Virtual reality has rapidly become one of the most exciting new computer technologies -- exercising a strong hold on the popular imagination, attracting hundreds of researchers, and spawning a booming industry. This study explores the social implications of VR technology. It traces the history of VR and then relates it to general issues in the study of the effects of new information and communication technologies. The book examines VR's relationship to advanced research and development, to education and the entertainment industries, and finally to cyberpunk and youth culture. It also challenges conventional ideas in the sociology of science and technology and develops a realist and Weberian approach to the social dynamic of new technologies. Possible Worlds is the first book to examine the social aspects of virtual reality and provides a comprehensive understanding of this complex technology.
Ralph Schroeder is lecturer in sociology at Royal Holloway, University of London.