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An imaginary/tought(-out) entity that is present in its functionality and/or effect - [wirkmächtig].  

translated cite from: uni-tuebingen glossar Virtualität

Etymology and word meaning

The expression ‘virtuality’ is derived from the Latin ‘virtus’ (cf. [Stowasser et al. 1998a]: p. 554); In and after the Latin translation of the Bible, ‘virtus’ reproduces the Greek words ‘dynamis’ (δύναμις) and ‘dynatos’ (δυνατός) (cf. [Gemoll & Vretska 2006a]: pp. 239-240) and adds the basic meanings of “Virtue”, “manhood”, “efficiency”, “morality” and “bravery” add the aspect of “strength”, “ability” (cf. [Okolowitz 2006a ]: P. 35f .; cf. [Roth 2000a]: p. 33f.).
In the modern understanding, virtuality refers to the field of possibility. In this perspective, the adjective ‘virtual’ has the following meanings: »available as a possibility according to its nature«, »grasping the possibility of something in itself« ([Duden 2013a]) and »not real, not really present, but appearing real «([Duden 2013a]).

Conceptual structure

With Bergson, however - as with Leibniz before and again later with Deleuze - there is a demarcation of the virtual from the possible, because “the possible understood in this way does not belong in any degree to the virtual” ([Bergson 1948a]: p. 122). Clara Völker explains this statement in her history of ideas of virtuality as follows:
While the possible arises after the real, the virtual exists […] before the real and only appears through something current ([Völker 2010a]: p. 210).
This shows that the attempt to clearly differentiate reality and virtuality using terms such as »potential«, »possibility«, »reality«, »dynamis« or »energeia« is hardly sustainable. A simple dichotomy is already problematic in Aristotle’s philosophy, whose concepts of dynamis (ability) and energeia (real activity) as the building blocks of reality do not face each other, but have to be thought together.

In the combination of the concepts of “reality” and “virtuality”, the term virtual reality (see also ⊳ Cyberspace) finally has a technology-based meaning, as Virtual reality (reality simulated by a computer, an artificial world in which someone can seemingly put themselves in the shoes of the appropriate technical equipment; according to English virtual reality) ([Duden 2013a]).

Mental virtuality and theory of subjectivity

In the modern context of the constitution of subjectivity and its analysis, the concept of virtuality gains a complex level of meaning. According to the self-model theory of subjectivity, virtuality belongs to the mental paradigm of the constitution of self-consciousness, since “something like selves in the world” ([Metzinger 2000a]: p. 1) does not exist. There is only the experienced sense of self and variable content of self-confidence, which are virtually organized in mental models. The ontological presence of the ego or the everyday psychological context of the ego can be classified as a phenomenal “self”, as “the content of self-consciousness directly given in subjective experience” ([Metzinger 2000a]: p. 6). The self-models function as virtual elements and the possession of “ever better self-models than a new kind of” virtual organs “enabled - this point must not be overlooked - in the first place the formation of societies” ([Metzinger 2000a]: p. 6).
The self-model is not a tangible and real self, but a representation of the totality of all causal relationships that exist between the subject and his environment. Thus the phenomenal space in which the subject moves can be understood as a virtual space because it is in it a possibility - the best hypothesis there is at the moment - inevitably presented as a reality - an actuality “([Metzinger 2000a]: p. 22). In this perspective, virtuality shows itself in a mental instead of a technical foundation:

The contemporary enthusiasm for man’s penetration into artificial virtual worlds overlooks the fact that we are always already in a biologically generated phenospace: within a virtual reality generated by mental simulation “([Metzinger 2000a]: p. 243).

Virtual reality as a technical construct (pictorial approaches)

It is Niklas Luhmann who at the end of the 20th century combined virtuality and modern media technologies and called the medium “pure virtuality” ([Luhmann 1993a]: p. 356) - pure potential and possibility. While Luhmann still links his understanding of virtuality to any medium, the development of modern mobile media is expanding a point of view that brings virtuality more and more into connection with digital media. Vaihinger’s essay “Virtuality and Reality - The Fictionalization of Reality and Infinite Information” (1997) finally leads to a confusion or mixing of the terms “virtuality”, “simulation” and “virtual reality” and thus to restrict the term to digital media. From this perspective, virtuality is viewed as a new constructed reality that opposes reality.
In this technical orientation, virtuality can be described as virtual reality, an “object world that promises to be reality without having to be” ([Vaihinger 1997a]: p. 21), which depends on the elements “image”, “Space” and “interactivity” are constituted. In general, constructs such as computer games, online games or chatrooms are counted among the particularly popular forms of virtual realities, as a conception of visually conveyed space (presence space) is effective here, “which does not exist, but still affects our reality - i.e. is virtual” ( [Schwingeler 2008a]: p. 11). Virtual reality or virtual spaces are therefore dependent on the fact that on the one hand they have a visual representation function, but on the other hand they can “be experienced as spaces of physical presence” ([Böhme 2004a]: p. 139).
The possibility of modifying the presentation space in such a way that it enables physical presence to be experienced virtually is made possible by technical elements that structure an active recipient action. First and foremost, virtual spaces are constituted as communication spaces in which social interaction is made possible through text messages and voice messages. In addition, computer games and online games in particular encourage (and demand) active and geographically oriented movement within the game worlds using game characters or avatars. Since the | image space of the game process adapts to the respective and individually mediated camera perspective, the player has an arbitrary perspective, “in the game the gaze directs the camera” ([Schwingeler 2008a]: p. 142). This free choice of perspective turns the picture into Image space and event field. The viewer becomes the user. The depicted space and the space of physical presence are interwoven ([Schwingeler 2008a]: p. 147).
A more specific form of virtual reality that breaks away from typical game objectives and firmly structured content can be demonstrated in the 3D online world “Second Life” from the US company Linden Lab. «Second Life» is characterized by almost unlimited interactivity, as there are no typical game limits and objectives. This particular openness constitutes a potential for action that turns the traditional gamer of a game into a resident of a virtual world and increases the immersive bond of the recipient. The term virtual world ’must not be understood in a narrow sense, because residents treat” Second Life “as” very much as an actual, not a virtual, place “([Heider 2009a]: p. 134). The opportunities for participation are accordingly complex and supported by a dense network of virtual infrastructures, identity formation, culture and subculture formation, flexible gender orientation, land acquisition, educational structures, entertainment and luxury needs, communication processes, production processes, commercial transactions (including its own currency, the L $ = Linden Dollars), taxation, branding and political action. The complex structures within “Second Life” constitute a “second life” for the recipient: “Virtual worlds have real consequences” ([Heider 2009a]: p. 23). Accordingly, all potentially tangible elements and situations are as “real” as anything we might experience in our day- to- day “real” lives. Virtual objects can hold the same meaning for people as real objects. Relationships formed in a virtual world […] can have emotional impact on people quite similar to the impact of relationships in the flesh ([Heider 2009a]: p. 134).

Virtuality and fiction

A fiction is the representation of a fact without a verifiable reference to a real event, i.e. without a necessary reference to reality. According to Aristotle, it is not the task of fiction to communicate what really happened, but rather to present it in an imitative way, what could happen, i.e. what is possible according to the rules of probability or necessity ([Aristoteles 1997a]: p. 29).

Consequently, fiction cannot be viewed in isolation from reality, as it relates to it in an imitative way. Fictional contents arise with mimetic recourse to the real world as a reference world (cf. [Böcking 2008a]: p. 27) and its probabilities, which brings fiction close to the concept of the virtual.

Mimesis - as a characteristic of fiction - is not to be seen as an imitation of the current, actually existing reality, but as a representation or simulation of a possible reality or world. This reference to possible worlds is necessary because in novels, films or virtual environments we are not necessarily dealing with real reality as we actually live it, but only with a possible world. And this world does not have to obey the laws of our lifeworld - think of the reality systems of science fiction and fantasy films or games:

Because the virtual things behave according to laws that are not necessarily those that are known from reality ([Wiesing 2005a]: p. 121).
The fictional text is to be seen as virtual in a double sense. Eco describes the text as “a machine to produce possible worlds” ([Eco 1998b]: p. 219), since its intentional object - in contrast to real objects - is not completely and all-encompassing and thus a multitude of empty spaces and contains places of indeterminacy, ie carries various update options [1]. These, in turn, are carried out solely in the recipient’s imagination and are therefore also to be regarded as virtual. The written text is indeterminate, incomplete and abstract; only through reading and transferring it to the reader’s imagination are scenes, figures and events concretized in an act of simulation and connected to one another into a possible whole. Ryan therefore subsumes under the concept of the possible textual world the characteristic of the “connected set of objects and individuals” ([Ryan 2001a]: p. 91).

One possible world is therefore the representation of a state that forms an alternative to the current state. Johnson-Laird does not only apply this term to the current mental representations that depict the real world, but also to the mental simulations of world states that also depict possible world states, such as Hypotheses about the further course of a day or even ideas about the fictional world of a novel or film.

Likewise, digital virtual realities are to be thought of as possible worlds - as simulations or imitations of a world - and thus as fictional worlds. They are to be understood as realities of a different kind that exist alongside our real reality. Fictions such as virtualities are neither true nor false (⊳ reference to interaction, self and factual reference: section “Truthfulness and truth”) - they are only possible or likely. However, virtual reality does not want to represent fictional reality, but rather it wants to present the reality of fiction to the observer. While fiction always presupposes a reference to the perspective of the person who created it, virtual reality is independent of the perspective of the person who created it (cf. [Esposito 1998a]: p. 288).

a more technical approach
cite from lehrerfortbildung-bw

Definition of “virtuality”

There is already a lack of definition in the term “virtuality”, as it conceals various phenomena that encompass both “augmented reality” and “virtual reality (VR)” in the actual, narrower sense. From the point of view of the experts, “virtual reality” has to meet several requirements:

Virtual Reality or VR means nothing else than the representation and simultaneous perception of reality and all its physical properties in a computer-generated environment.

This results in the following predetermined criteria:

One can deduce from this that a demarcation from “reality” (ie from the everyday world / world of experience) automatically arises from the fact that virtuality uses technical aids and corresponding computer-generated worlds of experience, while everyday perception can do without it.

However, “smart” application programs are increasingly conquering the real everyday world as additional virtual spaces that add to everyday perception and can be experienced with as many senses as possible, for example through the smart home, which can be controlled by apps on the mobile phone so that the virtual becomes part of reality - in this case the term “real virtuality” is often used. Conversely, real objects become virtual on the Internet - for example, the person you are talking to when telephoning with smart apps or objects on sales platforms in the so-called “Internet of Things”

In general, these variants are summarized as “Augmented Reality” (AR) (alternatively also: “Mixed Reality”; “Enhanced Reality”). This refers to variants of the computer-aided expansion of the perception of reality, which as a rule supplement the visual representation of information (e.g. images of objects or videos of an event) with computer-generated additional information or superimposed virtual objects that are intended to address all human senses (good examples are the transmission of a real soccer game with display of virtually generated distances, running directions or Google glasses, flight simulations and applications in the smart industries including cloud computing / virtual networks in the context of Industry 4.0)

“Augmented Reality” differs from virtual reality in particular. in that the users of VR applications completely immerse themselves in the virtual world (“immersion”).

Meanwhile, VR is defined in the narrower sense as a combination of interactivity and immersion (position of the Virtual Dimension Center and the Stuttgart Media University). Robots like “Pepper” can be seen as special cases, who can communicate and interact with people as a human-like helper (image at ). Extreme visions of this variant aim at a fusion between man and machine with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) in the form of cyborgs (currently as people who are supplemented by technology by means of transplants - e.g. to be able to hear again as a deaf person), of the idea of the chip in the brain or the artificial reconstruction of human brains to thinking machines.

The following table should show a rough breakdown into AR and VR:

Augmented reality Virtual reality
3-D films that provide a chronologically fixed sequence of actions, as they cannot be changed interactively, but closed
For example: new Star Wars films, cartoons from Disney and Pixar.
interactive computer games, e.g. “Second Life”
Caves - 3-D simulations that are accessible and changeable (e.g. Cave in the Leibniz data center Garching near Munich)
3-D simulations that can be changed by the user
i.a. 3-D glasses,
such as. the simulation of an IKEA kitchen that can be varied from the perspective of a toddler.
Weak form of VR: Video telephony applications such as “Face-Time” or “Skype”, as they are not entirely part of an immersion

Ted Nelson’s Virtuality in wikipedia blabla:

Virtuality is a term used by Ted Nelson for what he considers one of the central issues of software design. “Virtuality” refers to the seeming of anything, as opposed to its reality. (This has been the dictionary meaning of “virtuality” since at least the 18th century). Everything has a reality and a virtuality. Nelson divides virtuality into two parts: conceptual structure and feel so in every field these have different roles. The conceptual structure of all cars are the same, but the conceptual structure of every movie is different. The reality of a car is important, but the reality of a movie is unimportant—how a shot was made is of interest only to movie buffs.

The feel of software, like the feel of a car, is a matter of late-stage fine-tuning (if it is worked on at all). But Nelson regards the design of software conceptual structure — the constructs we imagine as we sit at the screen — as the center of the computer field. However, the conceptual structure of almost all software has been determined by what Nelson calls the PARC User Interface, or PUI, on which Windows, Macintosh and Linux are all based. The feel is only icing on top of that.

In relation to new media, Woolgar (2002) has proposed ‘five rules of virtuality’” that are drawn from in-depth research in the UK on uses of the so-called ‘New Media’ (Flew, 2008):

  1. Both the uptake and uses of new media are critically dependent on the non-ICT-related contexts in which people are situated (gender, age, employment, income, education, nationality).
  2. Fears and risks associated with new media are unevenly socially distributed, particularly in relation to security and surveillance.
  3. CMC-mediated or ‘virtual’ interactions supplement rather than substitute for ‘real’ activities.
  4. The introduction of more scope for ‘virtual’ interaction acts as a stimulus for more face-to-face or ‘real’ interaction.
  5. The capacity of ‘virtual’ communication to promote globalization throughout communication that is spatially disembedded encourages, perhaps paradoxically, new forms of ‘localism’ and the embedding, rather than the transcendence, of identities grounded in a sense of place, belief, experience, or practice.

Virtuality in the usage by Ted Nelson

Virtuality involves a 3d/4d/multi dimension vision of content, context, value and relations. This is introduced as the Hyperspace, cyber-world. Today this is implemented in serveral technical approaches like html, the internet, email, AR/VR/XR, QR-code, but in many cases the relations of content and context are broken, espacially the evaluation of value. It is not a purpose of quantification according to Ted Nelson. Still he tried to build a meassurement system to fix this problem. Virtuality should help to solve the quantity-quality conflict → Fair share implementation in HyperText.


Virtuality is the proposal of a technical reality in continuity with the human virtues. It is not a pure soft- or hardware solution, rather more a philosophical inspired practice. It does follows the principles of responsibility, transparency, openness, fairness and equality. Fair share, fair pay, fair trade in the hyper world. Hyperledger - minimum income, avoidance of sanctifying greed systems, balance, solving the quality-quantity conflict.

The hyperworld is an extension, functional, powerful and effictive, of the reality. This fact implicates the need of an established global balance system, post following the national states, though not the nations.
On the practical side it requires technics like augmentation, 3d, hypertext to visualise the multidimensional contexts and relations in the society, knowledge(content) and production. The more immersive the tech the more immersive the people’s understanding, undergoing, learning. (Privacy/Idiotism vs. public/politeia (πολιτεία)) Though it is named hyperworld → over-world, not the hypo one aka underworld.
This solves the eco-conflict. Economics vs Ecologics. The first are only the nominal rules of a discipline, which can be changed, against what the last is the compulsory logical context, which can not be avoided and must be preserved and protected. This defines the limits which are the base of the rules of the first.

Virtuality is the hyper-con-text, it’s implementation in real
and as a virtue.

The ideal is developing from a destructive context(Umfeld) control to a hypercontext(Umwelt) creation. Certainly close to a believe system → “Tech will save us”.

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