Virtual Reality and Making the Unimaginabel Perceivable
There are many discussions going on concerning technology and its impact on our society, economy and environment. Litte has been said so far about the enormous impact technology and new media have on our mind, on our imagination and on storytelling, and even less so on the impact it can have on the transcendent qualities of our mind. For a long time the only way to achieve a state of transcendence was to go internally. The only way to experience unseen lands was to imagine them. The mind had to soar and fly in order to see beauty and truths beyond banal reality. Later, culture made those accessible even for the unimaginative. By literature, by theater, or by film – all of a sudden it was possible to transfer one individual’s dreams to another. This deepened the experiences one person can have in their life. Suddenly one could see things one would have never been able to see; feel things which were out of reach; and hear stories which otherwise would have stayed unheard by the masses.The more technology advanced, the more fantastic the stories portraited could become. CGI can now render everything a mind might come up with. Imagination became democratized. Imaginative realms became accessible to everyone who had access to media of storytelling.
The only limitation still persisting was that we were bound to a 2d screen. The observer had to translate what he saw into his imagination, where it then really could become real to his mind. The feelings that a world might provoke had to be translated by the imagination. Every reader has to rely on his imagination and phantasy to make a story vivid. And even with film, the observer needs to really try to see the story from the eyes of the protagonist to get the fullest experience possible out of the movie and to get immersed into the story. Yet, we are bound to project feelings we already know into our imagination. The only material we can work with is the one we have in our mind. Nothing completely new can spring into our phantasy. We use these building blocks of reality we acquired over the years living on this planet and in this body to create something new. To really experience something completely new we have to go there. But what if we cannot go there because that possibility simply doesn’t exist? We will never know what it feels like to be in another body. We will never know what it feels like to breath water instead of air. We will never know what it feels like to be shrunk into a micro size.
We have reached a stage where we can build up digital spaces and worlds which cannot possibly exist in reality. Furthermore, we can make these digital spaces accessible by immersive techniques. Virtual realities which are completely outside of our own understanding of reality begin to exist among us. These experiences aim to teleport the observer to entirely alien realities. With these technologies it is possible to give you a body which is completely strange to you; to bring you to environments you could otherwise never access or live in. It is possible to give you the perspective of being extremely small or tall from first hand experience. This might create tremendous new possibilities to tell stories or to transmit emotions and feelings; to invent new ways of communication; to explain things which would be impossible to explain in another way. We could learn how other people and other creatures see reality. By this we could broaden our perception of reality and thereby grow as human beings.
But not only can this change our outward perception of reality, it can also raise our internal perception of reality, and with this change our concept or idea of what reality is. After all, reality is what we think it is. And as we think defined by the terms of only what we have seen, heard and felt, we are stuck with our personal perception of reality. Virtual realities which aim at leading us into distant realms give us a hint that there is more to these 3 dimensions than meets the eye. Exploring those hidden elements might therefore broaden your horizon in more ways than you can think of.