The end of reading, the beginning of virtual fiction?

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Abstract

Could it be that what we now call reading may eventually be superseded by virtual reality (VR)? This article asks whether the growing ability within new technologies to place the reader of literature in the position of the chief character in a literary narrative might give rise to an experience which is more rewarding and informative. Brechtian dramatic theory suggests that a form of engagement with narrative which presents dilemmas directly to the ‘reader’ can lead to deeper insights. The issue of whether a narrative in a VR format might also enable one person to share the consciousness of another and so transcend the reading experience altogether is explored. Nietzsche's theory of consciousness is used to illustrate how it might be valid to assert that this new kind of reading from within the narrative might overcome objections to the idea of the merging of consciousnesses. Intimations of this change in reading are illustrated by reference to the work of experimental theatre groups using new media.

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