It is the dualistic nature of this definition of virtuality that often causes conflict between proponents and opponents of virtual literature. For within this definition both materiality and information co-exist. The bifurcation of these concepts, according to Hayles (1), represents a ˘historically specific construction÷ that is both psychological and a subjective point-of-view that advocates the capacity of ˘powerful technologies.÷ This construct and mind-set is one that evolved in the wake of WWII, on in which, says Hayles (1), ˘The perception facilitates the development of the technologies, and the technologies reinforce the perception.÷ The prior emergence of materiality and information as separate concepts was not arbitrary either but rather the result of existing technologies and accepted mind-sets or paradigms that evolved as technology progressed.
This concept leads to the concept of proprioception, the human sense that defines where the boundaries of our bodies are (Hayles 14). These boundaries evolve over time from the combined forces of physiological feedback and habit. We perceive ourselves as inhabiting our bodies from the inside. Tennis players often perceive their racquet as an extension of their arm. Likewise, computer users feel ˘proprioceptive coherence with the keyboard, experiencing the screen surface as a space into which subjectivity can flow÷ (Hayles 14). In this manner the main difference between the printed text and the virtual text is that the reader is unlikely to perceive the printed page as an extension of self.
Goodfellow, Robin. ˘Virtuality and the Shaping of Educational Communities.÷ Education, Communication & Information, 5(2), Jul 2005, 113-129.
Ong (21) suggests that ˘PlatoĂs condemnation of writing÷ is quite comparable to contemporary criticsĂ views of virtuality or virtual literature. PlatoĂs criticisms included the belief that something artificial or foreign to human life could only corrupt and the belief tha