Philippe Quéau

A Planet of Minds For a Politics of Cyberspace Publication date : November 1, 2000

The world-wide expansion of the Internet has propelled our society into the age of virtual reality. Although it is too soon to evaluate all of the repercussions of this development, we can try to understand its significance — regardless of whether we greet it with scepticism or with enthusiasm.
It is from this angle that Philippe Quéau studies the issues surrounding the potential of virtual reality: What is virtual reality? What is it in relation to “real” reality, and how do the two types of reality blend in a culture that is already teeming with images? What are the implications of virtual reality? How has it changed our concept of space, of physical bodies and even of faces? What repercussions has it already had on our society, which until now functioned mainly on the basis of face-to-face relationships? How is this in the process of changing our world view, and how should it change it?
If the onset of virtual reality is transforming the very image that human beings have of themselves, how should we deal with this profound metamorphosis and with the fact that the expansion of the Internet is often responsible for increasing existing inequalities? By sweeping aside our differences and favouring the norm, hasn’t virtual reality made us lose our “common sense”, and even our sensitivity to what is different from ourselves? The author relates all these questions to the central issue of “the common good”, which must now be considered from a global viewpoint. He concludes that there is an urgent need to reform the laws that govern nations, in various domains. He believes this will be the only way of preserving our differences, of keeping our much-needed consciousness of what is unlike ourselves and “other” — whatever form the other may take.

Philippe Quéau, a philosopher and adviser at UNESCO, founded Imagina, a fair featuring new images. He is the author of Le Virtuel, published by Champ Vallon in 1993.