Learning Through the Virtual


Learning Through the Virtual

David R Cole

I. Introduction

This paper seeks to explore the virtual states that may be represented through educational practice. On one side of the equation, these states are part of a system philosophy that introduces technology into the learning process, and therefore creates mediated spaces through which we may develop our mental capacities (virtualities). On the other lies our individual proclivity to virtualise or imagine states that may relate to each other in complex, abstract manners (virtual reality). I have turned to the work of Gilles Deleuze in order to pick our way through these educational possibilities. His ideas offer a complex understanding of virtual states, and one which may be applied to the ambiguous presentations of virtual reality as a uniform and trouble free educational resource.

II. Multiplicities and virtual learning

The vital link between virtual reality and learning lies in the deployment of multiplicities because multiplicities may be treated as abstract entities tied to reality through the agent transforming knowledge. The Deleuzian notion of multiplicities responds to hybrid reasoning that could neither be said to be canonical nor entirely new. For example, he uses Nietzschean plurality to focus the way in which multiplicities act through the duration of the unconscious. The notion of Nietzschean force is never singular; it is always a differential between other forces.[1] This qualifies Nietzsche’s interest in the ways in which schemes or perspectives “interact, attract, convince, corrupt, and incorporate one another.”[2] It could also be said that there is no one perspective that is incommensurate to all others (e.g. God, meta-truth or ‘science’), but all perspectives actively participate in a coagulation of truth. Nietzsche critiqued the unitary notion of the will as a repudiation of any will (against Schopenhauer); and because of this we are left with a field of willing, where the differential between forces defines systems of domination (will over will) and ultimately the hierarchy and value that arise out of complex field dynamics. Deleuze used this plurality to designate the active and creative multiplicities of time that surge and pulse to inhuman, rhythmic forces. He also used the mathematical distinction between actual and virtual multiplicities.[3]

Actual multiplicities are numerical and discontinuous, virtual multiplicities are continuous and qualitative (this corresponds to his notion of simplicity). Deleuze terms the problematic at this point as being: “What is the multiplicity that is peculiar to time?”[4] Deleuze’s solution to this problematic is the notion of virtual multiplicities that express the coexistence of simultaneous fluxes. The coexistence of simultaneous fluxes divides into elements that differ in kind; these elements also only exist insofar as the division itself is effectively carried out. This is because, if our consciousness terminates the division at a given point, there also terminates divisibility.[5] To illustrate this point, we may encounter the scene of sitting on the bank of a river; in this situation we have the flowing of the river, the gliding of a boat and the flight of a bird, “the uninterrupted murmur of our deep life, are for us three different things or a single one, at will.”[6] Each element of this characteristically pointillist scene, is a continuous multiplicity or a flux; these fluxes are simultaneous and therefore coexist in a kind of ‘inner time’, which may be merged into one or differentiated as the dream-like backdrop through which the elements taking their movement-places are subsumed in the duration of the scene.

Updating this tranquil picture further and into the clashing emergence of virtual reality; we may experience the continuity of lived time through electronic fluxes shaped as grand prix cars, we may find fantastic monsters hidden in their labyrinths, we may engage in combat with armed and dangerous opponents. These multiplicities are an expression of force, yet this force is not unitary, it is action contained within a field of forces. The action of the virtual demonstrates the ability to extract the particulars of the flux from other virtual elements, and therefore to manipulate the flux with respect to the shifting electronic environments within which multiple flux relations are present. We bring to the virtually constructed environment this ability to differentiate between elements; and through this skill we experience duration, which the process of differentiation can fall back into as the basic creative process or intuition that defines learning in virtual reality; and extends the virtual from the digitally repressive or recursive. Virtual reality is an enhanced form of the simultaneity of fluxes; as the effect of mediation through electronic perception, is to increase and emphasise the link with consciousness in duration, as action in virtual reality is time based rather than spatial and discontinuous. Furthermore, the perceived time in virtual reality is more clearly conceived time,[7] in the sense that we are not experiencing natural perception in virtual reality; as the environment is entirely constructed, and that movement within this environment depends upon the analysis of coexistent electronic data.

In line with postmodern theories of education, the critique of natural perception that we derive from Deleuze, undermines models of perception that would reduce the activity and becoming of perception to a centred subject. This is parallel to and ready for the decentred subject that we find inhabiting the electronic worlds that are fuelling the imaginations of many young learners. Bergson writes that “to perceive consists in condensing enormous periods of an infinitely diluted existence into a few more differentiated moments of an intense life, and in the summing up of a very long history. To perceive means to immobilise.”[8] It is a creative activity, that involves considerable expenditure (more than a singular perspective), and the focus of many minds. It is also an activity that brings to the fore Deleuze’s conception of memory. Deleuze’s thinking of time as duration is one in which the emphasis is on the virtual character of time, and in particular on time’s past which always grows without ceasing and which possesses an infinite capacity for novel re-invention. The memory is involved with this re-invention, as the reality of the past is a deep and productive unconscious that evolves automatically. The Deleuzian memory is not a process of representation, as the past is not directly shifted into the present, but it is implicated in the future through the past’s becoming. It is not a psychological faculty of recollection, as it cannot be switched on and off intermittently.[9] To summarise this conception, the memory could be said to be a system property; the memory is not necessarily attached to agency, but it belongs to duration and to the variable essence of things, which provided Deleuze with his complex ontological reading of time.

This complex ontological reading allowed Deleuze to posit the inner time of duration into the time of the universe. Rather than seeing this as an inherent contradiction in the schema of Deleuze, the extension of the notion of duration into the variability of things, provides a methodology where the multiplicities of time that are produced by the automatic accumulation of experience in the unconscious, may be seen to work pragmatically in the outside world. In the world of education, these time based multiplicities are providing planes of becoming that define the future of learning. Virtual reality is one such plane of change, and the duration of the time based learning that happens in virtual reality, is providing the multiplicities that are released through the educational processes of virtual reality in learning environments.

III. Virtual reality and postmodern knowledge

Expectations that we might achieve stable knowledge about learners in virtual reality are hereby realigned to follow the release of unconscious multiplicities (the molecular to utilise Deleuze’s term). This process takes the Deleuzian project of difference seriously; it is a philosophical enterprise which looks to open up areas of thought through hybrid transposition. In the field of learning through virtual reality, positive difference of the qualitative type that this project requires is an internal difference that is experienced via the duration of the electronic flux. Expression of this learning extends the difference into exteriority, where the electronic flux becomes inculcated with the environment (for example, as we find in the simulacra of Baudrillard). The effects of learning through virtual reality are felt throughout the educational system to the extent that the substance of learning (the curriculum) responds to the forces of virtual reality, and to the unconscious multiplicities that are released through the creative action of the élan vital. Simultaneous curriculum innovation, leads to the notion that all subjects of the curriculum may take part in parallel distributed computational models of becoming (connectionist), where virtual reality gives extra breadth to the interdisciplinary learning regimes that are possible (for example, the use of parallel computation in the determination of the origins of order in chaos by Stuart Kaufmann).[10] Yet the virtual is not a field of potentia, which is easily absorbed by the idealism of technological progress; but it is a complex crossing-point, which has the characteristics of actuality mixed up with the intense technological enhancement of a digital universe.

Virtual reality is in this sense perspectival, in that the virtual gives rise to the idea that linkage between subjects is increasingly relevant and easily achieved. It is an extension of what the mind can do, and, to this extent, it is a zone in which the advanced experimentation of the imagination can figure and refigure the most complicated problem that is placed in front of it. It removes the hindrance of the unified subject or agent; and provides a plane on which the radical rearrangement and application of process may proceed without adherence to the needs of transcendence or moral order, although these are still possible and not excluded. This happens because the perspectivism of virtual reality is a non-extended space, where the motion of thought may be placed without ties to linear text or mechanical replication that would diminish the power of immanent diversification to come up with novel productions. It could be seen to be a type of intense design studio, where technical knowledge may interplay with creative writing, or advanced imagistics may enhance the representations of history. As such, virtual reality is at the cutting edge of the technology industry; it is where the future is reinventing the past, and the past is reinvested as a stock of productive material. The question of value in time is set onto a different perspectival plane in virtual reality. The ways in which our understanding of the past and the future alters due to VR; it is a looking glass process for learning, it is a digital reinvestment of what may be productively used to expand the notion of learning on the zero digital curriculum plane.

IV. Abstract Machines: The nexus of the virtual

The creative and philosophical system for the virtual which we derive from Deleuze is accelerated and updated by the assertion that the virtual is a systemic or machine philosophy. This machine philosophy is working throughout society and creating planes of interaction where the action of the virtual is apparent. The learning process is one such plane, and it is one where the virtual produces lines of flight that are defining the directions of the virtual in complex yet mappable orders. This mapping process is structured by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in their second volume of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, a Thousand Plateaus, as responding to the function of abstract machines. These abstract machines are diagrammatic representations of the complexities of change in society, coexisting with the changes. They do not exist as Platonic forms of society, or teleological programmes for the shepherding of progress along set technologically mediated paths, but the abstract machines are simultaneous productions, existing as “singular and creative, here and now, real yet non-concrete, actual yet non-effectuated -that is why abstract machine are named and dated (the Einstein abstract machine, the Weber abstract machine, but also the Galileo, the Bach or the Beethoven). Not that they refer to people or to effectuating moments; on the contrary, it is the names and dates that refer to the singularities of the machines, and to what they effectuate.”[11] The concrete assemblage (orders of convergence and divergence) that go to make up learning in virtual reality, are the parts that are abstracted into its singular machine, and the heterogeneous body that is the object of this section.

Pierre Lévy has set about the mapping of the concrete assemblage of the virtual in terms of the way in which the actual is being virtualised in contemporary society.[12] The technological processes that he approaches are apparent across the board in the collective intelligence that he designates as signifying our society, which pinpoints the movement towards the virtual as being a derivative of technological progressivism. This is the type of theory that allows and encourages a utopian functionalism regarding the introduction of virtual technology into the learning process; and therefore could be designated as being an uncritical appraisal of the virtues of the new technology. However, simultaneously, and perhaps because of such a uni-directional movement of this thought, there is an inevitable backlash of nihilism associated with the designation of the virtual as being the next stage in educational sophistication. This stage concedes that the virtual is to be placed into the processes of society as a kind of destiny of the real; the lineage of technology stretching back to the use of the first machines,[13] and the virtual being the latest and most monstrous of our shared creations. Simultaneous with this placement is the thought that we have been virtualising all along, and that the new technology is allowing us to ‘see’ our mental process:

Virtuality has absolutely nothing to do with its image as supplied by television. It does not refer to some false or imaginary world. On the contrary, virtualisation is the very dynamic of a shared world; it is that through which we share reality. Rather than circumscribing a realm of lies, the virtual is the mode of existence from which both truth and lies arise. There is no sense of truth or falsehood among ants, fish, or wolves; theirs is a world of tracks and bait. Animals do not think in terms of propositions. Truth and falsehood are inseparable from articulated utterance, and each utterance underlies a question. The act of questioning is accompanied by a strange mental tension, unknown to animals. This active hollow, this seminal void is the very essence of the virtual. I believe that each leap into a new mode of virtualisation, each enlargement of the field of problems, opens new spaces to truth and, consequently, falsehood. I am referring to logical truth, which depends on language and writing (two of the major instruments of virtualisation), but there are other, perhaps more essential, forms of truth as well: those expressed by poetry, art, religion, philosophy, science, technology, and, of course, the humble and vital truths each of us experiences in our daily life. Among the contemporary avenues of artistic exploration, one of the most interesting is the discovery and exploration of the new forms of truth that accompany, although obscurely, the dynamic of virtualisation.[14]

Lévy takes the view that virtualisation is to be addressed through art, and that the truths that are revealed through the exploration of virtualisation, will help us to come to terms with the peculiar and latest technological developments that he lists as being associated with contemporary virtualisation; including the virtual hyper-body.[15] Yet the processes of virtualisation in the assemblage that makes up the abstract machine of the virtual are not merely tied up with the act of questioning through art. They are not uniquely human. In fact, they are inhuman and historical. The humanist perspective that Lévy portrays, hides the way in which virtualisation happens to us as well as being an operational procedure of system management. Deleuze and Guattari in Anti-Oedipus took the axiom of virtualisation and incorporated it into the fold of capitalist organisation. Pre-capitalist society over-coded the flows of the technical machines and cast them in such a way so that they could never achieve any independence (for example, the blacksmith or the astronomer).[16] Capitalist organisation decoded these flows, which resulted in a deterritorialisation of the flows which has allowed them to enter into automatic machines; this process is now controlled by computers. Traditional codes that limit and control social relations and production, such as kinship systems, class structure, religious beliefs, folk traditions, customs; are inevitably subverted by capitalist organisation, so that they may enter into its processing organism. The automatic machines which effect this processing have increasingly internalised the flows of code, until they have entered into a field of forces which depend on a science and technology, and an intellectual labour, distinct from the manual labour of the worker. The digital axiom of the virtual can be seen to be fed into the social axiom of capitalist organisation, which itself corresponds to the digital on and off of capitalist modes of production. The social axiom of capitalism organisationally determines the path of decoded flows, including the scientific and the technical.[17]

V. Virtual power and learning (schools as killing machines)

Michael W. Apple has indicated that educational mores are also being incorporated into the fold of capitalist organisation.[18] He is concerned by capitalist reproduction, and by the way in which the curriculum is subverted by the concerns of accumulation, legitimisation (of the state), and the modes of capitalist production in general. Schools are, according to this perspective, used by outside forces in order to reproduce the codes of the dominant classes in society at the expense of other less dominant classes. They are tools at the behest of “middle-managers, semi-autonomous employees, technicians, engineers, accountants, government employees,”[19] who are reproducing their majoritarian credentials through the legitimisation of the state in schools. Apple indicates that the emphasis on competency based education, systems management, career education, futurism (a code-word for manpower planning), national testing programmes and technical colleges in general, is the outcome of the decoding of traditional codes, and the processing of education in favour of capitalist production (and reproduction). Creative, singular, perspectival education can be seen to suffer as a result of this processing; the processing of the virtual through capitalism is, in this sense, a homogenising force that destroys individuality and is at odds with the self-determination of schools. The abstract machine of the virtual, does involve this tendency; but, in contrast to the theoretical approach of Apple, it does not respond to the notion of schools as sites of resistance. The process of reproduction of code happens across the board to the extent that the virtual forms a plane of consistency and this plane is able to be designated as existing (in schools, in the workplace). It is a historical, irreversible process, and homogeneous to the extent that desire (for its results and process) is generated in society. Learning in virtual reality (most clearly and quickly by children through games), may remain heterogeneous to the extent that we remain at the bottom-up end of its process (where children are learning), and do not veer and subsequently enforce the perspective of the plane of consistency, where learning in virtual reality decodes values and substitutes traditional codes for its own. From that side of the equation, the abstract machine of the virtual is a powerful political tool, irrevocably tied up with political/social/military concerns; as it gives the intensified subject individual models of mediation as ‘kits’ for learning on its own terms (where information and skills may be placed into the subject in an accelerated and intensified form).

As Apple indicates, virtual power works through schools via reproduction of its codes. The three segments of the capitalist reproduction process were joined by Deleuze and Guattari in a paraphrase of Marx. These segments define the three aspects of the immanence of reproduction. 1) The extraction of human surplus value, based on the differential relation between decoded flows of labour and production. 2) The extraction of machinic surplus value, based on flows of scientific and technical code. 3) The absorption and realisation of the two forms of surplus value by maximising the emission of both and injecting anti-production into the production apparatus – this is especially cogent in the time-tabling, curriculum and control mechanisms of schools. The capitalist process takes the analogue flows of functional human mechanisms, for example, education, and continually introduces discrete elements into their functioning, digitising the continuum of reproduction to constrain it beneath the immanent force of on and off – this is the top-down mechanism of social and governmental inspection. The introduction of discrete elements into the learning process, forms binary chains of coupled desiring-machines. These are series, which take the multiplicity of relations in society and subjects them to a recording plane, whereby the coupling may be understood, for example, a mouth as eating-machine or breathing-machine or speaking-machine, a school as a thinking-machine or a training-machine or a conditioning-machine. The coupling also makes the elements more likely to be analysed, processed, accelerated and set to work in the machinic functioning of capitalist society. It takes learning in virtual reality and subjects it to educational efficiency, making the abstract machine of the virtual more likely and able to be used as a killing machine; this is because educational efficiency derives power from the homogeneity of the process that can only expand through the will to dominate or extermination of the other. This, again, is the top down side of the learning process, which has at its ultimate goal a fully automated system that works in terms of the education of a technical elite expressing a unified will. Virtual reality is a vital component of this machine, and, as such, it is dealt with here in terms of education, where the process of learning has not sedimented into its inter-linked, functional parts. This polemic field is the battle for the process through which the toolkits for individuals to learn about their own potentia in VR are disseminated and understood.

The virtualisation of war that we are witnessing through the development of smart machines such as cruise missiles with long range guidance systems; is a direct result of the decoding of the practices of war, and their processing by computers. The studies of Daniel Pick or Manuel de Landa have shown how the theoreticians of war such as Clausewitz have been updated and uploaded into computer technology. Computer games do have an unhealthy predilection for war games, and learning in virtual reality already has this tendency written into its codes. Yet the transition from learning through the virtual into military hardware is not a necessary relationship. The heterogeneous end of the abstract machine of the virtual, at the base level of the individual learners in virtual reality; dissipates the desire for war into simulated and often fantastic scenarios that enact war situations. In contrast, the construction of highly technological killing machines necessitates the homogenisation of material resources and intellectual skill through the auspices of government and industry. The two processes are therefore disparate, and whilst sharing content, are separated by an immense material gulf. This gulf may be bridged by the construction of an abstract machine of the virtual that channels a smooth plane of material reinvestment from the seriousness of death to the fun of leisure. The immanence of capitalist reproduction works in this sense through the involvement with virtual value. The extraction of machinic surplus value through the parallel series that are formed as capitalism codes and over-codes hosts cultures and practises, devolves a plane where virtual value may be elicited. This is most prevalent in the technical language of the new machines, that, for example, are used in the writing of computer programmes to guide missiles. The reproduction of capitalism in schools produces the necessity for virtual value as it codes the practises and values of teachers and their interaction with their pupils. Capitalism in this sense interrupts the analogue relationship between communities of learners in the digital curriculum, and simultaneously produces singular instances of virtual value that are disparate from host communities. Contained in these singular instances that are analogue, yet teachable as digital in the digital curriculum, are the diagrammatic representations of abstract machines; which demonstrate the ways in which VR is immanent without being prone to reproduction. These are the most creative uses of VR (for example, cyberpunk, virtual art and the singular rave).

The field of immanence peculiar to capitalism also realises a technical language that corresponds to the generalised decoding of flows instead of referring, directly or indirectly, to despotic over-coding [20] (as would have been the case in pre-capitalist society). The electric flow is one such flow which enters into a relationship when conjoined with other flows, one defining content, and the other expression. Here the capitalist sign means nothing, it acts to deregulate the process, functioning within economic parameters as a medium for trans-coding and co-ordinating various components of the circuit of production, exchange, distribution and consumption. This is not capital qua capitalism, but the sign of capital qua capitalism, which floats in the flow of signs and symbols, is mixed up and designified just like all the others. The electric flow can be conjoined with flows of words, images, music or digital commands in the controlling technical machines (computers). The conjoining of flows is also meaningless, it merely channels the flows in different directions; unless the capitalist automata is scraped (this is capital qua capitalism), which is, as Deleuze and Guattari term it, the “schizophrenic point of desire.”[21] This is a place of relativity where values become mixed up and trans-coded, so that we are unable to directly predict the outcomes of educational programmes; the learners begin to learn for themselves in virtual reality, to the extent that they become part of a fluidic system of coded flows. The capitalist sign (but not capital) does not sit upon this process as a despotic signifier, but enters into the learning process as a meaningless differentiator between technologically enabled subjects.

Deterritorialised flows of content and expression in capitalist production are in a state of conjunction or reciprocal precondition that constitutes binary figures as the ultimate units of both content and expression. This deterritorialisation is increasingly entering into a relationship with education through the use of computers and the media in the classroom. As Deleuze and Guattari put it, the computer is a machine for “instantaneous and generalised decoding.”[22] Content and expression, like voice or writing are not necessary to data processing; the electric flow is not determinate as either content or expression. In terms of the digital and the virtual, the flow of signs of the new technical language machines, as Michel Serres wrote, correlate to production defined by information. This production is the immanence of capitalism in Anti-Oedipus; coexistent with virtual organisation, binary flows of capital, the assimilation of money into time or space or information. The production of information combines with the power to turn the machines on or off, or to relocate or to make the process more streamlined. However we understand it, computers are a central combinational element of capitalist organisation, and the process of data accumulation is a dispersed axiomatic to continued proliferation at all levels. The virtual is in this sense the accumulation of experiential information, and the irreversible distribution of memory into the global realisation of capitalist production through virtual labour. Educational institutes are irrevocably connected to this plane of immanence, and, unless they discover their own peculiar funding power; they shall become incorporated in this aspect of the abstract machine of the virtual.

At the beginning of One Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari point out that many problems in information theory and computer science still cling to the oldest modes of thought, in that they grant all power to a memory or central organ.[23] This is a problem which has been widely discussed, for example, Daniel C. Dennett said that, “conscious human minds are more-or-less serial virtual machines implemented – inefficiently – on the parallel hardware that evolution has provided for us.”[24] As computer technology has evolved, the explicative power that we have at hand to understand the workings of the mind has also progressed. The mind itself is now explained through the use of virtual technology; the virtual machine doing the work of thought. Deleuze and Guattari used the theory of Pierre Rosentiehl and Jean Petitot to note that accepting hierarchical structures with a central organ, gives arborescent structures privileged status. In these systems, the channels of transmission are pre-established, and pre-exist the individual who is integrated into it at a certain place. 1000 Plateaus could be seen to be an attempt to destratify the hierarchical structures in favour of geologically arranged strata, without recourse to central implementation; whether in linguistics or social studies or philosophy or education. Information theory as they saw it, misunderstands the working of biunivocalisation and binarization, (which is not just an increase in calculating skills); due to the deployment of a wall or a screen, the installation of a central computing hole, without which no message is discernible and no choice is decidable.[25] Virtualisation also works in 1000 Plateaus via the development of strata into epistrata and parastrata, and through the understanding that the abstract machine of the virtual is working as a distributed system on a plane of consistency. Rather than the distinction between the virtual and the material brain; we encounter planes of becoming that cross-over in every direction, so that the complex understanding that we have of the brain’s functioning, are not localised or isolated inside the head, but form conglomerate and molecular movements (swarms), that enable hybrid and cross-curricular expression; this defines the productive and unpredictable edge of the digital curriculum, which is in practise productive of digitally aesthetic packs.

VI. Education and the plane of media change

Deleuze invented many of his concepts which he used in 1000 Plateaus with a glance over his shoulder at the history of philosophy. Ronald Bogue noted, for example, that the Spinozist concepts of implication and explication, envelopment and development are used to inform and explain the abstract machine.[26] This is so that the abstract machine develops itself in respect to being absolutely deterritorialised matter, and wherever it is implicated in a process, it is the most fluid aspect of that process, and it is at the point of being the most responsive to the multiple. The problem of the abstract machine, in these terms, is not its location or invention, but its expression throughout a system so that it is not stratified or identified in propositional terms without a complex connectivity being unveiled though its usage. The abstract machine of Deleuze and Guattari therefore develops itself on a plane of consistency, whose continua, emissions and conjunctions it constructs; it also remains enveloped in a stratum whose unity of composition and force of attraction or prehension it defines.[27] Deleuze and Guattari also refigured the change in underlying substance of Aristotle, so that their abstract machine operates via “matter and not substance; via function and not form.”[28] The abstract machine is defined by its matter and by the configuration of its plane of consistency. Through learning in virtual reality, the plane of consistency that is developed by the users of the new technology is coexistent with the realisation that virtual technology has an abundance of material content and expression. This is not the process of limitation of the universe into pixels, but the enhancement of the multiplicity of thought, and the understanding that desire for this new technology is not an elimination of previously established modes of development, but the unfolding of new dimensions, and a technologically derived interactive intellect (the global media).

The development of strata into epistrata and parastrata does not occur through simple induction. Anthony Wilden remarked that all digitalisation generates paradox at some level in the system.[29] Deleuze and Guattari spoke of a “technological lineage”,[30] which converges and makes transductions that resonate between the molecular and the molar, independent of order and magnitude. The functional efficacy of any interior substances, which are independent of distance, are resonated by the introduction of virtualisation for the benefit of proliferation and even the interlacing of forms, which is in itself independent of code. Abstract machines work wherever we find a “constellation of singularities”,[31] which prolong operations that converge and that make operations converge upon one or several assignable traits of expression. This is why the introduction of computers into the classroom may be seen to be one of the most significant steps in postmodern, media-based education. The PC is a multi-task device that expands and transforms the learning process. Pupils are increasingly able to make their own decisions as to the best method for progression, and the number of outcomes that we might expect to any project is radically expanded by the introduction of digital manipulation. The convergence of music making facilities, the digital rearrangement of image and video, the manipulation and presentation of different types of text, the resources on the internet, the expression of videoconferencing; all present a constellation of the virtual that communicates through the abstract machine of learning through virtual reality and the media. The interface between virtualisation and analogue process is not oppositional. Virtualisation develops strata, which resonate analogue communication systems by increasing their complexity and certain dynamic structurations (for example videoconferencing). Propagation and diffusion mark these lines of innovation, and they are bends in the technological lineage, where digital coding has increased and as a result expanded the flexibility of manual forms or traits, for example, the manipulation of photographs and video images in the media.

The plane of consistency, beneath contents and expressions, emits and combines particle-signs that set the most asignifying of signs to functioning in the most deterritorialized of particles.[32] The plane transforms indexes into absolute values. That is to say, the abolition of metaphor is importantly located on the plane; everything that it consists of is real (or the mediated hyper-real). For example, “Eros never grew a beard.”[33] All differences exist only by means and in relation to the strata. In terms of education, the curriculum is irrevocably altered by the reality of the abstract machine that works through it in the use of the virtual. The cultural, historical, scientific, poetic, philosophical, religious or linguistic objects that are studied in the name of the curriculum are placed closer together; making it more difficult to extract singular skills from their usage, but also indicating that their study is more open to emulsified and combinatory intellect. For example, palaeontology may be studied in virtual reality as a dynamic and exciting way in which the reality of dinosaurs and knowledge about their actual environment may be presented to the learners. Knowledge about dinosaurs would be communicated, and interest in the particulars of the dinosaurs galvanised, as the learners would be more likely to ask penetrating questions about lifestyle and habit from the interactive experience that they would gain from the learning procedure. However, the learning in virtual reality might also make the learner keen to know how the effects in virtual reality have been created, leading to an interest in the media or film or video production.

A further example that intersects the worlds of philosophy, literature and religion is Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, which could be said to be a pervasive myth and allegorical tale at the zenith of modernity. This demonstrates its function as a complex abstract machine even before it is subjected to the abstract machine of the virtual learner. Abstract machines are inseparably linked because they are “political, economic, scientific, artistic, ecological, perceptive, affective, active, thinking, physical and semiotic.”[34] Nietzsche’s Zarathustra is published as a book, referenced through the internet, discussed on late night TV, inspires music, is disregarded then rediscovered. Abstract machines also operate by convergence, which is called the mechanosphere. In terms of virtualisation, the binary abstract machine of the computer accelerates convergence; it proliferates through console gaming and electronic music and erupts globally; this is the virtual technosphere or the media where any communicative possibility is permissible.


[1] Deleuze, Gilles. Nietzsche & Philosophy, trans. Hugh Tomlinson, London: The Athlone Press, 1983, p. 6.

[2] Richardson, John. Nietzsche’s System, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 264.

[3] Deleuze, Gilles. Bergsonism, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam, New York: Zone Books, 1991, pp. 79-80.

[4] Deleuze, Gilles. Bergsonism, p. 80.

[5] Bergson, Henri. Matter and Memory, trans. Paul, N.M., and, Palmer, W.S., New York: Zone Books, 1994, p. 206.

[6] Bergson, Henri. Duration and simultaneity, (with reference to Einstein’s Theory), trans. L. Jacobson, Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1965, p. 52.

[7] Pearson, Keith Ansell. Germinal Life: The difference and repetition of Deleuze, p. 35.

[8] Bergson, Henri. Matter and Memory, p. 208.

[9] Pearson, Keith Ansell. Germinal Life, p. 34.

[10] Kauffman, Stuart A. The Origins of Order: Self-Organisation and Selection in Evolution, New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

[11] Deleuze, Gilles, Guattari, Félix. One Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia II, London: The Athlone Press, 1988, p. 511.

[12] Lévy, Pierre. Becoming Virtual: Reality in the Virtual Age, trans. Bononno, Robert, New York: Plenum Trade, 1998.

[13] Moravec, Hans. Mind Children: The Future of Robot and Human Intelligence, Cam: Mass: Harvard University Press, 1988.

[14] Lévy, Pierre. Becoming Virtual: Reality in the Virtual Age, p. 184.

[15] Lévy, Pierre, pp. 35-45.

[16] Deleuze, Gilles, Guattari, Félix. Anti-Oedipus, London: The Athlone Press: 1984, p.232

[17] Deleuze, Gilles, Guattari, Félix. Anti-Oedipus, p. 233.

[18] Apple, Michael W. Education and Power, Boston: Ark Publications, 1982.

[19] Apple, Michael W. Education and Power, p.55.

[20] Pick, Daniel. War Machine: The Rationalisation of Slaughter in the Modern Age, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993.

[21] Deleuze, Gilles, Guattari, Félix. Anti-Oedipus, p.309.

[22] Deleuze, Gilles, Guattari, Félix. Anti-Oedipus, p. 241.

[23] Deleuze, Gilles Guattari, Félix. Capitalism & Schizophrenia II:-1000 Plateaus, p. 16.

[24] Dennett, Daniel C. Consciousness Explained, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1991, p. 218.

[25] Deleuze, Gilles Guattari, Félix. Capitalism & Schizophrenia II:-1000 Plateaus, p. 179.

[26] Bogue, Ronald. Deleuze and Guattari, London: Routledge, 1989, p. 132.

[27] Deleuze, Gilles Guattari, Félix. Capitalism & Schizophrenia II:-1000 Plateaus, p. 91.

[28] Deleuze, Gilles Guattari, Félix. Capitalism & Schizophrenia II:-1000 Plateaus, p. 176.

[29] Wilden, Anthony. System and Structure: Essays in Communication and Exchange, London: Tavistock Publications, 1972, p.194.

[30] Deleuze, Gilles Guattari, Félix. Capitalism & Schizophrenia II:-1000 Plateaus, p. 406.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid, p.70.

[33] Bey, Hakim. T.A.Z., New York: Autonomedia, 1985, p. 3.

[34] Deleuze, Gilles Guattari, Félix. Capitalism & Schizophrenia II:-1000 Plateaus, p. 514.

David R Cole is a lecturer in literacy and English Education at the University of Tasmania. He has worked as an international teacher in Argentina, Colombia, Egypt and England. He studied education, philosophy & literature at the University of Warwick, and was a collaborator at the Virtual Futures conferences, 1995 and 1996.