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Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology

Volume 10, Issue 3, Spring 2007

Real and Virtual Places

Richard Coyne
Pages 26-38

Thinking through Virtual Reality
Place, Non-Place and Situated Cognition

Critics and researchers apply various criteria to evaluate the efficacy of VR, including the conformity of VR environments to the character of place. I wish to add a further test: do VR environments enable thought? The paper thus applies to VR the controversial proposition advanced by Clark and others that thinking, i.e. human cognitive processes, are situated and spatial. As a further term in this mix I introduce the concept of non-place, as elucidated by Augé and propose that non-places can be characterized as unthinking spaces, i.e. spaces that provide little assistance to the thought processes of their occupants. Perhaps non-places only offer the possibilities afforded by a kind of cognitively impoverished instrumentalism. The conclusion from these propositions is that it is instructive to couch the problematics of VR environments in terms of non-places that do not easily accommodate thought, or thoughtful interaction, were it not that thought thrives on transitions, thresholds and boundary conditions between the strange and the familiar.