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Abstract

If the medium is the message, what is the message of virtual reality (VR)? This article examines virtual reality communications media. Some forms of VR, for example immersive virtual reality, literally situate the user inside an informed computational space. The essence of VR is the inclusive relationship between the participant and the virtual environment. Communication takes place through direct experience in the immersive, digital environment. Thus, these environments may directly implicate what we can say about our very ability to know, that is, about consciousness itself. In this sense, VR brings metaphysical inquiry within the purview of an empirical testbed that conjoins human psychology, or the psychological “presence” of the knowing self, with configurable digital phenomena to define “there.” This essay argues that a fundamental message of VR may be to illumine timeless philosophical inquiries concerning the nature of knowing and being and thus direct our attention to what Aristotle called the eternal question: What is reality? VR directs our attention to the nature of reality by directing our attention to consciousness as the experience of being.