Virtual Reality – are we going to lose ourselves?

Last week for this subject we had to do one of the most confusing readings of my life. I know people say look up the words in the dictionary, take each sentence as it comes – this is not so easy when you are having concept after concept thrown at you. My tutor realising the difficulty of the reading got us in groups and each group had to decipher a paragraph and then report back to the class what we thought it meant. Simple idea but it worked, on the train on the way home I reread the text and I actually understood it. Just a helpful hint to anyone struggling with some readings – many minds are better than one. By the way the text we had to read – Anamnesis and Hypomnesis: Plato as the first thinker of the proletarianisation’ <; (see how you go).

So last week I started throwing around terms such as the extended mind and e-sense, here is another good one for you, the German word Umwelt. Umwelt is a term that describes the idea that we are in the same place but in a different world as we all have different bodies and we travel different ways. We all have different memories and different past and we bring them with us wherever we go, making us experience the same thing differently. This is a huge problem with media theory, it assumes we all experience things in a uniform way. Which we all know is not true, how many people have watched a movie and had a completely different experience compared to the friend you watched it with? Media theorist should start talking about the purposes of certain mediums and not what they assume we all experience.

This week’s topic is about virtual and augmented reality. Some of the ideas here are absolutely amazing. I hardly ever by accessories or clothes online as you just can’t tell what they will look like on, well not anymore the next experience of online shopping, you will be able to try things on with a virtual mirror (see Ray-Ban.) Glasses called Vuzix Wrap 920AV are the “newest consumer glasses in digital eyewear marketed for augmented reality applications” (Chris Grayson 2009). Students will soon be able to use glasses to have an augmented learning experience, (see Future of Education.) Another really exciting idea is that soon you will be able to speak to anyone around the world with a realtime language translation. BMW have used augmented reality as a way of telling their mechanics how to repair a car step by step. (All these videos and more are from the site – it’s well worth taking a look and watching the video.)

As fascinating as all this is it is also very worrying. A discussion about virtual reality leads to questions about what reality is and if virtual reality is real. I think this also links back to discussions about the extended mind. In the article I talked about at the start of this post “Anamnesis and Hypomnesis: Plato as the first thinker of the proletarianisation” he puts forth the idea that the more we externalize our memory into technology the more we are losing ourselves. He also argues that if we keep using technology to do functions our bodies use to do eventually we will become obsolete. I think we can really see this in the BMW video, with instructions set out for you so easily it appears that anyone can be a mechanic. In the future of education video how much is that learning experience changing the way he is learning, how much of that will he remember? So if we put too much trust in virtual or augmented reality, are we going to lose ourselves?

Interested in what I am talking about see these following sites and readings and tune in next week:

Stiegler, Bernard (n.d.) ‘Anamnesis and Hypomnesis: Plato as the first thinker of the proletarianisation’ <;

Anon. (n.d.) ‘Virtual Reality’, Wikipedia <>

Anon. (n.d.) ‘Umwelt’, Wikipedia <>

Grayson, Chris (2009) ‘Augmented Reality Overview’, GigantiCo <> All the video’s used came from this site, just follow the links

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


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