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ENTRY

Virtual unreality
May 31, 2008

You don't hear the term virtual reality much anymore. It was coined more than twenty years ago and was a hot technology until the Web really took off. I was reminded of the phrase the other day when I discovered a fictional character I'd created had come to "life."

I was googling something, can't remember what it was now, and one of the search results summary was for a "Tina Suzuki" on ZoomInfo, a site for business people information. That's funny, I thought. Tina Suzuki was one of the main characters in The Fourth Treasure. Of course, I clicked on the link to find out more about this flesh-and-blood Tina Suzuki.

Indeed there was a page for Tina Suzuki. She was, amazingly, listed as a graduate student just as my Tina. Even more amazing, her school was listed as the Berkeley Brain Institute. That sounded familiar. Wait, I thought, I'd made up the institute. It was supposed to be a completely fictional institution.

I felt bad, and worried. I'd slandered some great scholarly research institution and even stolen the name of one of their star students. I was going to have to get a good lawyer. All this had happened in a second or two. Then my rational side took over and told me that the ZoomInfo site must automatically search websites, plucking info about people (supposedly real people), putting that information in a database, and then build a page whenever the name was searched for.

Indeed when I looked closer, I saw the ZoomInfo disclaimer: "This profile was automatically generated using 6 references found on the Internet. This information has not been verified." I guess not. I checked a couple of references and saw that they were from descriptions or reviews of The Fourth Treasure.

Anyway, it was a disconcerting few moments.

#

COMMENTS

Number of comments: 4
click here to add a comment

Teresa Funke
Hi Todd, Well, that's just wierd. Now I'm going to have to google my characters and see if they come up. I've always thought of my characters as real people. Helps me to write them. But it's wierd to think they might have a "virtual" life of their own.

Jean Hanson
That's completely wild. Now, not only will we get our 15 minutes of fame, but our characters might, too.

Todd
Teresa, I'd be interested to hear if any of your characters have come to life too.

Jo Reed
That's hilarious. And kind of Kafka-esque. You could create a whole fake life for a character using these kinds of social websites. Then publish a book by or about her/him. It would be a (virtual) bestseller.

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