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IS THERE AN EXIT FROM “VIRTUAL REALITY?” GRID AND NETWORK – FROM TRON TO THE MATRIX

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Chapter Summary

The Matrix trilogy is both a philosophical machine and a powerful myth. Much of the mixed feelings or outright contempt with which it was received by many “intellectuals” is a direct result of the failure to understand this. This essay aims to show the kind of theoretical effects the film can achieve if one focuses on the main challenge The Matrix puts forth: the nature of the virtual. It uses the question whether there is an exit from “virtual reality” as a metaphor to understand virtual reality in opposition to the tantalising discourses on the “virtualisation” of the real. It gives up metaphysics in favour of a genuine pragmatics of the virtual, which is oriented towards concrete procedures and operations. In a more literal sense, the essay analyses different pictures and notions of the virtual as they appear in the tradition of science-fiction movies. In many respects The Matrix can be viewed as a counterpoint or an indirect answer to the problems already raised by Tron in 1982. The contrast between these two films is very instructive: it exposes the evolving nature of the aesthetical and philosophical challenges posed by simulated environments. It also emphasises the originality of The Matrix’s approach to the by now classical science-fiction theme of a complete simulation of reality. In this respect this essay suggests two main hypotheses: (1) that the network has become the paradigm of the virtual (cf. the importance of telephones); (2) that the virtual must be considered in terms of time, rather than space (cf. the idea of “Bullet-Time”).

10.1163/9789401201292_008
/content/books/b9789401201292s008
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