Becoming virtual: Bodies, technologies, worlds
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)
This thesis addresses how virtual reality technologies are being developed to shape a cultural politics of embodiment and subjectivity across local and global contexts. The research considers a number of approaches to understanding the techno-cultural changes and political dilemmas presented by virtual systems. Undertaking a critical consideration of these approaches, the thesis argues that virtual systems are neither 'demonic' technologies, nor transcendent cultural forms, but rather complex and deeply embedded social and cultural networks. Employing multi-sited ethnographic methods, the thesis investigates virtual reality technologies as technical systems, cultural narratives and commodity forms. As the analysis moves across a number of locations - including entertainment centres, manufacturing firms, art galleries, home offices and electronic/digital spaces - the connections between those locations become apparent. The analysis proposes that identifying these connections is a crucial step in mapping out a critical politics of virtual systems. The research concludes by arguing that such a politics is a politics of positioning, which is both oppositional, but is also cognisant of the sometimes contradictory workings of power in constructing techno-cultural alliances.