Virtual Reality & the Internet

Desktop VR and, in particular, virtual (3D) worlds are among those computer applications that are changing our notions [1] of what a computer is, [2] of what an interface is, and [3] of what the Internet is (or can be):

  1. the computer from word-processor and document viewer to portal
    Most casual users of computers up to around the late 1990s used computers as though they were glorified word-processors. With two already well established models—the typewriter and the television—for what a computer might be and do, it was the typewriter that, for perhaps obvious reasons, was to dominate: the computer, like the typewriter but unlike television, sat on a desk, its output viewed close-up, and was operated via a keyboard; most people used computers for writing documents, in any case the principal use of office computers; the computer was throughout the greater part of its history, unlike television but like the typewriter, a machine for creating content rather than viewing content delivered from some external source; and the monitor of the computer could therefore be conceptualised as simply an evolution of the one-line buffer of the 1980s electronic typewriter. Even with the popularisation of the Internet and the World Wide Web from the mid-1990s, text continued to dominate what was written to and read from the screen; and the HTML default font size (3) equated to the default word-processing 12pt text.

  2. the interface from 'screen' (surface, window) to 'eye'

  3. the Internet from document repository to 'place' and 'community'

This section explores some of the cognitive, social, interactional / communicational, and economic issues relating to desktop VR.

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