Thursday, June 28, 2012

Communications and Cyberspace: Chapters 5, 6, 7, 14

In Chapter 5 Hebert Zettl analyzes the philosophical and ethical aspects of Virtual Reality in terms of human interaction in cyberspace. He examines the philosophical implications of VR through the Cave Theory of Plato. In Plato's Cave Theory, he describes prisoners that are jailed in a cave that are fascinated by shadows. Suppose one prisoner was released and was exposed to the light. At first, the prisoner would be blinded and would have difficulty deciphering the things that caused the shadows. He would initially reject the notion that these are the true objects and would refer back to the shadows as reality. However, the prisoner's eyes would eventually adjust to the light and he'd be able to perceive the truth vividly. The world of shadows described in Plato's theory can be paralleled to our synthetic VR. We are purposefully returning to the cave of shadows to become "perceptual prisoners" when we enter VR. When we engage in VR, we restrict our visions and motions to the monitor and computer. The author also poses concerns involving human behavior. What choices will we make in an environment with almost no consequences? The author wonders if humans are driven and lured to VR because we seek an escape from reality and responsibility. Some may also feel more comfortable in VR because we are in the power to create our own safe society.
Chapter 6 discusses implications and predictions of virtual reality. Critics of VR hypothesize that people will spend most of their time engaged in the false reality and slowly distance themselves from the real world. Because of the strong sense of intrapersonal communication, which is interaction between the person and the machine, VR inhibits the sense of community. VR technology challenges the concept of authenticity as it morphs into a seemingly alternative reality. Moral issues include the enslavement of robots, the use of VR for propaganda, and the question whether VR users will suffer consequences from their actions when engaged in the program. The most dramatized implication of VR is the ambiguity the technology places on ideas on subjective, objective, and social reality.
Chapter 7 involves virtual reality and the redefinition of self through text in relation to new technology. In the age of print, the two most significant constructions of self have been the Cartesian ego and the Kantian subject. Both constructions emphasized the autonomy of the individual and a separation between the subjet and object. They also place the visual and sensual facets of humanity under the control of reason. 
A notable topic in chapter 14 is the discussion of Cyberpunk culture which raises serious questions about human relationships to technology. Cyberpunk symbolizes the content in stimulations transferring into reality. Symbols generated by media are starting to weave into the fabric of reality. Cyberpunks love to engage in VR because they deem the real world as "boring". However, when they are too immersive in this fake world, they are detaching themselves from both their physical bodies and physical world. 

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