Reality, sex, and cyberspace

In Unknown Unknown (ed.), MacHack conference proceedings (2000)
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Typical discussions of virtual reality (VR) fixate on technology for providing sensory stimulation of a certain kind. They thus fail to understand reality as the place wherein we live and work, misunderstanding it instead as merely a sort of presentation. The first half of the paper examines popular conceptions of VR. The most common conception is a shallow one according to which VR is a matter of simulating appearances. Yet there is, even in popular depictions, a second, more subtle conception according to which VR is a matter of facilitating new kinds of interaction. The latter half of the paper turns to questions about the contemporary technology of Internet chatrooms. The fact that chatrooms can be used in certain ways suggests something about the prospects for VR. The penultimate section asks whether chatrooms may legitimately be thought of as places. (In a sense, they may.) The final section asks whether cybersex may legitimately be thought of as sex. (Again, yes.) Chatroom technology thus provides an argument for the second conception of VR over its much ballyhooed rival.

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P. D. Magnus
State University of New York, Albany


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