The effect that interaction in virtual worlds has on reality has been a hot question as of late. It is now, as technology becomes more advanced that virtual worlds seem to be becoming a reality. Some people will argue that interaction in virtual worlds provides no connection with real life. Others will argue that interaction in virtual worlds provides a reality of sorts. This reality is separate from the material world, but a reality none the less. However it is my contention that virtual worlds provide a reality that is removed from the materiality that is commonly associated with the term reality.
For my purposes, a virtual world can be described as anything that is computer mediated such as chat rooms, MUD communities, Moo communities, email, and any other interaction that takes place in cyberspace. For my purposes, reality is the material world that surrounds us.
According to philosophy, "anything real is merely a creation or construction of the human mind" (Bratman 114). The human mind alone is said to contain so much power for creating a material object that the reality of the physical object and its physical properties hardly seems to matter.
The human mind places no value in the difference of interaction in a virtual world and interaction in material reality. This issue seems to be very philosophical in nature. Take for example a situation presented by Descartes. "Suppose that you see a book in front of you. The images you have in your mind could exist, even if there is no book, for you might be dreaming or simply deceived"(Bratman 114). It is the mind that creates our reality. Our senses, such as touch, sound, and sight send information to the mind, but it is the mind that is ultimately responsible for determining reality.
In "Meditations" by Descartes, he discussed the existence of an object in reality. Descartes uses wax as the object in his explanation. He describes the wax as something that he sees, feels, and imagines. Descartes notes that his perception of the wax is not "visual, tactile, or pictorial. Despite the appearances, Descartes claims "I have never had a sensory grasp of what wax is"(Bratman 116). His understanding comes as a result of his mental inspection. Descartes' perception of the wax in his example can be paralleled to anything that pertains to the senses in reality. The final determinant is the mind. It is the mind that determines the wax exists. If the mind is what ultimately determines reality and the purpose of virtual worlds is to make the mind believe that the interaction is part of reality, how can we differentiate?
The ability that a computer has to replicate reality in regards to human senses is what makes interaction in virtual worlds appear to be real. According to John Lienhard at the University of Houston in the article "A Concern about Reality" we are no longer sure whether we're looking at a picture...