St. Lisa Clair Harvey The George Washington University
The development and diffusion of virtual reality (VR) raises some unusual questions about the technological future and about the potential of his new medium to produce profound cultural change. Given the impending debut of VR in the public communication environment, there is some urgency in taking a fresh look at how national media policy is made in general and the special problems we face in dealing with virtual reality.
Perhaps the most breathtaking concept of all is the realization that, should VR and other online communication systems take their place as fully integrated members of the American media environment, it won't be long before the gap between those born in the "Information Age" and those participants in both world and American culture who were born in the pre-personal computer era, but who have fled, stumbled or deliberately immigrated to the new communications wonderland, will widen into a true and possibly political chasm. If VR takes hold the way its champions predict, it will usher in a world in which computer-based communications technology will provide human beings with the ability to perceive or to experience, at least in primitive form, that which is physically impossible. In that "online" world, the creation of new "realities"-- and, one presumes, the destruction of old or out-of-fashion "realities"-- will become a routine cultural assumption, and an entire generation of computer users will no more question the technology's availability or their own right to use it, than they will wonder if there will be water waiting when they turn on the tap.
Related to VR's potential to reshuffle the cultural cards in America's political game are social and legal issues associated with evolving media technologies, such as the need for a re-evaluation of First Amendment