Virtual, but not not real

So, I was waiting for my return flight at Jakarta airport. Although it was the first time I visited the city, and the country for that matter, I am afraid I hadn’t got around to doing much pre-trip research, partly because I had known that there would be very little free time anyway. Still, I was surprised that kopi luwak didn’t come to my mind until I saw tins after tins of it in the duty-free shops. Not that I am a coffee connoisseur or anything – in fact, I don’t do caffeine very well – but boy, hadn’t I always been curious about it? I have heard so much about it and those who have ever tried it have all said the same: “I know it is incredibly expensive, but for a reason. It’s just that special. You’ve got to try it yourself, only then you will know…” et cetera et cetera.

So, there I was, having the actual product in front of my eyes for the first time. On the one hand, I was dying to try what it is like. On the other hand, however, I couldn’t see myself actually trying it. As a result, I was engaged in a staring competition with it in the middle of the shop for those hours that I had to kill before boarding.

To put you out of suspense, I didn’t buy it. I don’t know why, I just couldn’t bring myself to. Maybe a little to do with animal rights, but only a little. After all, I am a meat eater and I don’t feel particularly well placed to go down that line and comment on what’s right by animals. My guess is rather that it had more to do with me being my usual self, being squeamish and afraid of anything and everything (although, to be fair to me, the photos of civet cats on the packages were quite frightening). Leaving the shop, I was thinking to myself  that the ideal situation for me would have been that someone is having a cup of it next to me and let me ‘nose‘ it. 😛

With one thought leading to another, on the plane, I somehow ended up thinking about virtuality. (Now we have completely drifted away from coffee.) While doing a DEA in France, one day, during a Human-Machine Communication class, the professor took a good 10 minutes and emphasised that ‘virtual’ is not an antonym for ‘real’. Voilà, below is a snippet of the notes that I took that day. That’s right, all my class notes from then and onwards have been digitised and filed neatly. *dorky pride*


Back in the Anglophone world, however, I come across very often people using the word ‘virtual’ as opposed to ‘real’, and while perhaps that’s just from different semantic conventions, I find myself resistant to such conceptualisation.

Since we are on the topic, here’s another very good point, made by Pierre Lévy:  [Le virtuel] existe depuis bien plus longtemps que les ordinateurs.

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