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VR and hallucination: a technoetic perspective

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Virtual Reality (VR), especially in a technologically focused discourse, is defined by a class of hardware and software, among them head-mounted displays (HMD); navigation and pointing devices; and stereoscopic imaging. This presentation examines an experiential aspect of VR. Putting virtual in front of reality modifies the ontological status of a class of experience that of reality. Reality has also been modified (by artists, new media theorists, technologists and philosophers) as augmented, mixed, simulated, artificial, layered and enhanced. Modifications of reality are closely tied to modifications of perception. Media theorist Roy Ascott creates a model of three VRs: verifiable reality, virtual reality and vegetal (entheogenically induced) reality. The ways in which we shift our perceptual assumptions, create and verify illusions and enter the willing suspension of disbelief that allows us entry into imaginal worlds is central to the experience of VR worlds, whether those worlds are explicitly representational (robotic manipulations) or explicitly imaginal (artistic creations). The early rhetoric surrounding VR was interwoven with psychedelics, a perception amplified by Timothy Leary's presence on the historic SIGGRAPH panel, and the Wall Street Journal's tag of VR as electronic LSD. This article discusses the connections philosophical, social-historical and psychological-perceptual between these two domains.

Keywords: VR; cyborg; extended perception; hallucination; immersion; neural plasticity; psychedelics; reality

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Domeworks, Albany, New York.

Publication date: 2008-05-28

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  • Technoetic Arts focuses upon the juncture between art, technology and the mind. Divisions between academic areas of study, once rigidly fixed, are gradually dissolving due to developments in science and cultural practice. This fusion has had a dramatic effect upon the scope of various disciplines. In particular, the profile of art has radically evolved in our present technological culture
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