Nicholaus Gutierrez on VR's Mythic Past

12 Jun, 2023

Nicholaus Gutierrez on VR's Mythic Past

Alum Nicholaus Gutierrez published The Ballad of Morton Hellig: On VR's Mythic Past in the Journal of Cinema and Media Studies journal!

Virtual reality (VR) became a cultural fixture in the 1980s, when advances in computing inspired a general belief in VR's revolutionary potential. To support this belief, VR enthusiasts at that time also constructed an imagined history. This article examines VR's historiography through one of its most enduring myths: that filmmaker and inventor Morton Heilig developed analog VR in the 1950s but never received public recognition because few understood his vision. I argue that this narrative of Heilig as VR's forgotten prophet functioned to justify the putatively revolutionary project of VR and to legitimize the VR community that was promoting it.

Nicholaus Gutierrez, Ph.D. in Film & Media is a Assistant Professor in Cinema and Media Studies at Wellesley Nick’s research focuses on the history of virtual reality, showing the shift from metaphysical fantasies to new forms of creative practice that came from economizing hardware and software elements. In 2018, Nick was awarded the prestigious Lyman Fellowship. He has taught a slate of new media courses at Berkeley, including his popular “Is Technology Evil?” for which he won an Outstanding GSI award. Nick served on the Berkeley Center for New Media’s Executive Committee for three years and was a co-convenor of the New Media Working Group.

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