Lucia Mendelova und Tobias Matzner: The Real of Virtual Reality

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Virtual reality is – not real. It is virtual. But at the same time it is a real experience and claims to show us something real: VR movies that allow 360° gaze controlled by a head mounted display promise to transport more information and a more »immersive« experience at the same time. It is a matter of course for many media theorists that every picture taken, every film that is shot, does not simply depict an aspect of reality but creates a new one. But creating and watching images and films is nevertheless structured by practices that separate real from fake or objective from suggestive content. They are based on reflecting our experiences with technologies, the established modes of depicting certain things, the social knowledge about the people and things which are depicted and many more. Consequently, the real of reality in images and film is also a matter of (implicitly) reflecting what we see rather than a direct effect of what we see. VR films raise the promise to create an experience that is much closer to »being there«. They claim less need for reflection and foreground the affective experience of the spectator by their »immersive« character. Thus, VR films reconfigure the question what is decisive for the real of reality: reflection or affects? Our talk will engage this question by approaching the materiality of the spectators and their (technical) environment concerning the reconfigurations of affectivity and reflection they bring about.