The way media has affected society’s perception of reality is no secret and has been used as the topic for a myriad of scholarly studies. As such, is it virtually (pun not intended) impossible to avoid. Even when looking back to the mid to early-1900s with the invention and widespread adoption of the radio, it is clear that the relationship between media and audience perception of reality was taking shape. One stand-out example of this was the broadcasting of H.G. Wells’ science fiction novel, ‘The War of the Worlds’, on Halloween of 1938. Broadcast in the form of a broadcast, it led many listeners to believe that Earth was being invaded by Martians, resulting in widespread panic.
More recently, complex technological advancements have played a more direct role in enhancing our experience of reality (as opposed to shifting actual reality), and, what Clark argues, in the development of the ‘extended mind’ – so much so that these new platforms have been redefined as either virtual or augmented reality. Virtual reality describes the simulation of physical presence in places using computer-simulated environments, and as such, provides life-like experiences. These technologies have been adopted for purposes ranging from creating alternate universes through the development of avatars as in virtual games such as ‘Second Life’, to maintaining national security through the use of combat training simulations. Alternatively, augmented reality consists of a live view of a real-world environment that has been augmented using computer-generated sensors including sound, graphics and data, rather than replacing the real world with a virtual one. As such, it is generally performed in real time.
While society has gradually become accustomed to the formation of virtual realities through simulation technologies, augmented reality is now an ever-expanding, yet experimental field. It attempts to ride the tidal wave of growing consensus that the world is becoming more and more mediated. With the advent of smartphone technologies and debates surrounding society’s growing reliance on them, this new method of shifting and ‘enhancing’ perceptions of reality works as a further shortcut, allowing us to multitask and in doing so, attempt to match the immediacy of machines.
Sure, this sounds great when living in a world consumed with the ability to grasp the world through the next big thing, but I wonder, what are we sacrificing with this growing desire to ‘save time’. All this talk of ‘enhancing’ our lives and perceptions of reality forgets one thing – regardless of how well we construct alternate universes through virtual technology, and no matter how much data we can absorb of the world in real time, are we not still experiencing life through a screen? Maybe we just need to stop and smell the roses.
Note: in reference to my final research essay on the changing perceptions of reality through the development and adoption of various media platforms, this topic is of greater relevance than the other topics and issues discussed throughout the course. Although I will be discussing more traditional forms of media including the radio and television rather than virtual and augmented technologies, the profound reaction the society had to these revolutionary devices are comparable.
Mashable. 2013. ‘The Impending Social Consequences of Augmented Reality’. Accessed April 11 <http://mashable.com/2013/02/08/augmented-reality-future/>
Wikipedia. 2013. ‘Virtual Reality’ . Accessed April 11 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_reality>
Wikipedia. 2013. ‘Augmented Reality’. Accessed April 11 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augmented_reality>