Institute of Para-Enactment Research
Softcore Historicism and Embodied Heritage



According to the Marriam-Webber dictionary, the term "virtual" refers to something that is being such in essence or effect though not formally recognized or admitted. The word derives from Latin virtualis or virtus "excellence, potency, efficacy”. This approximation to the idea of virtual as potentiality was also described by Gilles Deleuze in his 1966 book “Bergsonism”, where he refers to the definition of virtuality by another philosopher, Henri Bergson, as “real but not actual, ideal but not abstract”, It is what is not real, but displays the full qualities of the real.

In the book “Radical Immersions”, John Desnoyers-Stewart, Megan L. Smith And Bernhard E. Riecke  describe how virtual reality is an embodied medium. For them, virtuality extends reality by altering the perception of the bodily senses” . They quote Katherine Hayles statement  about how “we can see, hear, feel, and interact with virtual worlds only because we are embodied (…) Our bodies are no less actively involved in the construction of virtuality than in the construction of real life.”

On his book “Parables for the Virtual”, Brian Massumi disputes how virtuality and embodiment, even if  have been the focus of much contemporary cultural theory, are still discussed though the models that neglect the most salient characteristics of embodied existence—movement, affect, and sensation—in favor of concepts derived from linguistic theory. Massumi also discusses on his book the connection between virtuality and potentiality. He states “(t)he virtual, the pressing crowd of incipiencies and tendencies, is a realm of potential. In potential is where futurity combines, unmediated, with pastness, where outsides are unfolded and sadness is happy (happy because the press to action and expression is life).” For him, “(t)he virtual is a lived paradox where what are normally opposites coexist, coalesce, and connect; where what cannot be experienced cannot but be felt-albeit reduced and contained”.

︎︎︎Massumi, Brian, Stanley Fish, and Fredric Jameson. 2002. Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. https://doi.org/10.1515/9780822383574.

︎︎︎Desnoyers-Stewart, John, Megan Smith, and Bernhard Riecke. 2019. ‘Transcending the Virtual Mirror Stage: Embodying the Virtual Self through the Digital Mirror’. In , 156–67.

︎︎︎Deleuze, Gilles. 1966. Bergsonism. Trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. NY: Zone, 1991. ISBN

︎︎︎Hayles, N. Katherine. 1996. Embodied Virtuality: Or How to Put Bodies Back into the Picture. In Immersed in Technology: Art and Virtual Environments, edited by Mary Anne Moser and Douglas MacLeod, Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, pp. 1–28.

︎︎︎ Berlin, 2022

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