PRINT January 1994



ALTHOUGH THE TERM “HYPERTEXT” has yet to acquire the mass-cultural (and instantly clichéd) cachet of “virtual reality,” a growing corps is treating it with a similar utopianism. Yet the two modes have interesting points of divergence: where VR eliminates language, hypertext is based entirely on the sign; where VR emphasizes a dizzying phenomenology of direct experience (or the elaborate illusion thereof), hypertext emphasizes symbolic representation; where VR is sexy and mainstream (Wild Palms, Lawnmower Man), hypertext remains the province of Brown University’s English department (just kidding). A “virtual reality,” as anyone not living in one knows by now, is a real-time computer-generated environment that single or multiple users can inhabit with the aid of such devices as Datagloves, electronic bodysuits, 3D Eyephones, and the simulation of 360° sound. These instruments immerse the

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