Communication in the Age of Virtual Reality

By Frank Biocca; Mark R. Levy | Go to book overview

13
Signal to Noise: On the Meaning of Cyberpunk Subculture

Anne Balsamo Georgia Institute of Technology


"MORE PR THAN VR"

Virtually every major channel of mass communications in the U.S., has buzzed with the "news" about virtual reality (VR).1 Whereas early reports in science magazines such as New Scientist and Scientific American explored pragmatic applications of VR, more recent media pieces proclaim that VR holds the key to the technological reinvention of the mundane world of, late capitalism. Business Week ( Virtual Corporation, 1993) offered a cover story on "The Virtual Corporation" -- a new capitalist formation that would be able to reconfigure itself in response to a rapidly changing business environment by using "technology to link people, assets, and ideas in a temporary organization." In its report on the more titillating topic of "virtual sex" and "teledildonics," Playboy used a graphic rendition of a "Virtual Madonna" to suggest another figuration of the term safe sex. Apparently this rush of media attention is not entirely welcomed by the computer scientists and programmers who work on the technoscientific aspects of VR such as computer visualization, three-dimensional sound, and robotic telepresence. "More PR than VR," one scientist grumbled in his posting to the sci-virtual worlds newsgroup in response to early media reviews of the 1992 film, Lawnmower Man.2 According to the various press

____________________
1
For an illustration of the range of articles on VR, see the list of titles in the reference section of this chapter.
2
By the end of 1992, at least four new science fiction films were released that featured virtual reality special effects. Where the mainstream film, Lawnmower Man, constructed its plot

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