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The Real World?

In a world infiltrated by advertising, ‘reality’ TV and expontential advances to virtual technology … where exactly is ‘the real’ world?

Virtual reality has often remained a fantasy. The product of novels and Hollywood movies. Where robots take over the world and artificial intelligence surpasses human capacity. Where people fall into the world of computer games, desperate to escape. One recent example is Hollywood’s remake of the 1982 movie, TRON.

But, virtual reality is no longer just a thing of the imagination. Rather it is a rapidly developing technological field. Tapped into by big businesses the technology has been utilised to help boost internet sales, allowing consumers to virtually place products in their rooms or virtually explore products online before choosing to purchase. These developments have been further explored in Chris Grayson’s blog ‘Augmented Reality Overview’.

One unique example of business exploiting virtual technology is a new tourism ploy in Rome allowing tourists to virtually transport themselves into the history of the eternal city.

Big business is not the only area where virtual technology has proven useful. It is also slowly finding its place in the world of medicine. Studies in the United States are examining the effects of virtual technology on severe burns patients in the military.

But, there are fears of a dark side to virtual technology particularly in the world of gaming. Wikipedia notes that there have been several games and movies which reveal ‘the potentially dangerous side of virtual reality, demonstrating the adverse effects on human health and possible viruses, including a comatose state which some players assume’ (Wikipedia, ‘Virtual Reality’).

It is this fear of loosing our reality to a virtual universe that leads us to questioning – what exactly is reality, what is the virtual and where does the real world fit in all of this?

If we examine the world and everything which operates or inhabits it for example media, society, politics, your family, church, school, the environment as different ecologies all operating amongst each other in constant different feedback loops. Each one unable to exist without the other and each one having an effect on the others development. Then it becomes possible to understand the concept of the virtual. The virtual being the ecologies of potential which surround every situation. It is therefore all the potential outcomes of any interaction within a given context. As Murphie explains, ‘the virtual, as the complex structure immanent to any interaction'(Murphie 2004, p 121).

This leads us to a deeper understanding of the virtual. We are able to acknowledge that the world of Facebook chat is another facet of the virtual which directly interacts with our reality. Possibly an example of Massumi and Delanda’s virtual which possess its own reality (Murphie 2004, p 121). The world of Facebook through photos and comments creates its own version of reality, sometimes very different from the life led away from cyberspace.

So with an understanding of the virtual then what is ‘the real’. Actualised potential? Well the real is slightly more difficult to define. In fact Immanual Kant believes that it is actually impossible to experience ‘the real’ rather we all experience a ‘reality’. Reality being our experience with the world around us and our interpretation of it.

Through this information I argue that the virtual does exist and we live floating between it and our own reality. The real although essentially there is never truly experienced by us. As Murphie notes, we all come with our own virtual, our own potential, created by our past, memory and all our possible interactions in a given circumstance (Murphie, n.d.). Our perspective of every situation we encounter creates our own reality. Each person experiences their own form of the same event and therefore we are unable to fully comprehend ‘the real’.






Wikipedia 2011, Virtual Reality, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_reality>

Grayson, Chris 2009, ‘Augmented Reality Overview’, GigantiCo <http://gigantico.squarespace.com/336554365346/2009/6/23/augmented-reality-overview.html>

Murphie, A 2004, ‘The World’s Clock: The Network Society and Experimental ecologies’, Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies, 11, Spring (you can also download it here – <https://pi.library.yorku.ca/ojs/index.php/topia/article/view/2682/1887>

Murphie, A (n.d.), Is the Virtual Real?, <http://arts3091.newsouthblogs.org/course-outline-and-readings/#weekfive&gt;


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