Produced Reality is manufactured, for the purpose of keeping our attention. Our attention is "The Movie" of our life.
#3365 Created 04/26/2013 Updated 04/27/2017
What is reality?
Epistemologists* circle this question like flies over fruit, touching occasionally on the thought that we know what we perceive, and that awareness and reflection muddy the issue.
In our media-aged human awareness and perception -- the movie that unrolls in your mind's eye -- we can argue that there are three realms of information streaming from the outside into our consciousness and thinking during each day. I call these arbitrary realms Reality, Produced Reality, and Attention. Each speaks with a voice.
Without needing to bend the meaning of "reality", I will just say that it is what is going on around you in the real world, disconnected from what you may be perceiving or thinking. The tree does fall in the forest, regardless, with a nod to Santayana, and we may perceive it, mis-perceive it, or just miss it entirely.
But if the tree falls in the internet (or on NBC), well now, that's a different thing entirely, for that tree-fall was intentionally produced for the purpose of being perceived, and our attention was attracted to that place of distribution for the purpose of our perceiving it (thank you very much, Mr. Williams).
We may have directed our attention to that media consumption with a purpose, or we may have been attracted to it by the sparkling lights or the smell of blood. Regardless, the intent of its production finds fruition in our consumption. And our consumption of it makes it part of our individual reality, that which we individually, see and hear and feel and think.
It doesn't depend on our perceptiveness, wealth, sanity or intent; it's just the movie, as it is, as we experience it. It speaks with our voice, it carries our color, it is the product of our mental activity.
Let's not confuse that "feel and think" part with actual physical-world reality, of course. But the "feel and think" part is the exact target of the media-as-a-business, for the source of power in media is success in acquiring and holding our attention.
As part of our individual realities, we also consume "Produced Reality", which is what we humans experience in the world of all visual, electronic, printed or audible media, from granular social media (Twitter) to the range of worldwide multimedia products (movies, music, toys, games, etc. ). It includes all the sources of media generation, from professional sports to Capitol Hill, professional media and social media, hometown radio and cable news channels, grade-school stage plays and 'Reality TV' shows, the entire realms of news and entertainment, Hollywood and Bollywood and billions of webcams and traffic cams and more. It includes all the stuff we actually read as text, either physically, from screens, or road signs, including little Suzie's crayon drawings stuck on the refrigerator.
In short, it includes all media made by humans that one can consume, intentionally or not.
That's it. We spend all of our time in reality, and we spend some of that time "in" Produced Reality, the world of media.
So, what's the third world? It's the world we produce ourselves, the world of our Attention. We don't just tune in to the media or goings-on around us; we filter and re-write our perceptions in real-time, being the authors or our own movie. And the fun part is that we do that with both our daily physical world experiences, and our media experiences.
Our attention is like a constantly-scrambling monkey, darting here and there, across roof-tops, swinging through trees, plunging from the heights to the depths and back in an instant. We almost control it. We pick up the paper, or turn on the TV, or open a Website, and pay attention. Whatever media we turn to, we soon turn to another, be it Facebook, or a Tweet, or music, or the interruption of advertising, or the magazine cover on the floor, or the doorbell, or the insistent chirp from our pocket that demands we pay our attention to someone else.
And, all the while, our attention wanders here and there, in little micro-steps, breaking up the attention that we are paying into little bits and jerks. Turn on the TV and open up Facebook, and then get a phone call while looking at your email. All while the dog barks, the child laughs, the teakettle whistles, and the doorbell rings. The consumer is paying attention in shares, in layers, ignoring and absorbing, leaving little deposits and making little twitches.
The two important concepts here are that Produced Reality is manufactured, for the purpose of keeping our attention. Every bit of what we call "content" is created with human intent, and that intent includes holding -- and molding -- our attention.
Our attention, where-ever we pay it, along with it's chattering internal commentary, is "The Movie" of our life. The purpose of most media now is to get us to pay that attention into the Virtual world, to spend our time within the message matrix convinced all the while that we are there under our own free will.
We spend our lives by paying attention.
* Full Disclosure: I think I remember knowing that I withdrew, in intellectual disgrace, from the graduate-level Epistemology course at CU-Boulder.