The Virtual

The Virtual

The Virtual

The Virtual

Synopsis

This book looks at the origins and the many contemporary meanings of the virtual. Rob Shields shows how the construction of virtual worlds has a long history. He examines the many forms of faith and hysteria that have surrounded computer technologies in recent years. Moving beyond the technologies themselves he shows how the virtual plays a role in our daily lives at every level. The virtual is also an essential concept needed to manage innovation and risk. It is real but not actual, ideal but not abstract. The virtual, he argues, has become one of the key organizing principles of contemporary society in the public realms of politics, business and consumption as well as in our private lives.

Excerpt

The virtual has become a key organizing idea for government policies, everyday practices and business strategies. What do we mean when we describe something as being 'virtual' - such as 'virtual space' or 'virtual team'? This book aims to help you better understand the virtual and why this category of things is suddenly important in business, government and in everyday life.

Today, the word 'virtual' is often used as a proper noun - 'The Virtual' - a place, a space, a whole world of graphical objects and animated personae which populate fictional, ritual and digital domains as representatives of actual persons and things. Commentators have not failed to remark that these avatars, video-game characters, software agents and virtual objects not only stand in for flesh-and-blood persons and physical places but they can have significant and shocking impacts on the real-life status and well-being of people. However, the more mundane case of virtuality includes lines of code in a database which record and police a person's financial transactions and debts. This 'credit profile' is one's virtual identity for transaction purposes as far as banks and merchants are concerned.

The chapters that follow examine the origins and meanings of 'the virtual' as a concept and what it means for people in everyday life under global capitalism. Beyond merely defining and mapping the spreading popularity of 'the virtual' as an idea, this book is a contribution to intellectual debates on the implications of a shifting relationship between the virtually real, and the material, the here-and-now world of the actually real. Cases of

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