Mediamatic Magazine Vol. 7#2 Geert Lovink 1 jan 1993


Benjamin Woolley, Virtual Worlds: A Journey in Hype and Hyperreality, Oxford UK & Cambridge USA 1992

Those who are made physically ill by hippies like Leary, Lanier and Barlow, who are interested in virtual reality but want to keep a cool head, can now turn to the civilized Benjamin Woolley.


Cover of "Virtual Worlds" -

In his book Virtual Worlds, this BBC Late Show journalist hauls such West Coast wizards over the coals with a mild form of high society marxism. Their VR is no liberation but frustration, a rude intrusion of metaphysics into ordinary life.
With the motto: cut the crap, Woolley puts forth the claim that theory seems to be in need of a good shave. As it was presented in 1989, VR was actually a product of an artistic cult movement and not a scientific discovery at all. Woolley proposes grounding the technological discourse in hard, 'anglo-saxon' logic, from the philosophical mathematics that runs from Newton and Babbage to Wittgenstein, Gödel, Turing and Hilbert.
Reality is not dead, as postmodernists and virtual realists claim.
Mathematics must not be reduced to just another symbolic system of representation. The pomos must keep their hands off of the language of nature. By introducing a distinction between simulation and imitation and separating the virtual from the artificial, he attempts to save reality from its downfall. Woolley's reality is alive and kicking: not in the material, outside world but in the formal, abstract domain revealed by mathematics and computation.
Virtual Worlds is gripping at times and demands a response, preferably one without superficial accusations. How can one expect a serious response from post-modernist autists when, for example, most of the German philosophy is dismissed as exasperatingly opaque?