The latest craze to hit Florida (as well as the rest of the world) is Pokémon Go. After installing the appropriate app on your Android or IPhone you then set off on your search, in “augmented reality,” for Pokémon characters. There are, of course, special strategies and special ways of capturing Pokémon by strategically using gyms, incubating lucky eggs, maximizing the use of Pokéstops, using Pokéballs, and the like. Mainly, in order to capture all 142 of these ‘lil critters you have to spend considerable time “poking around” with your phone.
Floridians have a special advantage when it comes to playing games with “augmented realities” since we live in the state that is the home of Disney World. With special ticket prices for Floridians we can more frequently experience the joys of Disney hyperreality—imitations of imitations of things that never existed (e.g. someone dressed in a Mickey Mouse costume who impersonates the character who appears in Disney films which, of course, is merely a cartoon figure). Augmented reality is a piece of cake for us!
The Pokémon Go craze is an interesting cultural phenomenon that raises some fundamental questions about reality. Do the various Pokémons and associated characters actually exist? If so, where are they located? If they exist why is it that only some people can see them? Can you touch them? Can you feel them? Are the IPhones used creating new, alternative realities? If they are not real, what are they? If they don’t really exist then how can people see them? Is reality merely perception?
The entire Pokémon phenomenon makes the case that reality is a social construction. For those with a cell phone with a Pokémon Go app they may see a park bench as a Pokéstop while others without a phone may simply see a bench. One’s view of reality is interpreted and can vary from person to person.
Games such as Pokémon are popular because they tap into important cultural values. The malleability of reality makes the game successful. In a like manner, Donald Trump has built his campaign for the presidency on a similar assumption. In his 1987 book The Art of the Deal he described his relationship to reality: “I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration—and a very effective form of promotion.”
Like the Pokémon Go game, Trump’s exaggerations are fast-paced. He throws out absurdly false claims which draws the attention of the media and then he rides the wave of publicity until the media begin focusing on the truthfulness of them; then he distracts them by throwing out yet another false statement and the media scramble to catch up. All the while he amasses followers who love, strangely enough, his “truthfulness.”
Still hung up on traditional notions of reality the media watchdog Politifact found so many false statements made by Trump in 2015 that it couldn’t identify only one to designate as “lie of the year” and instead gave the “award” to Trump himself. Examining 77 statements he made they found that 76 percent of them were either mostly false, false or “pants on fire” false.
Still, in our present cultural environment does it matter? One of the keenest observers of contemporary America, Stephen Colbert, perceptively highlighted the problem. Truth was no longer relevant. It was boring. Instead, our new approach should be “truthiness.” Things don’t have to actually be true, they merely need to sound as if they could be true.
Don’t be surprised after you download that Pokémon Go app and it directs you to the White House that you see a Donald Trump anime staring at you!