Thursday, June 30, 2005

Finished reading Holtzman's "Digital Mantras" today. Quite an interesting read, although at times I was put off by the author's repetition of a few key points. Reminiscent of Hofstadter's "Gödel, Escher and Bach", Holtzman weaves several schools of thought together and comes to some interesting conclusions about the future of role of computers in the advancement of art, science, philosophy and even religion. The book offers a fascinating glimpses into the rise of structuralism and it applications in the studies of linguistics, visual arts and music. Along the way the book is interspersed with biographical and autobiographical tidbits which added a much needed human element to the story. Overall, I was impressed with this book - you can check it out at here.

This book came out in 1995, and one of the topics Holtzman touches on is Virtual Reality. Remember Virtual Reality? That amazing idea from the 90's that seemed to fade into obscurity just as quickly as it arose. Perhaps the public's expectations were too high. We were expecting the HoloDeck from Star Trek and we got something that was more akin to an early version of Atari's Pong. I remember thinking then, about 10 years ago, that technologies such as the Internet and Virtual Reality were going to radically reshape the world as we know it. I wrote a paper in college arguing that networking technologies such as the World Wide Web would change the way people mobilize political action, that far-reaching virtual communities could balance the power of geographically localized states. Looking back now, I wonder - is that change really happening? Things certainly don't feel that different. But perhaps terrorists are using the web to plot the destruction of the United States? Perhaps the blogosphere is going to find a place along side traditional media as a source of news? But there's still not much happening on the Virtual Reality front. Not that I read in the papers at least. I want my "Neuromancer"-style virtual reality network naviagation interface already! :)

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