Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Virtual Space

Henry David Thoreau once remarked that “He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all”, and those words have become true in a way that not even he could have predicted. While we sit motionless, interacting with the world on the screen we enter into a sort of quasi-movement through a virtual world. And this is something that puzzles me immensely. I consider myself to have a firm understanding of exactly where I am until the moment I open my web browser, and then it all goes a bit fuzzy. Where am I when my experience has shifted from my physical surroundings into a virtual space? How do we define virtual space, and is it possible and preferable to create an accepted virtual topography?
The term telepresence has often been used to describe one of the largest benefits of instant media. In the earlier parts of the 20th century, long distance communication was remarkable enough, but the multi-medial character of the internet has brought about the ability to project ourselves instantly into other people’s lives in an even more remarkable way. We can broadcast our ideas with comparatively small amount of effort and cost, share in experiences of music, literature of video and even the most mundane online games enable us to commune with people all over the globe as we entertain ourselves, all while holding instantaneous access to immense archives of knowledge at our fingertips. And yet, there’s something strangely detached about our current experiences of virtual reality. The prefix “cyber”, one that so many of us overuse to explain complex socio-technological phenomena, takes its roots from the old Greek word describing the act of steering a ship. And while we can certainly agree that the analogy of holding a ships rudder may make sense in relation to a control device such as a keyboard, it takes much more imagination to picture ourselves in the middle of a vast ocean, navigating the internet as if it were a body of water. There has always been a tendency to predict future technological development as moving toward a system of full-body immersion, a system that will enable us to completely enter into a virtual environment and become fully mobile within the machine in a naturally intuitive way. However, although such technology may not be fully realized and available yet, it does not mean that we have not entered into an era of “virtual movement”.
Source: humanityplus