for various aspects from communication, education, business to entertainment. By serious researches from the first use of the term cyberculture in 1986 by novel writer William Gibson to its popular use in early 1990s by other Internet activists, Lister et al (2009, p. 317) summarizes ‘it is a culture in which machines play a particularly important role’.
These researchers claim that the elements which make up this culture include ‘communication networks, programming, software’, ‘the issues of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, artificial life, and the human-computer interface’ (Lister et al, 2009, p. 317). To clarify, the work of Dr. Flew (2008, p. 24) points out the nature of cyberculture, he states that ‘it drew attention to the remediation of culture through new media technologies, and the extent to which the Internet has never simply been a communications tool, but a cultural form’.
Indeed, new media culture’s constituents partly concern with the attitude, the psychology of people towards cyberspace; in other word, they mainly emerge due to the way users interact with new media everyday via any forms and approaches. For example, Internet environment provides virtual market such as eBay and people fully take advantage of this site which accustoms them with new way of shopping, cybershopping, which in turn makes up new media culture.
Before deeply plunging into discussion of how new media blurs or creates boundaries between imaginative fiction and reality, it would be interesting to envision what is the so-called Virtual Reality (VR). According to Dharmbir Sharma (2009), VR is ‘an artificial environment created by software. It is presented to the viewer in such a way that the person temporarily suspends own belief pattern and accepts it as a real environment’. VR allows user (or audience) to interact with environment manipulated by computer system, the environment is frequently experienced by display means such as computer screen, headphones or other complex equipments.
Thus, it gives us a sense of a ‘tangible’ reality though we know it is unreal, or more exactly, as Lister et al (2009, p. 389) put it ‘It has real existence but not in the same way as the things that are actually around us’. VR is applied in a wide variety of domain, from scientific professional such as aeronautics, cosmology, therapeutics to cultural application as urban/ landscape design, heritage, archeology and undeniably in media: television, fiction books, moving picture, computer games, educational software and so on.
We are witnessing the development of film and television industry where digital technologies become dominant in all stages. Large production budget is spent for investing media equipments as well as dedicating to post-production process which turns digital techniques into advantage. The history of film and television records an appearance of such great technology: IMAX, a film format which captures pictures with greater resolution than conventional format.
The greatest feature of IMAX is that it can create illusion in the audiences’ eyes of what they see on the screen, trick them into seeing a vividly alive picture which offers the feeling ‘something that looks and behaves like the real thing, but which is not’ (Lister et al, 2009, p. 388). Hence, this new technology makes the boundaries between imaginative fiction and reality difficult to distinguish. The movie series Harry Potter is one of the famous productions made by IMAX cameras as well as exhibited by IMAX theaters.