"Reality is that which is, 'virtuality' is that which seems to be." (Ted Nelson)
Traditionally, for something to be virtual meant that it possessed the powers or capabilities of something else. In the late 1950's, scientists developed what they called "virtual computers" -- machines quick enough to handle several users sequentially while giving each user the impression of being the only one using the computer.
In this same sense, a propagating information structure, such as a "glider" in the "game of life" (see cellular automata) is a virtual machine. For Christopher Langton, behaviors themselves can constitute the fundamental parts of non-linear systems, virtual parts, which depend on non-linear interections between physical parts for their very existence.
The Danish physicist Benny Lautrup distinguishes between "real" computer organisms and "virtual" ones. The virtual computer organisms are those designed to be completely dependent on a specific habitat inside the machine -- in games, in cellular automata, or in virtual environments such as the Tierra simulator. The environments for real computer organisms, known as computer viruses, are real computers, real hardware, mainframes, or networks.
Or is the virtual that which could be ? ......
...."Could be !"
If techno-usage stresses the dematerialized, computational capacities of the virtual, the philosophical tradition that passes through Bergson and Deleuze stresses the latent potentialities of the virtual.
Etymologically, virtual means full of virtue, virtue being taken here as the capacity to act.
Virtue / virtual / virtuous (see virtual reality ) Does the etymology of virtue from vir suggest anything?
Cf. " abstract machines"
The virtual can be thought of as the domain of latency or possibility in the real, given that the boundaries betwen the virtual and the real or the physical are unsustainable. Bergson affirms the virtual / actual couple over the possible / real in order to emphasize the creative force of being and to highlight that being is not merely the reduction of possible worlds to a single real world, but rather than being is always an act of creation and unforseeable novelty.Bergson describes the material world as the virtual perception of all things.
In a similar way, Antoine Picon traces the "creative principles" of architecture as enabling the constant exchange between the built reality and the domain of knowledge, precepts, and rules. For Picon, order, proportion, ornament and were among the virtual dimensions of Vitruvian architecture.
"The passage from the virtual through the possible to the real is the fundamental act of creation."
" By the virtual we understand the set of powers to act (being, loving, transforming, creating) that reside in the multitude. (Hardt and Negri, Empire, p.357) "The real is saturated with the spaces of projection, possibility, and the new, which we now designate as virtual...the virtual is the space of emergence of the new, the unthought, the unrealized.." (E. Grosz, in Anybody)
the relation between virtual and actual can be seen as the relation between structure and event, between cultural order as constituted in a society and as lived by the people. Its circuits are those of the imagination. Virtuality can also be interpreted as ideology, particularly in the characteristic feature of denying its material basis.
Brian Massumi describes Deleuze and Guattari's usage of the virtual as the "future-past of the present: a thing's destiny and condition of existence." (pp36-37) "A thing's actuality is its duration as a process. "the virtual as the immanent strategies." "The virtual is the unsaid of the statement, the unthought of thought." (p46) For Deleuze and Guattari, the interaction of actual and virtual is a resonance. "The fractal attractor is the virtual. No actuality can effectively contract all of the fractal attractor's states into its bifurcations, or overlap with it entirely. Some potential states drop out of each global state's actuality, but they go on resonating in other dimensions, as pure abstract potential." (Massumi, p.65)
Foucault's analysis of the panopticon as diagram -- the "eye of power" -- and Jeremy Bentham's proposals for the "omnipresence" of the surveillor, in the prison, the school, or any other "total" institution: is also a form of virtuality. The prisoner, or any other subject who has internalized surveillance, acts as if he or she were being watched. (see visuality) In Leviathan and the Air Pump, Shapin and Shafer describe the process of "virtual witnessing" in which readers of Boyle's descriptions of his experiments become part of a moral community which validates, or warrants them. (see public / private) Edmund Husserl describes writing as virtual communication. It makes communications possible without immediate or mediate personal address. By its means, the socialization of humanity is elevated to a new stage.
In Plato, ideas and simulacra exist in some state of virtuality. Even writing opens a virtual space of understanding.
Virtuality can be understood as an awareness of the interpenetration of materiality by information. Katherine Hayles speaks of an "embodied virtuality." Virtuality can be interpreted as ideology, particularly in the characteristic feature of denying its material basis. (fantasy of possible worlds) (cf Lefebvre in social space) The virtual world requires a highly developed material structure. relation of virtual to "embedded computation?"
In The Virtual Corporation (Davidow and Malone P. 4),the authors describe "virtual products" as produced more or less instantaneously and customized in response to customer demand. "The virtual product mostly exists before it is produced." For them, the ability to make virtual products will determine the successful corporations of the next century, and the countries who are successful at riding the wave be economies transformed. The others will be "graveyards of industrial skeletons."