Monday, 22 September 2008
Virtual reality's recent emergence as a discourse shows that the process of a technology coming to acceptance involves more than just creating better hardware and software. VR originated as a marginal technology associated, on the one hand, with the military, and, on the other, with science fiction and the cyberpunk counterculture. It was taken up by computer companies as a product-but in the process of its development and promotion it changed to better suit mainstream values.
VR's appeal has largely been due to its marketing. It proposed a paradigm shift: that computers can be "reality generators," not just symbol processors. This shift allowed VR to become associated with a far broader range of cultural tropes than computers had been before. The VR fraternity gave their technology a history, writing narratives which fitted VR at the apex of the historical process. To give a sense of cultural scale, they compared their technology with others, such as flight, the telephone and the printing press. By emphasising the spatial and experiential nature of VR, proponents tapped into US cultural traditions-which I have related to the myth of the frontier. Meanwhile they tried to broaden the range of areas to which the technology could be understood to apply--colonizing discourses. It has also enriched itself by being informed by other discourses. The excessive claims about VR seen around 1989 have been tempered, and VR now has a solid infrastructure of developers, and a receptive public. This success can partly be attributed to the technology itself, but as this essay has shown, the process is more complex and is strongly connected with the cultural context into which the technology was introduced.
Rober1236 Jua the Cyber Trekker of Second Life