New Media Technology: Virtual Reality

There has always been tension when emerging technology is created leaving people to question its effect on humans. This might be because humans dislike change or because there is an actual risk to humans. Humanities reaction to change is probably for the better, similar to how nervousness prepares us for the worst possible outcome. It is good that we question emerging tech in order to better understand its capabilities and how we need to approach it.

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Virtual Reality has always been a scary thing to me. It sounds like another way to become disconnected from actual life. You can see this disconnect on younger generations as they find satisfaction through new forms of social media rather than engaging in healthy intimate relationships. I am reminded of when news networks claimed that Grand Theft Auto led individuals to commit crimes and even murder. Bringing up questions in itself, revolving around the topic of media’s influence on our decisions and actions.

Whenever I think about forms of media there is always one brilliant man that comes to mind. Marshall McLuhan. He’s a professor, philosopher, and public intellectual that understands forms of media and human interactions with it. One idea Marshall is known for is the idea of Hot and Cold media. Hot and Cold media looks at how the viewer interacts with media, based on the quantity of information given by the media to be processed by the viewer. Some examples of Hot media are text and radio. Both of which don’t have a visual aspect the medium, in which the viewer is mentally more active in then portraying visuals for the medium. Television would be considered Cold media because the viewer is processing both visual and auditory information, resulting in less engagement between the viewer and media.

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With VR the ability to move around and see all around you (virtually) it is a more interactive, and the user is more active. So does this make it hot or cold, because there is more information being presented to the viewer(making it cold) but now the viewer has to think about how to physically engage the media(making it hot). Without a doubt VR is an immersive experience, this is proven by viewers actually believing they are there. You can watch countless VR fail compilation videos of people reacting in ways that they feel are real life.

So my question to Marshall McLuhan is what is important for us as humans while engaging media? Is it hot media that gives space for our minds to fill in the blanks, or be in a world of media that feels real and gains real reactions.

Thankfully, with research, I found some possible answers with a PDF of McLuhan’s thesis called “Virtual Reality? Marshall McLuhan and a Phenomenological Investigation of the construction of virtual worlds.” Feel free to give it a read, as will I. Feel free to comment and leave your own thoughts and opinions on the topic at hand below.

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