Books -- Communication in the Age of Virtual Reality Edited by Frank Biocca and Mark R. Levy

Article excerpt

*Biocca, Frank and Mark R. Levy, eds. (1995). Communications in the Age of Virtual Reality. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers. 401 pp. Paperback, $29.95. Hardback, $79.95.

The author of one of the 14 chapters in this reader asserts that if virtual reality (VR) breaks out of its experiential phase (becoming more than just a gimmick of video game manufacturers) and is incorporated into computer operations systems, VR "will become a broadly experienced medium that profoundly affects our day-to-day lives."

This book focuses on those effects within a communication context by examining VR as a communication medium, exploring emerging issues in the creation of communication applications and experiences, and examining social and cultural issues.

The readings, while scholarly in focus and method, are suitable for advanced undergraduates and graduate students, and will be of interest to communications scholars and researchers seeking insights into where communication technology cuts foremost at the edges.

The editors are VR experts in their own right and penned some of the essays in this volume. Biocca is director of the Center for Research in Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina, and Levy is editor of the Journal of Communication. The book is an outgrowth of that journal's special issue on VR (autumn 1992).

The first section traces the history of VR and articulates the vision of its enthusiasts as the ultimate communication medium. This section assesses VR's potential role with information navigation and filtering in cyberspace, and reviews emerging government, technological, and business infrastructure. It also explores the variables that comprise "telepresence" (the extent to which one feels present in a mediated environment) and it explicates VR in relation to sensorial richness and the degree to which users can influence form/content of mediated environments.

For the uninitiated, a chapter examines how VR technology works and might evolve, looking at an impressive hardware array of input/output devices as well as advanced applications, many of them still largely theoretical. …

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