[ISEA2009] Paper: Margaretha Anne Haughwout – Power, emotion and virtuality


A number of ironies circle the idea of virtual reality, the first being that it, as fantasized in the cultural imaginary, largely remains virtual. We might take Wendy Hui Kyong Chun’s acknowledgement of the non-existence of cyberspace and include virtual reality; it, like cyberspace, ‘mixes science and fiction.’ Virtual reality is ‘a hallucinatory space that is always in the process of becoming’, but ‘where the future is destined to dwell.’ Indeed, the virtual is always a becoming. Like cyberspace, virtual reality often operates as a utopian space. Virtual reality in entertainment frequently operates as colonialist fantasy, where, ‘the Cartesian project is completed,’ as Simon Penny argues, and the dream of endless colonisable space, where finally there are no indigenous peoples prior to our presence, manifests. The idea of virtual reality, like the idea of cyberspace, is key to selling the Internet and late 20th, early 21st technology ‘as an endless space for individualism and/or capitalism, an endless freedom frontier.’ As a technology riddled with frontier narratives of dominance and control, virtual reality often favors spatio-temporal constructions in league with colonial narratives befitting progress and capital.

Full Text (PDF) p. 1078-1083