Len Manovich’s ‘The Language of New Media’ Chapter 1, p58.

Below is an extract from Len Manovich’s ‘The Language of New Media’ Chapter 1, p58.

‘In the 1980s, VR pioneer Jaron Lanier saw VR technology as capable of completely objectifying – better yet, transparently merging with – mental processes. His descriptions of its capabilities did not distinguish between internal mental functions, events, and processes and externally presented images. This is how, according to Lanier, VR can take over human memory: “You can play back your memory through time and classify your memories in various ways. You’d be able to run back through the experiential places you’ve been in order to be able to find people, tools.” Lanier also claimed that VR will lead to the age of “post-symbolic communication,” communication without language or any other symbols. Indeed, why should there be any need for linguistic symbols if everyone rather than being locked into a ‘prison-house of language’ (Frederic Jameson), will happily live in the ultimate nightmare of democracy – the single mental space that is shared by everyone, and where every communicative act is always ideal (Jurgen Habermas). This is Lanier’s example of how post-symbolic communication will function: “You can make a cup that someone else can pick when there wasn’t a cup before, without having to use a picture of the word ‘cup’. Here, as with the earlier technology of film, the fantasy of objectifying and augmenting consciousness, extending the powers of reason, goes hand in hand with the desire to see in technology a return to the primitive happy age of pre-language, pre-misunderstanding. Locked in virtual reality caves, with language taken away, we will communicate through gestures, body movements, and grimaces, like our primitive ancestors….”


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