Maria Cecilia Reyes

5B Transcoding Storytelling/2
Session 5 – July 3, 11:00 – 13:00

Virtual Reality’s Media Evolution: Towards the Post-Symbolic Communication

The media evolution of Virtual Reality (VR) tells a story of technological mutations, artistic hybridizations, and language transcodifications that is still in course. We move towards a medium that invites us to create artificial experiences whose narrative manages to dispense with the symbolic. Antonin Artaud used for the first time the concept Realitè Virtuelle (1938), referring to that reality brought on stage by theatre. The fact that the same
term is used today for a computational system that generates virtual environments, highlights a link between narrative and technology that transcends VR’s visual nature to deepen into a metaphysical dimension. When we remember a past event, we abstract ourselves from physical reality so to “visit” a reality that no longer exists as an external event. Jerome Bruner poins out that we see and live our memories as narratives, but when we narrate them to others, narrative needs symbols to happen.
Analogously, and since the beginning of artistic expression, humanity has sought to isolate cognition from the real world to live alternative spaces that homologate the sensation of reality. In fact, we experiment alternative realities through altered states of consciousness, as sleep, hallucinations, hypnosis or meditation. These examples share two conditions with VR: human sensory perception is positioned at the center of the experience, and the implicit pact of entering a different cognitive dimension. Jaron Lanier, pioneer of what we know today as VR, compares the historical moment of VR in the context of human evolution,
with the first stages of the appearance of language. For Lanier, VR will open the era of post-symbolic communication. VR as a Sprachmaschine does not refer anymore to the word-processing application of computers, but rethinks the communication act: it carries us into artificial experiences that reached its ideal state, will prescind from the symbolic.


Maria Cecilia Reyes (Barranquilla. 1988) is a media researcher and creator. She holds a double PhD degree in Digital Humanities and Communication from the University of Genoa (Italy) and Universidad del Norte (Colombia). Nowadays, she works as research fellow at the Institute of Educational Technologies of the Italian National Research Council (CNR-ITD), and is artist-in-residence of Schloss Solitude Akademie 2020-2021. Maria Cecilia has worked as radio reporter, webmaster, Start-Up entrepreneur, developer of several interactive VR experiences, and film screenwriting and montage.