Man on laptop

Above: A man on his laptop. Credit: Startupstockphotos.

Steam train

Above: A steam-train on the Badische Schwarzwaldbahn or Baden Black-Forest Railway. Credit: Hermann Schmider.

Mountain view

Above: Mist across a mountain view. Credit: Natureaddict.

Virtual Travel

Via such technologies as Google Earth and 360-degree panoramic travel destination videos (e.g., Ascape.com) the computer screen becomes a virtual gateway to distant places; virtual tourism now often replaces a geophysical expedition "a virtual reality that offers every one of us the considerable advantage of being both more 'real' than imagination and more easily controlled than concrete reality (OS: 66)." One issue with our increasing tendency to screen-based travel is that it defeats the register of the actual physical horizon; virtual-digital landscapes are composed of "trans-horizon" imagery (the horizon, if any, is uncertain and shifting). The single consistent vanishing-point so revered by the artists of the high renaissance has "been superseded by the vanishing of all points into pixels, and eventually the IO data that each pixel actually consists of (OS: 66)."

In the digital present, the Internet-connected-computer-user can review what it is like visually at more or less any spot on the planet's surface. Virilio's concern is that due to its pervasiveness and convenience the photo-image and video tends to "deprive" the user of the chance to assert any "objective discrimination." The panoramic photo is an "instantaneous teleobjective perception," of a place--such as, say, a World Heritage site. The imagery reviewed is reduced-in-scale-and-flattened-out compared to actual concrete observation of the real scene--such views are literally depthless, lacking any quality of relief or complexity (UD: 68). Google Earth (and other such technologies) are rapidly de-romanticizing the planet and abolishing all mystery, grandeur, aura, etc. The planet has become truly domesticated for the first time in human history (VW: 43). To be able to interrogate and explore any corner of the Earth at the click of a computer mouse tends to provoke a jadedness in the Internet-user--few retain memories associated with browsing to certain places on Google Earth as important ones in their life, whereas, those who physically travel, anchor their relationship to Earth with subjective associations. Travel has heretofore been synonymous with significant personal memories and striking experiences, not indifference. The virtual traveller is basically stripped of the authentic experience of adventure and discovery (UD: 68). Our relationship with the natural landscape of the planet is changing: the landscape is increasingly experienced in the context of a deja-vu--already seen. Our sense of the geo-physical planet will increasingly be denuded of awe and reverence. When we arrive at our travel destination it will be experienced as mundane, expected, "everything is deja-vu or at least deja-explore: been there done that. The impossibility of seeing is followed by the impossibility of not seeing, of not foreseeing (OS: 65)."