Tag Archives: ARTS3091

Week 5 – Reality

I am a science fiction nerd. I admit it. I’ve read Ender’s Game and Neuromancer and therefore I am familiar with the concept of the virtual, virtual reality technologies and their affect on the world. Or, I thought I was. This week’s readings, mainly those by Andrew (both on the course outline and his The World As Clock) certainly changed my mind.

I was relieved to see that what I had traditionally considered the virtual, that is “computer-simulated environments that can simulate physical presence in places in the real world, as well as in imaginary worlds” (Wikipedia, n.d.) still applied to some degree, and after exploring a little bit I was amazed to see how far things had come from the clunky video arcade headset. For example, the experiment where men were (virtually) placed inside a woman’s body, opening “up another avenue for virtual reality, which is not just to transform your sense of place, but also your sense of self” (Sample, 2010) What a brilliant idea, finally you are able to literally walk in someone else’s shoes. Considering the power the mind has over the body, and vice versa, perhaps eventually we will see a massive shift from sympathy to empathy in social interactions. Surely, if we can empathise with a WoW avatar we can do the same with each other (Callaway, 2009)

Now I turn to Andrew’s definition, where the virtual is “an excess over the actual expressions of this individuation”, rather than being “reducible to technologies such as VR.” (Murphie, 2004, p. 5) That made my head spin a bit, but the idea of the virtual as potential (Murphie 2011) really struck a chord with me. I imagine the virtual as a sort of diaphanous cloud floating around me, from which I constantly pluck concrete thoughts and actions, perhaps with the help of a medium or technology, to create the actual. In some ways, it’s another type of archive, a way to thinking of insubstantial, dynamic things in a collective manner.

So how does augmented reality fit into all of this? Somewhere in between? I found that the Chris Grayson reading (2009), while being full of amazing examples, never fully explained what it was, and as I only have a vague idea about the term I turned to Wikipedia, which told me that it is “a live direct or an indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input. ” (Wikipedia, n.d.) So does the augmentation occur through the actualisation of the virtual? Or the virtualisation of the actual? I confess I am still getting my head around this concept. Something that occurred to me however, was that by augmenting reality you are almost making it into the virtual. You are increasing the potential as you exist are in the “ongoing movement” (Murphie 2011), as you are able to experience that moment on several different levels.

When I first thought about virtual reality I considered it the opposite of externalization, the area I am considering for my research paper. Externalization involves bringing the mind out of the body into the world, whereas virtual reality is bringing a world into the mind and onto the body. I can still see this as a possible way of viewing the issue but it is not the most sophisticated and would hinder research into interesting areas. A more flexible, open way to think about it would be to consider how externalization affects actualisation, and how our extended minds and technologies that live on our bodies allow use to channel the virtual into the actual. Further research is needed, as I have no idea how it would.



Anon. (n.d.) ‘Augmented Reality’ Wikipedia <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augmented_reality> [accessed 27 March 2011]

Anon. (n.d.) ‘Virtual Reality’, Wikipedia <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_reality> [accessed 27 March 2011]

Callaway, Ewen (2009) ‘How your brain sees virtual you’ New Scientist <http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18117-how-your-brain-sees-virtual-you.html?DCMP=OTC-rss&nsref=brain> [accessed 28 March 2011]

Grayson, Chris (2009) ‘Augmented Reality Overview’, GigantiCo <http://gigantico.squarespace.com/336554365346/2009/6/23/augmented-reality-overview.html> [accessed 27 March 2011]

Murphie, Andrew (2004) ‘The World’s Clock: The Network Society and Experimental ecologies’, Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies, 11, Spring

Murphie, Andrew (2011) ‘Is The Virtual Real?’ Advanced Media Issues <http://arts3091.newsouthblogs.org/course-outline-and-readings/#weekfive> [accessed 28 March 2011]

Sample, Ian (2010) ‘Virtual reality used to transfer men’s minds into a woman’s body’ The Guardian <http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/may/12/virtual-reality-men-woman-body> [accessed 28 March 2011)




Week 4

I study both science and arts and I am actually taking an ecology course this session, so the topic of media ecologies struck a particular chord with me. Though several definitions were offered, the one that made the most sense to me, perhaps because of my scientific background, was media ecology “as the study of complex communication systems as environments” (Media Ecology Association, date unknown). As media become more woven into our everyday lives this definition seems particularly relevant, and an area worthy of study. Media follow us home, to the bathroom and live on our bodies almost constantly, so the idea of this being ecological, something looking at the relationships of organisms to each other and their environments, is not so outlandish.

I feel like this point relates closely to this week’s theme, the extension of the mind and the externalization of memory – but then again, is it really externalization if that technology is part of our memory? (Chalmers, 2009) It seems to me that the main hypothesis of the Anamnesis and Hypomnesis reading (Stiegler, n. d.), that “We exteriorize in contemporary mnemotechnical equipment more and more cognitive functions, and correlatively we are losing more and more knowledge which is then delegated to equipment” and that of David Chalmers and co. – “when parts of the environment are coupled to a cognitive system in the right way they become part of the mind” (2009) – are at odds in attitude, if not completely in logistics. I think it’s important to note that Chalmers says mind, not brain. We are not yet at the stage of plugging USB stick into our skulls, but perhaps we are moving to the point where we can be more flexible about where thinking happens and how we think and use media on our bodies and media ecologies to do so. I feel like this was the reason for the inclusion of “Does Thinking Happen in the Brain,”  and it’s something I have always taken for granted, that my self is lodged firmly in my brain, so the idea that “We make consciousness dynamically, in our exchange with the world around us” (Noë, 2010) was fascinating. Have we all become intellectually schizophrenic, bouncing ideas off the media that surround us like they are another person? Perhaps we are proving Plato wrong, and thanks to the dynamic abilities of new media writing is finally able to argue back. Even if it’s only an argument with yourself.

While I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that my iPhone could be considered part of my mind, I think it is the better attitude, opposed to the slightly doom and gloom of “ [we are losing our] know-how-to-live-well.” Also, I love Chalmer’s (2009) term “internalist chauvinism.” He gets points for that. I think this might be an area I would like to conduct further research into, this move away from the internal to the external, how this is facilitated and what is means for how we relate to each other and our environment. Which actually sounds a lot like ecology, doesn’t it?


Stiegler, Bernard (n.d.) ‘Anamnesis and Hypomnesis: Plato as the first thinker of the proletarianisation’ <http://arsindustrialis.org/anamnesis-and-hypomnesis> [18 March 2011]

Chalmers, David (2009) ‘The Extended Mind Revisited’ <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8S149IVHhmc> [18 march 2011]

Media Ecology Association (date unknown) ‘What is Media Ecology’ <http://www.media-ecology.org/media_ecology/> [18 March 2011]

Noë, Alva (2010) ‘Does thinking happen in the brain?’, 13:7 Cosmos and Culture <http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2010/12/10/131945848/does-thinking-happen-in-the-brain> [18 March 2011]

Week 2 reading reflections

This week’s readings explored the nature of technologies and their effects and the famous statement by McLuhan “the medium is the message” (Murphie & Potts 2003, p. 11). I disagree, at least fundamentally, with the technological determinism theory, that “society is shaped by its dominant technologies” (Murphie & Potts 2003, p. 12). Technologies are born from and into a certain period in history, and in some cases are not simply the next logical step in the evolution of technical development but a direct result of that time and the events that shaped it. This rejection of technological determinism pushed me in the direction of cultural materialism and its acknowledgement that “the characteristics of a society play a major part in deciding which technologies are adapted, and how they are implemented and controlled” (Murphie & Potts 2003, p. 20). What else could account for the failure of the segway? However, at the same time it seems undeniable that technologies do have inherent characteristics that determine the way we use them and therefore the effect they have on society, at least to some degree.

This is why I found Saskia Sassen’s (2009) idea of forcing our own logic, not that of the engineers’, onto technology so interesting, especially as programs and systems are becoming more flexible making this more and more possible. We are able to create our own flows – choosing what feeds we follow, how and when we follow them. Tiziana Terranova (date unknown) spoke of the flood of data and how it both equalises and overwhelms and I think we need to choose our own logic to navigate this, whether it’s to cling tight to the tree branch of traditional hierarchy or let go and go with the flow and become strong swimmers.

I feel like the message and the medium have become more tied together, as media become even more interwoven into everyday life and interaction. For example, we share so much because we can, it’s normal now, and because we share so much new and better ways of sharing are created – so we share more. So which came first – the ability to share or the desire to? In some ways, it’s a chicken or egg scenario, a continuous cycle, blurred by the speed with which new technology develops and how quickly society reacts to it. An interesting area for research, perhaps.


Murphie, Andrew and Potts, John (2003) ‘Theoretical Frameworks’ in Culture and Technology London: Palgrave Macmillan: 11-38

Terranova, Tiziana ‘Tiziana Terranova introduces Liquid Democracies’, transmediale (date unknown) [2 March 2011] <http://www.transmediale.de/tiziana-terranova-it-introduces-liquid-democracies>

Saskia Sassen (2009) ‘The Internet as Playground and Factory’ [2 March 2011] <http://vimeo.com/6789940>