Virtuality and humanity

Kreps, DGP 2014, 'Virtuality and humanity' , in: Oxford Handbook of Virtuality , Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

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As our lives become increasingly encroached upon by the digital virtuality of our exponentially advancing 21st century information society, will this be at the cost of our humanity? Writers such as Sherry Turkle (2010) seem to believe this already began with circles of people sitting together in silence engaging with their smartphones. When our senses are surrounded by interactive exposure to telepresent realities – the faces of those we are speaking to across the world overlaid upon the world before our eyes, streams of data passing across the pavements and shopfronts as we pass, electronic voices calling our name and tantalizing us with goods they know we want – when the worlds around us are both real and virtual, does this grant us additional scope to express our humanity, or constitute such an overload that engagement fatigue exhausts our faculties? At our off-grid holiday resorts in rugged mountainous territory or remote wilderness encampments, luxuriating in isolation-downtime, delighting in the simplicities of one-to-one, face-to-face conversation with no distractions, are we savoring a richer, more traditional humanity? Resting in natural landscape with no overlaid streams of historical and commercial data, out beyond the boundaries of location-aware personal shopping avatars telling us where to get what they already know we would ‘Like’, do we feel the hi-tech virtuality-soaked everyday of our lives is missing something we have gone on vacation to recoup? Or does this vision of a virtu-reality that beckons in the coming decades mistake digital virtuality for something other than simply the latest manifestation of the - very human – dreams our ingenuity and inventiveness has managed to make manifest? The answer to these questions, of course, awaits the course of history, but if an author in the early part of this century is to guess at what may transpire, this author would suggest that it depends on what one understands by the terms: virtuality, humanity, and reality. It can be cogently argued that virtuality is something humanity has been playing with for a very long time – that our very selfhoods and societies are in fact a virtual layer over the physical realities of our bodily existence. Similarly the more physical side of such virtualities envisaged in the digital, with all its hardware and antennae and the rare earth mining, is but the latest, and arguably more lightweight version of the physical sides of our civic societies that once dealt in huge blocks of stone, and more recently industrial reshapings of entire landscapes. Looked at in this light, virtuality becomes, in truth, a mark of our humanity, that which in itself sets us apart from the rest of nature (at least in our eyes.) This chapter sets out to explore these questions with reference to the work of philosophers such as Henri Bergson ([1908]2004; [1911]1944; [1935]2006;), and his concepts of perception and moral obligation, and of Michel Foucault (1977; 1988; 1990; 1992; 1995a; 1995b; 1997; 1998), and his concepts of discourse, power, and epistemic shifts in history. These philosophical backgrounds then underpin the more recent theorizing of thinkers such as Karen Barad (2007), Stephen Gill (2003), and Hardt and Negri (2000), whose agential realism and neo-Gramscianism together constitute a broad picture within which the material manifestation of our dreams can be better understood. Through this discussion we will explore the key questions of this chapter: what should we understand by the terms: virtuality, humanity, and reality?

Item Type: Book Section
Editors: Grimshaw, M
Themes: Media, Digital Technology and the Creative Economy
Schools: Schools > Salford Business School
Schools > Salford Business School > Salford Business School Research Centre
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Refereed: Yes
ISBN: 9780199826162
Funders: Non funded research
Depositing User: Dr DGP Kreps
Date Deposited: 08 Jan 2014 17:43
Last Modified: 08 Nov 2015 23:04

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