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VWN Product Review: Parables for the Virtual

Parables for the Virtual
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By Brian Massumi
Produced By Duke University Press
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?If you start from an intrinsic connection between movement and sensation, the slightest, most literal displacement convokes a qualitative difference, because as directly as it conducts itself it beckons a feeling, and feelings have a way of folding into each other, resonating together, interfering with each other, mutually intensifying, all in unquantative ways apt to unfold again in action, often unpredictably. Qualitative difference: immediately the issue is change. Felt and Unseen.?
Excerpt, page 9


The quote above, sets the tone for the book. It is very much a philosophical viewpoint tome, one which is very relevant to VR, as it meanders between materialism and sensory synergy, arguing back and forth about how motion and sensation are the same thing; two halves of a dynamo engine which continually feed into one another.

The book does not focus on VR of course. Rather it is the author?s philosophical musings that movement/ sensation = change. Or, in other words, that once either movement or sensation start, change is inevitable. Never the less, he draws on VR, amongst other examples, throughout the book, and the author?s use of the body as a frequent example, pursues avenues that dedicated haptics tomes don?t tend to, opening up valuable new insights of thought into the sensation/feedback dynamic for sensory interfaces.

One chapter, ?The Bleed: Where body meets image?, which discusses Ronald Regan and virtual reality together as a general mishmash, discussing diverse topics such as identity with an on-screen avatar, and recognising self, in virtual replicants, is worth the purchase price of the book alone. Using many unique viewpoints, and drawing on cultural mediums as diverse as architecture, body art, the digital art of Stelarc, and Ronald Reagan?s acting career, this, and other chapters continually focus the ethical and profound meanings of VR, AR, and the digital age, often without meaning to.

Still, the connections are there, and make this a very deep and profoundly thought-provoking book, definitely one for the collection.