Monday, February 25, 2008

Virtual Reality and Community

In chapter 6, we learn that Alduous Huxley coined the term Virtual reality in his classic book Brave New World. Charles U. Larson goes on to explain what Huxley meant by these "Feelies". A feelie was a person who entered a booth, and after planting their hands on an electronic contact board, they would experience sensations identical to whatever was happening. This type of feeling was like an advanced form of a movie, because now all five senses are being moved, rather than just seeing and hearing. Although the idea of Virtual Reality seemed far fetched when first introduced, we see it being applied more rapidly day by day. Critics of virtual reality warn of potential overwhelming , and wonder how many hours a day people will want to spend in virtual reality. The central concern is that the phone, computer and television use interactivity within some community while virtual reality limits the sense of community that has been accompanied by earlier media. As Burke describes in his theory of Virtual Act, that what happens to a person during this reality is private and interpersonal, they are similar to dreams and fantasies. If these instances are only experienced by the participant, will sense of community fade away? Virtual Reality tis very cool and seems great. However, everything should be done in moderation, if we were to get to carried away video games and airplane cockpit learning would be old news, and other things such as learning, sex, and eating may become virtual and that would take away from personal relationships and community.

1 comment:

Lance Strate said...

It's worth noting that what Huxley envisioned was a multisensory cinema, where the audience was still passive, but experienced the sensations of the main characters. This sort of thing is better represented in more recent movies like Total Recall and Strange Days.

Kenneth Burke's pentad consists of act, agent, scene, agency, and purpose, and is used as a means of rhetorical analysis. Larson applies it to virtual reality, and he is the one who introduces the idea of virtual act, virtual scene, etc. And these do raise very interesting questions about whether we are true agents, in control and responsible for our actions, when we are in a virtual scene.