Ecological culture is supposed to be soft and organic, old-fashioned and kitschy, while technoculture is hard, cool, and electronic. But there are suprising connections between the imminent ecological catastrophe and the emergence of virtual reality. The connections concern not content, but form, and they open up questions of epistemology – how can we know that we know, and how can we verify what we know? Both virtual reality and the ecological panic are about immersive experiences in which our usual reference point, or illusion of one, has been lost. Old ways of thinking, we tell ourselves, are not to be trusted. They helped us get into this mess in the first place. In virtual reality it becomesĀ  impossible to count on an idea of ‘distance’. We feel that can’t achieve a critical purchase, but are instead about to be dissolved into a psychotic aquarium of hallicinatory un-being. Part of the panic is the coming to terms with the idea that ‘there is no metalanguage’ – that there is nowhere outside a signifying system from which to pronounce upon it; further that this idea is one of the illusions that the signifying system enables and sustains. Virtual reality and the ecological emergency point out the hard truth that we never had this position in the first place. Slavoj Zizek has pointed out the salutary effect that this has, at least when it comes to thinking about virtual reality. We are now compelled to achieve ways of sorting things without the safety net of distance, ways that are linked to ways of sorting things out ethically and politically.”

Timothy Morton. 2007. Ecology Without Nature. pp. 26-27. Harvard University Press.

Comments are closed.