Virtual Anyqway?

Welsch, Wolfgang (2002) Virtual Anyqway? UNSPECIFIED.

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Much fuss is being made these days (and has been made for years) about the electronic virtual. Prophets say that we have entered the new millennium ahead of time and that it will be electronic heaven. To quote Pierre Lévy, one of the most prominenet harbingers of such a perspective: "Virtual worlds will be instruments of self-knowledge and self-definition for humanity [...] They are home to the `angelic bodies' (or virtual images) of the members of collective intellects."(1) - Many questions come to mind. To raise just one: Who will have such an `angelic body'? Will, for example, people in the poor regions of this world be part of these collective intellects, once they no longer lack electronic equipment? Will the Pentecostal miracle - already dreamt of by Marshall McLuhan(2) - include everybody? I'm afraid "the light of virtual worlds" which Pierre Lévy believes will "illuminate and enrich human intelligence"(3) will be a partial light only - partial in shining for only a minority of humankind, and partial in being light in one aspect alone and close to darkness in another.

Other diagnoses oppose the angelic prospect. They present instead an apocalyptic assessment of our electronic future. To quote Jean Baudrillard: "Virtuality aims only for prostitution, for the extinction of the real by its double."(4)

I am not going to comment on this understanding of prostitution. Rather I will limit myself to stressing that angelic and apocalyptic assessments aren't that different from each other. They certainly sound different, but the underlying diagnosis is quite similar: we are said to be facing a total change, everything will be electronically transformed, nothing will remain as it was.(5) This totalizing feature can then be spelt out apocalyptically when seen from the viewpoint of good old reality, and angelically when regarded from that of a glorious future.

A third group of people tries to take up a sort of middle position between the extremes by saying that today reality and virtuality are simply becoming equivalent so that in each case the term `virtuality' can be replaced by the term `reality' and vice versa - and that doing so is the hallmark of progressive thinking. But this alleged middle position, I'm afraid, is just as one-sided as are the angelic and the apocalyptic ones. The diagnosis given is - in all three cases - uniformist: it is assumed that virtuality is the one and only determinant of our future. What these assessments lack is differentiation and, to begin with, a closer look at the phenomena as well as the concepts used (or, in my view, misused) when advocating totalizing views of this kind.

My intention is not to deny at all the relevance of the processes labelled as `virtualization'. I love and enjoy many of them. I merely object to the totalizing cultural, philosophical or sociological assessments made.

Item Type: Other
Uncontrolled Keywords: Virtualität, Baudrillard, Levy
Subjects: Philosophie > Philosophische Disziplinen > Medienphilosophie, Theorie der Virtualität, Cyberphilosophie
Depositing User: sandra subito
Date Deposited: 06 Dec 2020 12:24
Last Modified: 06 Dec 2020 12:24

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