TELEPRESENCE IN POPULAR CULTURE

A study of portrayals of presence

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Elementary, Dear Data

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ABOUT THE WORK

MEDIUM:

TV episode 

YEAR:

1988 

WRITER(S):

Brian Alan Lane 

OWN COPY?

No 
 

ABOUT THE STORY

SUMMARY:

(copied from http://www.startrek.com/startrek/view/series/TNG/episode/68364.html) When the Starship Enterprise arrives three days ahead of schedule to rendezvous with the U.S.S. Victory, the crew is presented with some well-deserved free time. Knowing that Data is a Sherlock Holmes aficionado, Geordi summons Data to the holodeck, where they travel back to Victorian London to solve one of the famed detective's mysteries. Geordi plays Dr. Watson to Data's Holmes, but the trip turns out to be a brief one having memorized every one of the Sherlock Holmes books, Data can solve the crime with very little effort. Returning to the U.S.S. Enterprise, Geordi tries to explain to Data the difference between deduction and memorization. Dr. Kate Pulaski overhears their conversation and challenges Data to solve a real crime, a la Sherlock Holmes. Geordi orders the computer to present Data with an original mystery and an opponent who could defeat him. Kate joins Data and Geordi as they return to London, via the holodeck. But their game turns serious when Kate is kidnapped by Holmes' arch-enemy, Professor James Moriarty. Although they track down Kate's location, they are unable to retrieve her because Moriarty has taken control of the holodeck computer. Leaving the holodeck, Geordi and Data apprise the crew of the situation with Kate. They learn that the computer didn't create an adversary worthy of Holmes' intelligence, but of Data's which means Moriarty is very bright indeed! Picard insists upon returning to London with Data to rescue Kate. Data leads Picard to Moriarty, who is still holding Kate hostage. Although Data offers to concede victory to his nemesis in order to end the charade, Moriarty wants more. He wants to leave the holodeck and become real. Luckily, Picard is able to convince Moriarty that he does not yet know how to convert artificially created holodeck matter into a more permanent form, and Moriarty releases Kate from captivity. 

ERA/YEAR:

Distant future 

CHARACTERISTICS
OF WORLD:

Takes place aboard the Starship Enterprise in the 24th century. 
 
ABOUT THE PRESENCE-EVOKING TECHNOLOGY
NAME:
The Holodeck 
DESCRIPTION:
Data and Jordi command the Holodeck to run various programs based on the Sherlock Holmes novels. They describe the Holodeck to Dr. Pulaski as being a large room that the computer makes seem larger through the use and movement of holographic images. It looks, feels and sounds like the streets of London during Holmes's time period. 
NATURE OF TASK OR ACTIVITY:
Data and Jordi visit the Holodeck to participate in a Sherlock Holmes mystery, because they have leisure time awaiting the Enterprise's next mission. 
PERFORMANCE OF THE TECHNOLOGY:
After Jordi tells the computer to create an adversary that can defeat Data, the Holodeck seems to take a power surge from the ship. A character within the Holodeck starts to learn and assumes control of the Holodeck and the ship itself. When he makes the Holodeck shake, the Enterprise shakes, as well. 
 
ABOUT THE CREATORS OF THE TECHNOLOGY
DESCRIPTION:
The creator of the Holodeck is not explicitly addressed. Jordi, an engineering crew member of the Enterprise, inputs the program parameters that cause the Holodeck to malfunction. Later, a holographic character within the Holodeck succeeds at commun 
MAJOR GOAL(S):
For leisure purposes of the Enterprise crew. 
 
ABOUT THE PEOPLE WHO EXPERIENCE PRESENCE
DESCRIPTION:
Data is an android and a crew member, Jordi is a member of the ship's engineering crew, and Dr. Pulaski is the ship's primary physician. Dr. Moriarty is the nemesis of Sherlock Holmes, and a character on the Holodeck. 
 
ABOUT THE PRESENCE EXPERIENCE
TYPE(S) OF PRESENCE:
Both spatial and social presence 
DESCRIPTION:
It varies throughout the show. First, Data and Jordi marvel at the realism of the Sherlock Holmes "set". Jordi gets frustrated at Data's ability to solve all the mysteries in seconds because he has them memorized. Dr. Pulaski bets Data cannot solve a true mystery because his android brain does not possess the same powers of deduction and original thought that a human brain has. When Jordi re-programs the Holodeck to be able to defeat Data, the program and the character of Dr. Moriarty take on a life of their own. 
USER AWARENESS:
All the characters are aware of the Holodeck's constructed nature throughout. Even the holographic Dr. Moriarty becomes aware of the computer's control over his world and the ship his world is contained within. 
VALENCE:
Data clearly enjoys the mysteries (easy and then more difficult) the Holodeck presents to him. Jordi is frustrated at first by Data's ease at solving them, but enjoys the experience once the difficulty level is moved up. However, once it becomes clear that Jordi's instructions to the computer to "defeat Data" are the cause of the Holodeck's potentially dangerous malfunction, he is anxious and contrite. 
SPECIFIC RESPONSES:
First, Data and Jordi are relaxed and at leisure. When Dr. Pulaski is abducted, they become concerned. Dr. Moriarty's responses are most interesting, as his 19th century brain learns 24th century concepts and he becomes aware of his own make-up of energy and not matter as a character on the Holodeck. When Picard enters to confront Dr. Moriarty, they seem to have a genuine meeting of the minds. Picard promises not to destroy the program that enables him to exist in energy form, but to save it in the ship's computer and run it again sometime in the future. 
 
ABOUT THE CONSEQUENCES OF PRESENCE
LONG-TERM CONSEQUENCES:
It is uncertain whether Jordi's unorthodox programming of the Holodeck will be detrimental to the ship or crew. When the mystery is solved, everyone is safe. However, it is implied that the Holodeck is no longer considered an innocuous technology to be taken for granted. 
 
AND FINALLY...
OTHER INFORMATION:
This episode is fascinating because it examines the interaction between a social presence (Data the android) with a spatial and social presence (the Holodeck and its characters), and the potential for competition between the two. 
CODER NAME:
Tina Peterson 
CODER E-MAIL:
tina.peterson@temple.edu 
CODER AFFILIATION:
Temple University 
DATE CODED:
3/16/2007 

 


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