TOWARDS AN AESTHETIC OF VIRTUAL REALITY
Virtual reality is in a paradoxical relationship with the real. On the one hand, it is part of the real; yet, on the other, it has to be constructed as different from the real in order to be perceived as separate from it. Thus, virtual reality consists of a dichotomous paradox, torn between its ontological status which locates it as part of the real and its aesthetic, through which it demonstrates its difference from the real. From the point of view of perception, a viewer experiences this dichotomy as the principal characteristic of virtual reality. A viewer is both immersed within the virtual (in the sense that they are part of it) and interacting with it (and so they are separate from it). The consequence of this is that virtual reality is perceived as something both familiar and estranging, both known and unknown. Moreover, virtual reality can succeed only as it approaches presence. This means the viewer has to be put in a situation where they experience the virtual environment as becoming present. Thus, virtual reality has to be able to double the viewer’s sense of location and experience, and accent it, to make a narrative of it. Subsequently, the experience of virtual reality is always ﬁctional as well as ‘real’.