Thursday, February 11, 2010

Plato's Cave in Today's Understanding

Hello Class:

I am reading the book assigned for this week, Communication and Cyberspace, and I am absolutely fascinated by the fifth part of the book titled “Back to Plato’s Cave: Virtual Reality.”

I was familiar with the story described in this section, but I had never thought of its connection to today’s technologically driven societies. Even though I have moved on to other sections of the book, I cannot get this essay out of my mind.

It is particularly interesting to me how one may become accustomed to a specific setting without being able to conceive the limitations or possibilities which might lie ahead. The story truly awakens one’s perception of time and space; the “corruption” is connected to exposing oneself to the truth? How would we react upon the realization that what was perceived as “reality” was simply a parallel environment?

Margaret Maria Roidi


  1. It is amazing how evocative that parable is for us today. Can you discuss it in relation to the topic of virtual reality and new media?

  2. I feel as if virtual reality and the new media is the cave that does not let the individual see real life and the truth. The whole of cyberspace, the new media, and virtual reality claims to create "a new real experience" for the user. The only problem being that these new technologies are not "real or true". They promote the illusion of real and keep the user in a safe and secure environment that they can control....essentially "the cave". I believe that individuals are losing the capacity socialize and appreciate the real world, in its unfiltered reality, at the sake of many of these new technologies. Nothing can match actual human interaction with the environment or eachother, with all of the risks and uncertainty involved.

  3. Angela,

    How can we define “reality”? What is “real”?
    There was a Greek philosopher – I do not seem to recall his name – who was dedicated to the belief that reality is in whatever one experiences/fantasizes in his own mind. Thus, the entire physical environment is nothing but an illusion.

    This concept of what may be real was always very interesting to me. Such fascinating way of understanding how we might perceive ourselves and the rest of the world.

    Virtual reality is simply a way of externalizing and materializing in a sense the thoughts and visual spaces occupying one’s mind. Connecting this theory to virtual reality it appears a perfect mix of validating people’s need to allow themselves to unite with their deepest aspirations.

    Try to think of what that philosopher’s principle might mean “Whatever we think of real.”

    Margaret Maria Roidi

  4. Dr. Strate:

    The continuous exposure to new media leads inevitably to the “corruption” of one’s perception of what is real. As it is noted in the text, this exposure does not reach the entire population at once. Therefore, it is expected that the ideas which will be brought to the community (cave) will challenge the views shared by the majority of the people.

    Angela, I understand you interpreted this parable in a different way. I see virtual reality and new media as the “real world” to which one could be exposed rather than the cave. I would attribute the characteristics of the cave setting to a community which does not open up to experience the truth which after all is “out there...”

    What do you think?

    Margaret M. Roidi

  5. As I'm sure you know, there have been a number of movies that have dealt with this theme, the most popular being The Matrix trilogy, but also Dark City, The 13th Floor, Existenz, and earlier on, Videodrome, and Total Recall.

  6. I also find the film "La jetée" a great example of this.