Benjamin Woolley

Writer, Broadcaster and Academic

Virtual Worlds

Computers have changed our lives; with virtual reality, they will change our very experience, recreating it in an image of our choosing. That, at least, is what the champions of virtual reality claim. It will not simply reshape our view of technology, they say, but our view of ourselves and the world we live in. It is about the increasing power of information technology to create simulated environments, new universes that are neither actual nor fictional, but somewhere in between: virtual.

In Virtual Worlds, Benjamin Woolley examines the reality of virtual reality. He looks at the dramatic intellectual and cultural upheavals that gave birth to it, at the hype that surrounds it, at the people who have promoted it, and at the dramatic implications of its development. Virtual reality is not simply a technology, it is a way of thinking created and promoted by a group of technologists and thinkers that sees itself as creating our future. Virtual Worlds reveals the politics and culture of these virtual realists, and examines whether they are creating reality, or losing their grasp of it.

Blurb for 1993 edition

'In his brilliant, almost Swiftean, journey among the philosophers and practitioners of simulation, Benjamin Woolley lays about him with, alternately, a scalpel and a meat cleaver. He neatly dissects the propositions of Barthes and Foucault, that reality is merely a myth... For those who claim that, by putting on an electronic helmet and some wired-up gloves, you can "experience reality", Woolley reserves the meat cleaver.' Sunday Times

'Excellent... How real is reality?... This tour through the simulated, the hyper and the artificial is fascinating and thought-provoking and raises important questions about a great deal of the nonsense being talked by certain philosophers and computer enthusiasts...' Independent

'An often fascinating intellectual journey into the changing face of reality..' New York Times