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Virtual Reality

Historical Overview, Cultural Implications, Bibliography

Virtual reality, a term that became popularized in the late 1980s with the advent of critical research and new technologies developed by Scott Fisher at NASA-Ames Research Center, has its roots in a broad and colorful evolution of art, technology, and communications. The creation of virtual reality is essentially concerned with the quality and experience of immersion, whether real or simulated. The idea of immersion in this sense is related to the artistic concept of "representation," in which the world is translated into visual form. Virtual reality often extends this notion of representation by engaging other senses as well, such as sound and touch, to bring about multisensory experience.

The first part of this essay is an overview of the leading pioneers in the arts and sciences who introduced new technologies, concepts, and artistic innovation that led to the contemporary definition of virtual reality. The second part focuses on artists and theorists who have chronicled new media and virtual reality and its impact on the social condition, revealing transformations in cultural norms and the psychological effects of extending our reach into virtual space.

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