Those Sheep Sound like Sheep on TV!

A barf bag with an AOV post on itEditorial Note: However cliché it may be, I have to point out that this post was first written on two sides of a (thankfully unused) barf-bag on a plane.

On a recent flight from one boring city to another, I had a minor revelation. As we took off and gained altitude, I had a clear view of the airport runway layout below. Rather than fascination and intrigue, I though instead of a familiar landscape I had seen out the cockpit of a Cesna years before. That scene, though, had been rendered by the 20MHz 486sx in my parent’s old Packard Bell (more specs). I had a short stint where I played (if you could call it ‘playing’) Microsoft Flight Simulator (something I’ve been thinking of getting into again).

What struck me about this association was that a real-world situation reminded me of something I had first [Editorial Update: flip over barf-bag] encountered digitally (I refuse to use the word “virutally”). The similarity didn’t lead me to think of how well Microsoft’s digital representation reflected the actual scene. Rather, I was struck by how much the real thing looked like the digital version. The difference is subtle, but significant. I had encountered the digital version first — the digital version was my original.

This isn’t the first time this has happened to me. A few years ago, I accompanied a friend to a December church service at a small country church. In a brilliant display of showmanship, they brought in real live sheep for part of the dramatization of the Christmas story. The sheep let out the quintessential sheep ‘bleat’. I turned to my neighbour and exclaimed with genuine surprise and wonder that “Those sheep sound like sheep on TV!”.

I suspect this will only happen more and more frequently. What have you encountered in the real world that felt secondary to the digital?


10 thoughts on “Those Sheep Sound like Sheep on TV!

  1. Although I would’t rate flesh-Garrity as being secondary to digital-Garrity, I did encounter digital-Garrity first (leaving out a chance encounter during the teenage years), and so, I suppose, all encounters in meatspace with flesh-Garrity are compared, flight-sim style, to the original digital-Garrity I knew first.

  2. Something similar comes up in discussions of the aura of art works. Most people are aware of art through reproductions in magazines, slides, online, and so on. What happens (and as John Berger argues) when we see the actual piece, is that the viewer makes the connection that they’ve seen this work before and attatches these preconceived ideas of importance, value, and meaning, to these secondary experiences over those of seeing the original. This scenario is evident at museums where people crowd around the works they’ve seen replicated before, like the huge line that forms to view the Mona Lisa.

  3. I had that experience with Olympia in Paris – stared at it for hours. That feeling is also intenstified, Nick, when you seemingly walk into the setting of a landscape. There was actually a diner in Moncton which could be seen at a very Night Hawks at the Diner [or whatever it is called] by Hopper [or whatever he is called] – exterior glass on two sides of the counter. It is like deja vu but then you realize it is a matter of visual memory not the normal less certain kind.

    Digitally? I have had email client relationships go on for months which were then a bit dashed on our actual meeting. Writing is an opportunity to put your best forward. Conversely, being in a setting such as a meadow with sheep is so immersively superior to the digital version that I am glad I will never have to cope with the images of Half-Life in reality. That and I will not have to deal with the angry headless chickens sucking out my head.

  4. This is not exactly the same thing, but I often have experiences where I’ve been “digitally involved” for so long that in my “waking life” I start to behave like I do when I’m in front of a computer. Like as I’m walking down the street I find myself scanning the buildings around me half expecting to see opponents from Quake jump out and shoot at me. I suppose that’s a bad sign. It’s like in high school, after writing a math exam, I’d start to perceive everyday situations numerically somehow.

    A friend of mine also told me that once, for a fraction of a second, he thought he could “Ctrl + Z” a mistake he made on paper.

  5. Any work by Andrew Goldsworthy (who makes amazing, hyperreal pieces of art out of natural substances, eg leaves, stone etc) becomes even more impressive when you realize that it was made before computers became widespread. That said, the awesomeness of the work is perhaps dimmed by exposure to years of computer-generated imagery…

  6. I went down to Florida and encountered a few families of real live red necks. I spent a lot of time with them over a 48 hour period, and the most shocking revelation was that rednecks in real life are just like rednecks on T.V. It was fascinating how close these real rednecks were to the rednecks I have grown accustomed to on television.

  7. Indeed, modern western culture is seeking all kinds of cyber replacements for the real thing, is it a good thing or a bad thing? Can we as a modern culture preclude any real experiences? Look at the japanese wave pools that enable the Japanese to “surf” without the sharks! I sadly feel that as a culture we are lost and have begun the search for a replacement, but as far as I can tell the only life to experience is life itself, and that includes death!

  8. >I had a short stint where I played (if you could call it ‘playing’)
    >Microsoft Flight Simulator (something I’ve been thinking of getting
    >into again).

    I haven’t tried it (I’m limited by my PII 450mHz processor – it suggests 700+), but I’ve heard X-Plane is a good alternative to MS Flight Sim. There’s a nice thriving community behind it, and you can get or write your own plug-ins. You can read more about it in a recent Popular Science article (where I heard about it).

    I’ve always wanted to test out some flight sims, but I never got around to it when they could actually run on my computer.

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