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A discussion and reception will follow the presentation
The term “Virtual Reality” (VR) was coined only quite recently; by Jaron Lanier, in the late 1980s. Then Timothy Leary famously spoke of immersive VR systems as “electronic LSD.” The desire to immerse – and lose – oneself in artificially created worlds is, however, as old as human civilization. Coming to terms with audiovisual immersion in digital culture thus seems to require, above all else, a historical point of view.
In his presentation, Gundolf S. Freyermuth will focus on the modern history of VR. In a first step, he will examine VR’s prehistory in analog media. This prehistory begins soon after the Renaissance with the opposition to the emerging modern image space and its detached – anti-immersive – window view, which would characterize not only perspectival painting, the picture frame stage, cinema, and television, but also the computer and its screen. In a second step, Gundolf will investigate VR’s history proper; the attempt to technologically overcome the window view started in the mid-20th century with digital graphics, Yvan Sutherland’s conception of an “ultimate display,” and the popular vision of an all-immersive “holodeck.”
If, however, VR is the vanishing point of modern audiovisuality, the fulfillment of century-old desires, then digital culture is confronted, once again, though on a very different level, with the dystopic allegory of Plato’s cave …
© Gundolf S. Freyermuth
Gundolf S. Freyermuth
is Professor of Media and Game Studies and a founding director at the Cologne Game Lab of TH Koeln-University of Technology, Arts and Sciences, as well as Professor of Comparative Media Studies at the ifs international film school of Cologne. His research focuses on new artistic and communicative practices, network culture, audiovisuality and transmediality. In addition to publishing over 400 essays, he has authored, edited and co-edited some 20 volumes of non-fiction and fiction. His most recent English language book is Games | Game Design | Game Studies. An Introduction (2015). Currently, he is working on a monograph on Virtual Reality. Alongside his academic activities, he writes novels, scripts for radio plays and feature films, and he is a documentary filmmaker.
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