Virtuality

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1.Introduction

A better world free from the boundaries we experience in our real lives, dismissing the chance of being socially isolated and improving the communication within our society. These are a few of the expectations of Virtual Reality, a technology which arose back in the 90s and promised to offer new possibilities in how we perceive our lives. Virtual worlds would offer us a better way of experiencing life than our real world. Authors such as John Perry Barlow and Julian Dibbell searched for a way to define this new technology by creating a distinction between the virtual and real world. When Barlow experienced the new technology, he described it as a world without any of the usual limits, with no laws at all beyond those imposed by computer processing speed (Barlow 1990). While Barlow attempted to define a clear distinction between our virtual and real world, Dibbell realized both worlds are actually very much alike. The virtual world lets us experiment with our world and our identity, yet does involve real human emotions. Slowly but effectively we began to realize both worlds share a lot of similarities and was the virtual world increasingly taking part of our real life. Although the technology lost its hype and people began to distance themselves from the old expectations VR was going to deliver, authors such as Jaron Lanier still had high hopes for it. He believed people use VR to be able to share a dream with someone else and to take a little step away from the sense of isolation that people feel today. Steven Shaviro however felt that this revolutionary promise was unfulfilled and that it was impossible to achieve in the first place. Although distanced from, the fulfillment of these old VR expectations are recognizable in social network sites such as Facebook. This social network allows us to connect with our real friends in a virtual world and attempts to enhance our social life. Our isolation is being dismissed and are we steering towards a better world with increased public participation within our society. This is what VR was ought to deliver during its arrival and can we possibly state that Facebook is reaching the former expectations of VR. More importantly, because of the constant presence of Facebook (and thus the virtual) we get with the mobile Facebook application, we are creating a new improved reality which combines the virtual with the real world; an Augmented Reality . This brings me to the following proposition: “Facebook is a remediation of the concept of virtuality and is expanding our reality towards a better world, making Virtual Reality the predecessor of Facebook”. By analyzing and discussing the works of multiple authors in the field of Virtuality, I will clarify the reasoning for my above proposition.   2.Virtuality

As I discussed in my introduction, there’s no clear view on the link between the ‘real’ and the ‘virtual’ which applies to our virtual worlds. Barlow for example argues how Virtual Reality (VR) is not connecting us with our reality, however still raises the question how we can actually define reality since “we don’t know a damned thing about it”(Barlow 1990). Yet defining and establishing a proper link between the ‘real’ and the ‘virtual’ is important, as this influences the possibilities we can have in our virtual worlds. This chapter will give insight in the different views authors hold (who are active in the field of virtuality) on the link between the ‘real’ and the ‘virtual’ and explain the lineage that took place and brought them closer together. Using their views I will discuss how this combination of both worlds applies to the social network of Facebook.

2.1Birth of the Cyberspace

Virtual Reality, a reoccurring concept part of the Virtuality theme, can be seen as technology that helps us navigate through unreal spaces. These spaces hold rules not to be found in our real world. As the world is merely virtual, its possibilities...
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