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THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN
THE ‘REAL’ AND THE ‘VIRTUAL’
A brief Phenomenology of Digital Revolution


   www.stephane-vial.net
   Ph.D. Philosophy, Paris Descartes University
   Lecturer and researcher at the Sorbonne University Paris 1 (ACTE Institute)
   PHILOSOPHY OF TECHNOLOGY, PHILOSOPHY OF DESIGN

   @svial #TtW13 #d2




   MARCH 2ND, 2013 CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK THE GRADUATE CENTER
SOMETHING HAS CHANGED

             1998
       cyberprof @ voila.fr



               2013
    vial.stephane @ gmail.com


                                @svial #TtW13 #d2
Don IHDE (1990)

   “OUR EXISTENCE IS
TECHNOLOGY TEXTURED”
     True. But even more...

                              @svial #TtW13 #d2
I would say...

OUR BEING-IN-THE-WORLD IS
 TECHNOLOGY SENSITIVE
      Let me try to explain.



                               @svial #TtW13 #d2
BEING AND DEVICES
   Phenomenology of technology is a philosophical
   approach to devices considered as ‘phenomena’,
i.e. as they appear to us or manifest themselves to us
or influence us through Perception in a broad sense.




                                           @svial #TtW13 #d2
ATOMS AND ACCELERATORS
In modern physics, the atomic nucleus first existed as a
hypothesis before existing as a phenomenon. Scientists
 needed to build particle accelerators in order to turn
   the theory into ‘reality’. Without them, the atomic
      nucleus could not become a ‘phenomenon’.




                                           @svial #TtW13 #d2
BACHELARD’S LECTURE
         French philosopher of science
     Gaston Bachelard argued early on that
‘Modern atomic science is more than a description
 of phenomena, it is a production of phenomena.’

 Scientific phenomena are no longer provided by
   Nature, they are constructed by technology.
Science ‘is therefore mostly a phenomenotechnique.’


                                          @svial #TtW13 #d2
FOCUS ON ‘APPEARANCE’
 I call it ‘ontophany’: the process through which the being
(ontos) appears (phaino) to us, in the sense that it involves
   a particular quality of ‘being-in-the-world’ (Heidegger)
               or, I would say, ‘feeling-in-the-world’.




                                                @svial #TtW13 #d2
MAJOR RESULT
 Technology has the power to generate
ontophany or ‘phenomenality’. The power
  to generate what can appear as ‘real’,
    through Perception. Astonishing.




                                   @svial #TtW13 #d2
EXTENDING
    PHENOMENOTECHNIQUE
 All phenomena, and not only scientific phenomena,
   are constructed or co-constructed by technical
factors. The fact of appearing (as a human or a non-
  human) is in itself a phenomenotechnical process.
     There are technical structures of perception.
     Any ‘ontophany’ is conditioned by technique.



                                          @svial #TtW13 #d2
DIFFERENT TECHNIQUES
     DIFFERENT PERCEPTIONS
DIFFERENT FEELING-IN-THE-WORLD




                       @svial #TtW13 #d2
ONTOPHANY SHIFT
 Through the ages, new technologies have generated an
‘ontophany shift’, that is to say a shaking of the dominant
 (technical) structures of perception and, consequently, a
     change of the very idea that we have of ‘reality’.
   Each time, it requires from us to re-learn the whole
 perception process and to extend our idea of the ‘real’.




                                                @svial #TtW13 #d2
PHENOMENOLOGICAL
            VIOLENCE
   Digital technology has introduced an ‘ontophanic
trauma’ in our being-in-the-world experience. Culture
   of simulation, virtual worlds, avatars, video games,
  internet relationships, social profiles, all those new
‘beings’, unknown from our perception, have created a
       phenomenological shock in our existence.



                                            @svial #TtW13 #d2
THE NEED OF AN ILLUSION
 In order to absorb the shock, we needed to believe in
 two separated worlds. We needed to believe that this
new world was a ‘second’ world. We needed to believe
     in a ‘Second Self ’ (Turkle, 1984) or in a ‘Second
    Life’ (1999). So we re-activated our old outdated
Platonic metaphysics. We have re-activated the Allegory
    of the Cave. As a refuge for our troubled minds.



                                             @svial #TtW13 #d2
The Matrix (1999)
IRL OUT OF THE URL (1990s)
‘Digital Dualism’ (@nathanjurgenson) is actually a very
  old way of thinking. I call it Neo-Platonic Dualism.

THE VIRTUAL (in the url)            THE REAL (out of the url)
computer-simulated world            physical-processed world
based on software and abstraction   based on concrete objects
cut off from the Body               Body-grounded
far from the Truth                  considered as the True world
red pill / inside-the-Cave          blue pill / out-of-the-Cave
SIMULACRUM OR COPY                  GENUINE OR ORIGINAL
Cyberspace                          Real Life (IRL)



                                                       @svial #TtW13 #d2
WHAT’S CHANGED? ONTOPHANY!
 Since the early 1990s, we have learned to live within
  cyberspace, the Web and social networks. We have
  learned new phenomenological habits and we have
acquired new perceptive structures. Today, we are very
 used to simulated beings and online interactions. We
    don’t feel inside-the-Cave anymore when online.




                                            @svial #TtW13 #d2
‘We have learned to take things at interface value.’
  (Turkle, 1995, p. 23). Such a great sentence. This is
    exactly what ‘ontophany shift’ means. We have
learned to consider what is displayed on the screen
   as real. We have extended our sense of the real.




                                            @svial #TtW13 #d2
1998
                 cyberprof @ voila.fr
       ANONYMITY AND DUAL IDENTITY:
           avatar, nickname... (forums, IRC)
  We interacted online with people we didn’t know IRL
       and from whom we didn’t know anything.
                    SECOND SELF

                         2013
              vial.stephane @ gmail.com
    TRANSPARENCY AND SINGLE IDENTITY:
profile picture, firstname, lastname... (social networks)
We interact online mostly with people we meet everyday
       and/or whom we know a lot about (data).
                     ’SINGLE SELF’

                                                @svial #TtW13 #d2
IRL IN THE URL (2000s +)
                          Welcome to Digital Monism.
     We now live in a hybrid environment made of
intertwined systems, constantly interlinked, both digital
  and non-digital (a), online and offline. We now live in
   the ‘digital ontophany’ as a digital-centered unique
    environment providing new kinds of perception.

     (a) I prefer to say ‘non-digital’ instead of ‘physical’ because all that is digital is also physical (electronics)




                                                                                                             @svial #TtW13 #d2
THE SHIFT


       VIRTUAL (in the url)                      REAL (out of the url)
    computer-simulated world                    physical-processed world
based on software and abstraction              based on concrete objects
       cut off from the Body                         Body-grounded
         far from the Truth                   considered as the True world
      red pill / inside-the-Cave                blue pill / out-of-the-Cave
    SIMULACRUM OR COPY                         GENUINE OR ORIGINAL
             Cyberspace                               Real Life (IRL)




                     DIGITAL ONTOPHANY (irl in the url)
                       digital-centered global environment
                          based on pervasive computing
                       online and offline mix of everything
                         the Truth is no more a problem
                       impossible to separate the 2 aspects
                                  REAL WORLD
                                Augmented Reality

                                                                 @svial #TtW13 #d2
NO DIFFERENCE?
  There is no difference between the Real and the
Virtual considered as Essences (against Neo-Platonic
  Idealism). But the Digital and the Physical remain
different as Materials (Rational Realism). I agree with
 the ‘Mild Augmented Reality’ position as defined by
 @nathanjurgenson: one reality, different properties.
  My goal is to get rid of the myth of two realities,
        which is a major metaphysical fantasy.


                                             @svial #TtW13 #d2
THE PROOF BY DESIGN
    Theorizing Technology through Design is the way I
 undertake research on Technology. I love designers. They
  have the greatest awareness regarding the future. They
  can feel what’s happening before everybody else. They
are not afraid of new technology. They are working with it
  in order to improve the “habitability” of the world (A.
    Findeli, 2010). Because ‘Design is the central factor of
   innovative humanisation of technologies’ (International
         Council of Societies of Industrial Design).


                                                @svial #TtW13 #d2
HYBRID EXPERIENCES
As has stated French designer Remy Bourganel
 (@epourkoapa), designers work on ‘the user
experience qualities’ (WIF, 2012). What kind of
‘user experience qualities’ are digital designers
   working on today? They are working on
              hybrid experiences.




                                         @svial #TtW13 #d2
@volumique
  Etienne Mineur is a creative director at ‘Les
  éditions volumiques’, a French design studio
inventing new Games and Toys, ‘focusing on the
relationship between the tangible and the digital.’


                                           @svial #TtW13 #d2
(i)Pirate, your smart phone is the pawn
étienne mineur | @volumique | volumique.com/v2/en
    Les éditions volumiques 2010
a new kind of hybrid board game
étienne mineur | @volumique | volumique.com/v2/en
    Les éditions volumiques 2010
SpellShot (official video published by Hasbro)
étienne mineur | @volumique | volumique.com/v2/en
CONCLUSION
Digital Revolution is not only a technical event. It is a
 philosophical circumstance that affects our being-in-
the-world experience. It is bringing us into the ‘digital
  ontophany’ era where the ‘real’ and the ‘virtual’ are
 no longer separated and, in a sense, no longer exist.
         Welcome to the (new) real world.
                    “We don't like that expression: IRL -- In Real Life.
         We say AFK -- Away From Keyboard. We think that the internet is for real.”

                                 Peter Sunde, ThePirateBay.
                                     (via @CleoCollomb)




                                                                                  @svial #TtW13 #d2
ONE MORE THING...
 I just finished writing a book in French about this subject.
Being and Screens: how technology affects the way we perceive.
         If you’re interested in publishing it in English,
                    feel free to contact me ;-)



                         contact@stephane-vial.net
                         /stephane.vial
                         @svial

                                                 @svial #TtW13 #d2

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There is no difference between the 'real' and the 'virtual': a brief phenomenology of digital revolution

  • 1. THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE ‘REAL’ AND THE ‘VIRTUAL’ A brief Phenomenology of Digital Revolution www.stephane-vial.net Ph.D. Philosophy, Paris Descartes University Lecturer and researcher at the Sorbonne University Paris 1 (ACTE Institute) PHILOSOPHY OF TECHNOLOGY, PHILOSOPHY OF DESIGN @svial #TtW13 #d2 MARCH 2ND, 2013 CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK THE GRADUATE CENTER
  • 2. SOMETHING HAS CHANGED 1998 cyberprof @ voila.fr 2013 vial.stephane @ gmail.com @svial #TtW13 #d2
  • 3. Don IHDE (1990) “OUR EXISTENCE IS TECHNOLOGY TEXTURED” True. But even more... @svial #TtW13 #d2
  • 4. I would say... OUR BEING-IN-THE-WORLD IS TECHNOLOGY SENSITIVE Let me try to explain. @svial #TtW13 #d2
  • 5. BEING AND DEVICES Phenomenology of technology is a philosophical approach to devices considered as ‘phenomena’, i.e. as they appear to us or manifest themselves to us or influence us through Perception in a broad sense. @svial #TtW13 #d2
  • 6. ATOMS AND ACCELERATORS In modern physics, the atomic nucleus first existed as a hypothesis before existing as a phenomenon. Scientists needed to build particle accelerators in order to turn the theory into ‘reality’. Without them, the atomic nucleus could not become a ‘phenomenon’. @svial #TtW13 #d2
  • 7. BACHELARD’S LECTURE French philosopher of science Gaston Bachelard argued early on that ‘Modern atomic science is more than a description of phenomena, it is a production of phenomena.’ Scientific phenomena are no longer provided by Nature, they are constructed by technology. Science ‘is therefore mostly a phenomenotechnique.’ @svial #TtW13 #d2
  • 8. FOCUS ON ‘APPEARANCE’ I call it ‘ontophany’: the process through which the being (ontos) appears (phaino) to us, in the sense that it involves a particular quality of ‘being-in-the-world’ (Heidegger) or, I would say, ‘feeling-in-the-world’. @svial #TtW13 #d2
  • 9. MAJOR RESULT Technology has the power to generate ontophany or ‘phenomenality’. The power to generate what can appear as ‘real’, through Perception. Astonishing. @svial #TtW13 #d2
  • 10. EXTENDING PHENOMENOTECHNIQUE All phenomena, and not only scientific phenomena, are constructed or co-constructed by technical factors. The fact of appearing (as a human or a non- human) is in itself a phenomenotechnical process. There are technical structures of perception. Any ‘ontophany’ is conditioned by technique. @svial #TtW13 #d2
  • 11. DIFFERENT TECHNIQUES DIFFERENT PERCEPTIONS DIFFERENT FEELING-IN-THE-WORLD @svial #TtW13 #d2
  • 12. ONTOPHANY SHIFT Through the ages, new technologies have generated an ‘ontophany shift’, that is to say a shaking of the dominant (technical) structures of perception and, consequently, a change of the very idea that we have of ‘reality’. Each time, it requires from us to re-learn the whole perception process and to extend our idea of the ‘real’. @svial #TtW13 #d2
  • 13.
  • 14. PHENOMENOLOGICAL VIOLENCE Digital technology has introduced an ‘ontophanic trauma’ in our being-in-the-world experience. Culture of simulation, virtual worlds, avatars, video games, internet relationships, social profiles, all those new ‘beings’, unknown from our perception, have created a phenomenological shock in our existence. @svial #TtW13 #d2
  • 15. THE NEED OF AN ILLUSION In order to absorb the shock, we needed to believe in two separated worlds. We needed to believe that this new world was a ‘second’ world. We needed to believe in a ‘Second Self ’ (Turkle, 1984) or in a ‘Second Life’ (1999). So we re-activated our old outdated Platonic metaphysics. We have re-activated the Allegory of the Cave. As a refuge for our troubled minds. @svial #TtW13 #d2
  • 17. IRL OUT OF THE URL (1990s) ‘Digital Dualism’ (@nathanjurgenson) is actually a very old way of thinking. I call it Neo-Platonic Dualism. THE VIRTUAL (in the url) THE REAL (out of the url) computer-simulated world physical-processed world based on software and abstraction based on concrete objects cut off from the Body Body-grounded far from the Truth considered as the True world red pill / inside-the-Cave blue pill / out-of-the-Cave SIMULACRUM OR COPY GENUINE OR ORIGINAL Cyberspace Real Life (IRL) @svial #TtW13 #d2
  • 18. WHAT’S CHANGED? ONTOPHANY! Since the early 1990s, we have learned to live within cyberspace, the Web and social networks. We have learned new phenomenological habits and we have acquired new perceptive structures. Today, we are very used to simulated beings and online interactions. We don’t feel inside-the-Cave anymore when online. @svial #TtW13 #d2
  • 19. ‘We have learned to take things at interface value.’ (Turkle, 1995, p. 23). Such a great sentence. This is exactly what ‘ontophany shift’ means. We have learned to consider what is displayed on the screen as real. We have extended our sense of the real. @svial #TtW13 #d2
  • 20. 1998 cyberprof @ voila.fr ANONYMITY AND DUAL IDENTITY: avatar, nickname... (forums, IRC) We interacted online with people we didn’t know IRL and from whom we didn’t know anything. SECOND SELF 2013 vial.stephane @ gmail.com TRANSPARENCY AND SINGLE IDENTITY: profile picture, firstname, lastname... (social networks) We interact online mostly with people we meet everyday and/or whom we know a lot about (data). ’SINGLE SELF’ @svial #TtW13 #d2
  • 21.
  • 22. IRL IN THE URL (2000s +) Welcome to Digital Monism. We now live in a hybrid environment made of intertwined systems, constantly interlinked, both digital and non-digital (a), online and offline. We now live in the ‘digital ontophany’ as a digital-centered unique environment providing new kinds of perception. (a) I prefer to say ‘non-digital’ instead of ‘physical’ because all that is digital is also physical (electronics) @svial #TtW13 #d2
  • 23. THE SHIFT VIRTUAL (in the url) REAL (out of the url) computer-simulated world physical-processed world based on software and abstraction based on concrete objects cut off from the Body Body-grounded far from the Truth considered as the True world red pill / inside-the-Cave blue pill / out-of-the-Cave SIMULACRUM OR COPY GENUINE OR ORIGINAL Cyberspace Real Life (IRL) DIGITAL ONTOPHANY (irl in the url) digital-centered global environment based on pervasive computing online and offline mix of everything the Truth is no more a problem impossible to separate the 2 aspects REAL WORLD Augmented Reality @svial #TtW13 #d2
  • 24. NO DIFFERENCE? There is no difference between the Real and the Virtual considered as Essences (against Neo-Platonic Idealism). But the Digital and the Physical remain different as Materials (Rational Realism). I agree with the ‘Mild Augmented Reality’ position as defined by @nathanjurgenson: one reality, different properties. My goal is to get rid of the myth of two realities, which is a major metaphysical fantasy. @svial #TtW13 #d2
  • 25. THE PROOF BY DESIGN Theorizing Technology through Design is the way I undertake research on Technology. I love designers. They have the greatest awareness regarding the future. They can feel what’s happening before everybody else. They are not afraid of new technology. They are working with it in order to improve the “habitability” of the world (A. Findeli, 2010). Because ‘Design is the central factor of innovative humanisation of technologies’ (International Council of Societies of Industrial Design). @svial #TtW13 #d2
  • 26. HYBRID EXPERIENCES As has stated French designer Remy Bourganel (@epourkoapa), designers work on ‘the user experience qualities’ (WIF, 2012). What kind of ‘user experience qualities’ are digital designers working on today? They are working on hybrid experiences. @svial #TtW13 #d2
  • 27. @volumique Etienne Mineur is a creative director at ‘Les éditions volumiques’, a French design studio inventing new Games and Toys, ‘focusing on the relationship between the tangible and the digital.’ @svial #TtW13 #d2
  • 28. (i)Pirate, your smart phone is the pawn étienne mineur | @volumique | volumique.com/v2/en Les éditions volumiques 2010
  • 29. a new kind of hybrid board game étienne mineur | @volumique | volumique.com/v2/en Les éditions volumiques 2010
  • 30. SpellShot (official video published by Hasbro) étienne mineur | @volumique | volumique.com/v2/en
  • 31. CONCLUSION Digital Revolution is not only a technical event. It is a philosophical circumstance that affects our being-in- the-world experience. It is bringing us into the ‘digital ontophany’ era where the ‘real’ and the ‘virtual’ are no longer separated and, in a sense, no longer exist. Welcome to the (new) real world. “We don't like that expression: IRL -- In Real Life. We say AFK -- Away From Keyboard. We think that the internet is for real.” Peter Sunde, ThePirateBay. (via @CleoCollomb) @svial #TtW13 #d2
  • 32. ONE MORE THING... I just finished writing a book in French about this subject. Being and Screens: how technology affects the way we perceive. If you’re interested in publishing it in English, feel free to contact me ;-) contact@stephane-vial.net /stephane.vial @svial @svial #TtW13 #d2