Virtual reality is in the news and in the movies, on TV and in the air. Why is the technology -- or the idea -- so prevalent precisely now? What does it mean -- what does it do -- to us? Digital Sensations looks closely at the ways representational forms generated by communication technologies -- especially digital/optical virtual technologies -- affect the "lived" world.
Virtual reality, or VR, is a technological reproduction of the process of perceiving the real; yet that process is "filtered" through the social realities and embedded cultural assumptions about human bodies, perception, and space held by the technology's creators.
Through critical histories of the technology -- of vision, light, space, and embodiment -- Ken Hillis traces the various and often contradictory intellectual and metaphysical impulses behind the Western transcendental wish to achieve an ever more perfect copy of the real. Because virtual technologies are new, these histories also address the often unintended and underconsidered consequences -- such as alienating new forms of surveillance and commodification -- flowing from their rapid dissemination. Current and proposed virtual technologies reflect a Western desire to escape the body Hillis says.
Exploring topics from VR and other, earlier visual technologies, Hillis's penetrating perspective on the cultural power of place and space broadens our view of the interplay between social relations and technology.