physical the virtual world through the use of

physical and virtual. I will talk about how the two run parallel to each other in relation to social media, applications and devices we use on a day to day basis. I will then discuss how the two are merging through the use of our technology and then consider whether the binary dualisms will be become obsolete.Design/Methodology/Approach; I will be taking a philosophical, analytic approach and use theories coined by the likes of Donna Haraway, Katherine Hayles and Jean Baudrillard to evaluate chosen case studies within the field of Augmented or Virtual reality devices. These case studies will include applications such as Pokemon Go or headsets such as Microsoft Hololens.  Findings; I will take on the  relationship between the physical and the virtual and discuss how the boundaries are becoming blurred, therefore taking us into a new era of technology, one with ethical implications such as psychological issues  and also how this relates to the cyborg theory, posthumanism and the hyperreal. Keywords; Virtual/Augmented reality, Hyperreal, Cyborg, Posthuman, Technology Introduction   Through the use of devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops we have become increasingly involved with the virtual world. The physical and the virtual have long been separate as binary dualisms, but with recent technology advancements such as augmented or virtual reality they are now becoming progressively joined. With the two now able to run parallel to each other, these technologies have become more of an extension of the self, an enhancement of our natural capabilities. Take apps such as Pokemon Go which enables users to see a whole different, made up world through their smartphones, or device updates such as Apple’s ARKit which blends ‘digital objects and information with the environment around you,’ and Microsoft Hololens’ headset, which enables you to do anything in the virtual world through the use of virtual reality. These apps are also examples of how accessible these technologies have become to the masses. N Katherine Hayles quoted that ‘virtual reality technologies are fascinating because they make visually immediate the perception that a world of information exists parallel to the ‘real’ world, the former intersecting the latter at many points and many ways,’ bringing the idea that no longer are the two parallel, but also the lines are being blurred between the two. The merging of these two dualisms raises questions of what possibilities these new technologies could bring to the connected world. Looking at ideas from theorists such as Donna Haraway, N Katherine Hayles and Jean Baudrillard – in relation to cyborg theory, posthumanism and the hyperreal – I intend to argue that the future of virtual or augmented reality will no longer just mean the correlation or merging of these two dualisms, but also the idea that the virtual/human binary is obsolete. 2. Parallel – The word virtual comes from the idea of something ‘not really existing’ and ‘almost the same,’ – a simulation of a world beyond the physical. Virtual space, or ‘cyberspace’ – a word coined in the novel Burning Chrome, by William Gibson (1982), which later became associated with the Internet – is the ‘consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation,,’ (Gibson, 1984). Our physical reality, in which we go about our daily lives, currently runs parallel with the idea of ‘cyberspace’ through the use of smartphones, tablets and computers. Everyday we partake in our own version of virtual reality, whether that be a post on a  social platform like Facebook or Twitter, or a game played through an application on a smartphone, whichever it is, technology is a culture embedded in our society. Although this is something very much a part of everyday life, it still remains separate, a life beyond a screen only accessible when we choose to enter that world. With the use of  social media we are also constructing an identity for ourselves, which is edited and representing our best image on a virtual platform, therefore creating the impression of a separate life, a ‘virtual-self.’ By going online and creating somewhat a simulation of our lives, we are essentially fuelling culture, it is a new platform in which people can build a persona through images designed to portray a perfected life, but it is mostly consumed in a virtual sense. Cyberspace and the virtual is a way in which we consume and produce information on a day to day basis, therefore the lives we publish and create is absorbed as a real life identity when in actual fact it could be considered a virtual reality running alongside the physical. Culture ultimately determines technology, and technology fuels culture.  Our constant use of the virtual world running parallel to ours means that as the times change, so does our tech. We have gone from simple use of the internet to using devices for all of our business or social needs, to now being able to experience the virtual in an all sensory, immersive environment. The words ‘virtual reality’ were first conceived by Jaron Lanier in 1987, but the concept of an illusory space had been around for centuries before, in the form of panoramic paintings, stereoscopes and the Sensorama, fig.1, created by Morton Helling. Ivan Sutherland then went on to write about the concept of the ‘Ultimate Display’ concluded his essay with, ‘The ultimate display would, of course, be a room within which the computer can control the existence of matter. A chair displayed in such a room would be good enough to sit in. Handcuffs displayed in such a room would be confining, and a bullet displayed in such a room would be fatal. With appropriate programming such a display could literally be the Wonderland into which Alice walked,’ (1965)Fig.1 – Sensorama 1957Virtual suggests an idea of something that seems to be real, but is actually a far distance away from being a tangible, material thing. Anthony Bryant and Griselda Pollock define virtual reality by stating, ‘There is similarity with the actual thing; but it is not the thing itself. It is not the real; yet it is not the false. It displays nonetheless, similar enough traits for our interactions with the virtual to function as if they were indeed real'(2010:14), implying that although we know it is a fake, fabricated thing, it still has the capability to convince us it is real, because it seems palpable and in our eye’s natural view. Although it has been a concept for many years, virtual or augmented reality has mainly been a science fiction fantasy, but in recent times through the use of smartphones in particular, it has become something readily available to the masses. Pokemon Go (fig.2)  was released in 2016 and became one of the most popular apps in the world. It enabled users to enter a fantasy world, for free, purely through the use of their phones or tablets, with augmented reality, location mapping and interactive play. Fig.2 – Pokemon GoBy layering the virtual over the physical, the virtual becomes ‘associated with computer simulations that put the body into a feedback loop with a computer-generated image,’ N Katherine Hayles,(2010:14), meaning that when we interact with the virtual in such physical way, we are combining the two simultaneously, therefore pushing the boundaries of the two dualisms. In her book Alone Together, Sherry Turkle talks about how technology has influenced us in recent years, she states, ‘technology has become like a phantom limb, it is so much a part of them. These young people are among the first to grow up with an expectation of continuous connection; always on, and always on them. And they are the first to grow up not necessarily thinking of simulation as second best,'(2011:4) implying that the virtual life is increasingly becoming a part of us.  It could be argued that our use of technology as a means of connectivity, instant knowledge and experience is that of an extension of the human self, a break within the dualism of organism and machine, a cyborg. Donna Haraway states in her essay ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’  that ‘a cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction,’ (1984:149) which implies the idea that we are becoming that of a cyborg through our use of social platforms  which I will  argue by extending ourselves into the cyber world that exists beyond the screen. 3. Merging By introducing this idea of a cyborg, new dualisms begin to emerge. These are not within the common concepts of these categories as Donna Haraway states, ‘Cyborg imagery can suggest a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we have explained our bodies and tools to ourselves.'(Manifesto 1984:181) She also introduces the relationship between organism and machine as a ‘border war,'(1984:150) questioning where the physical ends and the virtual begins. By putting these theories in place whilst looking at the idea of the virtual vs the physical, we can see how a presence in the virtual cyberworld could introduce a third party to already existing dualisms, .i.e a blurring the boundaries of the physical and the virtual through the use of technology. Posthumanism was first brought to light in 1977 by Ihab Hassan, ‘We need to first understand that the human form – including human desire and all its external representations – may be changing radically, and this must be re-visioned.’ (Hassan 1977:212). Rosi Braidotti talks about the concept of a ‘Posthuman Challenge,’ in her book ‘The Posthuman’ 2013. She discusses the theories of anti humanism and humanism. Humanism being a cultural movement in the Renaissance that held the beliefs of the ‘human’ to be the sole importance rather than a concept of ‘God,’ and anti humanist being a socialist concept denouncing the views suggested by the humanists. She suggests to reevaluate the binary dualisms of humanism and antihumanism, to instead consider posthumanism as an ‘historical moment that… traces a different discursive framework, looking more affirmatively towards new alternatives,’ (2013:37) which suggests ways in which to contemplate new, modern ways to understand the human condition. When looking at the idea of the physical and the virtual’s boundaries merging, we can consider that the now readily available virtual or augmented reality is playing a part in the idea of the ‘posthuman’. The more we become involved in the virtual, the more enhancement we are putting on our natural capabilities.  This advancement in technology is beginning to make our interaction with the physical world mediated through the virtual world. Although virtual reality transports the user to another world which can be experienced anytime, anywhere, augmented reality blurs the two together. Apple has recently developed a new update for iOS 11 on their smartphones and tablets, which permits users to access any means of information through augmented reality, i.e. the weather, fitting furniture in your home, street view with location mapping (fig.3) and even using social media such as SnapChat to decorate yourself and others, using a form of virtual ‘makeup’. Fig.3 – Apple ARKitAugmented reality is one of the most advanced forms of technology gracing everyday devices. It brings graphics, haptic feedback and sounds to the natural world around the user, allowing anyone from soldiers in the army to someone walking down the street finding where to eat to have the ability to place virtual graphics in their field of vision. When N Katherine Hayles talks about the virtual intersecting the physical when describing an online game of ping pong, she states that the game takes place ‘partly in real life and partly in virtual life’,(2010:14) which is exactly what augmented reality enables us to do, enhancing what we see, hear, feel and experience. Taking this and again applying it to the concept of a cyborg, we can see how our natural capabilities are being enhanced through the use of technology. Human interaction with this kind of technology pushes the boundaries of user experience in the virtual world. It becomes such an accessible, easy option to provide information or to connect with others that it could push physical human interaction away as argued by Sherry Turkle in her Ted Talk at UIUC. She says ‘What I didn’t see coming and what we have now is that mobile connectivity, that world of devices always on and always on us, would mean that we would be able to basically bail out of the physical real at anytime, to go to all of the other places and spaces that we have available to us and that we would want to,’ (2012) implying that social interactions are now avoidable by entering the world of the virtual. Taking that into consideration and the concept of virtual or augmented reality, leaving the physical world is now becoming easier to do. If young people are using devices enabling them to blur the lines between their physical world and their online virtual world, human social interaction could be at risk of becoming antiquated and as Turkle states later on in her talk, it ‘makes us want to spend time with machines that seem to care about us.'(2012)  This is something that could be considered a harmful, ethical implication when discussing technology such as augmented reality. Social communication is at risk of becoming lost within virtual communication, as a generation we would rather send an email or a text instead of talk to someone. There are also negative physical impacts from being ‘connected’ with machines. When Pokemon Go became so successful there were so many road related accidents caused by people being so immersed within the virtual world now interacting with their physical surroundings. There is also a concern for psychological well-being, privacy, deception and trust with AR or VR users. Of course with the cons come the pros, and there are so many concepts made possible with the use of such devices, as said by Bryant and Pollock ‘Virtuality is a potential actuality; it is an expandable reality full of promise, that indicates the constant movement of becoming, a transformative potentially in the world.’ (2010:15)  Katherine Hayles also studied into the idea of the posthuman in relation to human interaction with the virtual. Her research ‘offers resources for thinking in more sophisticated ways about virtual realities,'(2010) implying that humans need to accept and be part of a society which maintains the boundaries between real life and the ‘illusion of virtual reality’,(2010) allowing the potential of new technology to embrace the coming together of the virtual and the real, therefore reaching the full extent of human capability. When considering all of these new means of VR/AR connectivity to the physical environment, it raises questions of how far will the merging of the two dualisms take us? As Jean Baudrillard quotes ‘We live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less meaning,’ (1981:79). 4. Replacement Virtuality is somewhat closely linked to the idea of a simulation, or ‘simulacrum’. A simulacrum is the representation of an object or environment, first coined in the late sixteenth century, describing a painting or a sculpture of an important figure, but later became the idea of an image without the same qualities as the original.  Jean Baudrillard suggested that the hyperreal is something in which its difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is not, blurring our perceptions of reality. It has been argued that the use of media in today’s society, i.e. mobile phones, tablets etc, is creating and sustaining the existence of the hyperreal. With the clouding of the boundaries between the physical and the virtual, the idea of a simulation or the hyperreal shows the difference between the true and the false or the real and the imaginary. The use of technology such as our phone, or laptop etc have been the culprit of this and the ‘crossing into the space whose curvature is no longer that of the real, nor that of truth.’ (2004:2). So by taking the concept of virtual reality we can see how the dualisms are continually being threatened in such a way where it is allowing the simulation to somewhat take over the real. The concept of hyperreality is exploring the notion of virtual ‘cyberspace’ being something that is experienced overlapped with physical reality, e.g. the idea of augmented reality. The holy grail of any company developing such tech is to seamlessly blend the two together that the interaction appears natural and the user is unable to distinguish between what is real and what is a simulation. An example of where this is headed can be seen in Microsoft’s Hololens (fig.4), a headset which is able to simulate any virtual situation using holograms, e.g. sending an email, streaming tv, posting on social media etc. within the environment around you. It is the most advanced piece of tech available to the public and is an insight into how the relationship between our digital devices and our interactions with the real world are becoming amalgamated. Fig.4 – Microsoft HololensVR or AR tech has the capabilities of fabricating an experience. Baudrillard’s early studies on semiotics show that within our consumerist society there are signs and symbols that need to be understood and interpreted, implying that in our current, highly advanced technological society all meaning is replaced with a simulation. He discusses how we ‘map’ out simulations of reality – in this case virtual realities existing in cyberspace – to create relationships more alive than our human social interactions. He states that this is the ‘death of the real’, meaning that if we are to live in a hyperreal realm, or a virtual realm, we are connecting more intensely with things that simulate reality, i.e. social media, AR apps etc. So with the idea of the virtual somewhat replacing the physical through these devices, it brings about a sense of uncertainty to the human condition and identity. Baudrillard stated in an interview with Claude Thibaut, ‘One is no longer in front of the mirror; one is in the screen, which is entirely different. One finds himself in a problematic universe, one hides in the network – that is, one is no longer anywhere. What is fascinating and exercises such an attraction is perhaps less the search for information or the thirst for knowledge than the desire to disappear, the possibility of dissolving and disappearing into a network,’ (March 6th 1996) identifying that a virtual world is beginning to replace reality and that it has the potential to corrupt our perception of a reality that doesn’t necessarily exist, the virtual. Considering this, if users are accessing designed and already interpreted virtual realities through a device like the Microsoft Hololens, they are living within a world which is partly virtual and partly physical in real time, meaning that the simulation could take over the real. As Matthew Lombard and Theresa Ditton wrote ‘Media experiences that evoke presence tend to be highly involving.’ (1997)  Donna Haraway’s essay  ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’ can also be taken into consideration when discussing the idea of the virtual taking over the real. The merging of the binary dualisms of machine and organism is essentially a physical example of the merging of the physical and the virtual. She stated, ‘By the late twentieth century, our time, a mythic time, we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism: in short we are cyborgs. The cyborg is our ontology; it gives us our politics. The cyborg is a condensed image of both imagination and material reality,’ (1984:150) which argues that not only are we moving into the world of the virtual through the use of virtual or augmented reality, but technology as we know it is indeed becoming a permanent extension of the human self. 5. ConclusionAs a society, it is becoming increasingly obvious that technology is going to continue to grow and develop with us. The more we strive to access a world of information beyond the screen, the more our physical relationships and experiences will blur into virtual realities. With every updated machine comes a new way to become immersed in the virtual, whether that be through the use of an augmented reality app similar to Pokemon Go, or the use of a headset which will fully submerge us into a 360 simulation. Our social interactions are indeed at risk of becoming obsolete, but also our natural human experience has the potential to reach new heights through the use of technology. We are becoming cyborgs of our own design, constantly connected to the virtual world and will continue to pursue becoming creators of culture and experience through the use of augmented or virtual reality. ‘The real is not only what can be reproduced, but that which is already reproduced.’ Jean Baudrillard, Simulations and Simulacra (1983:146)