Technology and the Not-so-Stable Body: “Being There” in the Cyborg’s Dilemma

Sean Philip Gleason


Will virtual worlds one day be perceptually similar to everyday life? Could virtual reality (VR) provide a platform for individuals to dialogue about pressing social or political issues? From the Ready Player One and Matrix franchises, to the science fiction of Isaac Asimov, the communicative and political implications of hybrid human/machine virtual worlds have been heavily theorized. Yet, fundamental questions remain as to whether or not VR could ever substantiate the breath and scope of embodied, non-virtual experience. The following paper examines whether VR platforms are capable of providing an authentic sense of “being there” in digital spaces. Drawing from empirical findings in cognitive neuroscience, scholarship on virtual presence, and the phenomenology of perception, this paper argues that any attempt to communicate embodied presence within VR must account for the role of motoric action in structuring a vividly experienced worldhood. To this end, increased sensory feedback from new technologies will add to the life-like quality of virtual reality only insofar as this feedback is filtered through an action-oriented body image.


presence; motoric action; phenomenology of perception

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