Arquitectura Viva
Saturday, October 31, 2020
19/07/2016

Pokémon Go, an anthropology lesson

 
When he woke up, the Pokémon was still there. The 721 species that – as naturalists of the digital say – make up the family of Pocket Monsters have found a new ecosystem to colonize: ‘augmented reality.’ The first virtual monsters had to make do in the small universe of Game Boy; later they made the leap to the paradise of consoles, before proceeding to explore the galaxy of animation and, once these territories dried up, move to the mobile phone screen, camouflaged behind a tree, bench, or car, or behind the seats in an airplane or the lattice of a confessional. Since 8 July Pokémon have been invading reality, the success of their communication with humans so speedy and of such caliber that the new application is already estimated to have more users than WhatsApp and Instagram, and that the stock exchange listing of the up to now languid company that breeds and feeds these digital creatures, Nintendo, has in barely fifteen days gone from 20,000 to 37,000 dollars, a virtual figure which is of course adjusted to a no less virtual reality.

Pokémon Go involves the fascinating task of searching, hunting, capturing (if possible), and finally trading with 18 kinds of monsters lurking in the inexhaustible field that reality is. The hunt is course subject to certain rules: for example, a ‘water’ Pokémon has more chances of defeating a ‘fire’ Pokémon, the ‘water’ Pokémon could have minor problems with the ‘electric’ Pokémon. To be a hunter, the user has to create an avatar, to then expore the boring physical world that, mapped and translated to binary language, becomes a bit more fun: the so-called ‘augmented reality’ in which buildings, streets, and objects, properly marked and represented thanks to a geolocator, double as doors to another dimension. Regardless of age or sense of the ridiculous, there is a risk of users getting carried away and, say, stepping out of a car with the engine on because they’ve come across an extremely rare Pokémon, or bursting into a gym, precinct, or church to chase as many digital monsters as possible.Thus the warning that appears when one launches the app: ‘Stay aware of your surroundings.’

The comic side of this newsbit hides – like another Pokémon – a more serious matter: the updating of the debate begun some years ago on virtual reality, cyberspace, and its impact on the city and buildings. Precisely because they are so immediate and successful, inventions like Pokémon Go do not only call into question the physical and spatial dimension of what surrounds us – and with it that of architecture itself, as we know it – but also points to the development of a sensitivity that takes reality less as something directly and inadvertenly perceived with thes enses, than as a construction arrived at by way of machines. In this sense, Pokémon Go is a lesson on anthropology.
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