Social > Virtual

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Throughout our readings in Remediation this week, we’re given the example of virtual reality over and over again for remediation in our culture. And, when this book was written over 10 years ago, perhaps that was the case. After all, the idea that we could create a new reality to be experienced in a wholly new way was the new frontier. I can remember being in a mall when there were still video arcades and the line taking up an entire hall full of people eager to try this new technology.

But, like laser discs and Second Life, virtual reality was more of a stepping stone to other innovations than a thing in and of itself. With our perspective, it’s easy to dismiss virtual reality as an example of our current culture, but I think the ideas expressed about VR could be extended to apply to social media today in terms of how it makes us interact with the world around us, and how we see ourselves in it.

On page 231, Grusin and Bolter write:

“When we put on the virtual reality helmet, we are the focus of an elaborate technology for real-time, three-dimensional graphics and motion tracking. This is not to say that our identity is fully determined by media, but rather that we employ media as vehicles for defining both personal and cultural identity. As these media become simultaneously technical analogs and social expressions of our identity, we become si- multaneously both the subject and object of contemporary media.”

I believe the key here is the statement that “we employ media as vehicles for defining both personal and cultural identity.” Regardless if that media is a manufactured graphical interface or a Twitter account, we use these outlets as ways to not only see the world around us, but to see ourselves. Social media is seemingly the outer edge of our defining ourselves in our own words, and in the role of personal broadcaster.

The various tools that have arisen in recent years – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, various blogging platforms – all allow us to broadcast ourselves, and for our personally curated content to be consumed, in radically different ways that previously available. They also become our identity; we are defined both by how we can express ourselves and how we can get others to consume that expression as validation of that expression. While at the same time, consuming the expression of others, becoming “both the subject and the object of contemporary media”.

– Andy Odom

Learning Virtually

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While I was reading this week’s assigned reading, I had an epiphany. It came shortly after reading Howard Rheingold’s claim that, “at the heart of VR [virtual reality] is an experience- the experience of being in a virtual world or remote location,” (pg. 22).

Now I know what your thinking, “there’s no way robots will be teaching my children!” I am not suggesting that we do the whole AI thing and remove teachers from the classrooms. There wont be a Rosie in the classroom like there was at The Jetson household. Rather, I feel extraordinary learning experiences can be made with the help of this new media we call virtual reality.

Back in high school, and really throughout all of my academia years, we (the students) obtained our knowledge of different subjects through various media. The most well known way was through a book. Like books, virtual reality exists from a combination of past media. Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin discussed a process in the text they called “remediation.” Remediation is used to describe how new media are making progress by collaborating with more traditional media genres. Virtual reality for example, is a remediation of film, television, photography, and print. Interestingly enough, at one point or another, scholars will obtain some kind of informational knowledge through one if not all of these media.

Virtual reality in the classroom could be the answer for the permanently bored student. For a student, the ability to “authentically” experience what they are learning will help keep the concepts in their stored memory. The same concept has been said of physically writing notes by hand as opposed to via computer, for an example.

Jaron Lanier, a developer for virtual reality systems, suggested that in virtual reality, “you can visit the world of the dinosaur, then become a Tyrannosaurus. Not only can you see DNA, you can experience what it’s like to be a molecule,” (pg. 22). How cool would it be to go visit the Taj Mahal in 2nd period and then see what lung cancer looks like in 5th period? 3D cinema has been jabbing at this concept for the last few years. And it’s beginning to catch on. Society enjoys being able to experience, if you will, what they are viewing. Having the feeling they are literally standing with Harry Potter in Hogwarts or fighting against the Imperial Forces in Star Wars is the goal of 3D film. Virtual reality as well as other digital technologies, are trying to create the sense of transparency between the user and the medium in order to create the feeling that the user is actually there. Making these technologies transparent is an aide in the virtual experience. Military personnel have for a while now been using VR technology in an effort to prepare pilots and foot soldiers for their upcoming deployments. They also use it in addition to a simulator to teach tank drivers how to deal with claustrophobia and vehicular warfare. What brings VR to life is this idea that it is so realistic, so tangible, your not focused that much on the real/physical world.

Virtual reality could become the next best teachers aide… Well, it was just an idea.

By. Sarah Crowe