Screenworld


Screenworld

Reality isn't what it used to be

By Michael Ventura

January/February 2009


Not so long ago, I taught a graduate writing seminar in which I got caught in an argument about virtual vs. "real" experience. Two students—among the brightest in the class—insisted that they could go to Rome via a computer program through which they could view every street, turn this corner and that as they pleased, look at every ruin and work of art, and their experience would be as real, as engaged, as if they'd actually been there. n "But," said I, "a pigeon couldn't shit on your head."

Granting that any experience can be called "real," in that it is an experience, I argued that there are differences in the nature of virtual and actual reality. For one thing, on your walk through a virtual Rome, you aren't even walking: you're sitting. And what's Rome without the wonderful smells of food? Even if your virtual Rome is accompanied by recorded sounds of Rome, that's nothing like the sounds of racket, traffic, music, and language, the melodious cacophony of Italian, spoken all around you. A flat screen gives you no sense of Rome behind you, and to the side of you. The rain won't rain on you, and you won't have to dodge crazy drivers.

You're having a one-dimensional experience, literally and figuratively. And no matter what's inputted into the program, there's no chance of running into the girl who sat next to you in high school chemistry—or anyone else. What R. D. Laing once called "the freshness and forgivingness…

Already have an account linked to your magazine subscription? Log in now to continue reading this article.

(Need help? Click here or contact us to ask a question.)

Not currently a subscriber? Subscribe Today to read the rest of this article!




Read 6993 times
Comments - (existing users please login first)
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
*