Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Interpersonal Relationships in VR

In Charles U. Larson's Dramatism and Virtual Reality: Implications and Predictions, he voices the same concerns as critics of virtual reality. By emphasizing the intra-personal nature of virtual reality simulations, Larson is neglecting some of the most important aspects of a virtual reality network. The greatest ability of virtual reality is connecting people in deeper manner than message boards and emails. Through an extension of a virtual body, people are more willing and more able to make emotional connections with others.

While there are more impressive simulations available, the most popular virtual reality is World of Warcraft. I don't think I'm stretching the definition of the word by calling WoW a virtual reality environment. So why is World of Warcraft so popular? Because it's fun and it allows people to make real connections without needing to be in the same time zone or zip code. And WoW does this without the need for headset glasses or touch sensors placed all over your body. Nor does World of Warcraft display ultra-realistic graphics or physics resembling the real world. Yet, because of the real players behind their avatars, the game presents a realistic, humanistic map for one to explore.

My point is that virtual reality won't appear like in the Matrix. We won't "jack in" one day to this virtual environment. Rather, through slow and deliberate modifications to existing technologies, the world will become more digital and more virtual, but do so invisibly to most people. We will continue to augment our reality with virtual environments. And the most important use of virtual reality will be in presenting an environment to interact in and connect through without the need for physical or temporal locality.

1 comment:

Lance Strate said...

In all fairness, when Larson wrote this, VR like videogames were essentially single user environments. You are right that the social element is what makes these forms really attractive. At the same time, even in basic interpersonal forms such as e-mail and chat, there is a sense in which we are communicating for, and with ourselves as much as with others, that these are in many ways narcissistic, if not solipsistic, activities, and where the other person is as much about our own projection as it is about his or her independent existence and communication with us.