Phenomenology and Virtuality

Journal issue, 27. September 2020.

Call for papers

Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology

Special issue
Phenomenology and Virtuality
edited by Gregory Swer and Jean du Toit

Our age is typified by technology (Kroes & Meijers, 2016: 12), but it is the question of the virtual that has particularly come to the forefront after the turn of the century. The contemporary era of emergent digital technologies has seen the multiplication of virtual spaces – our civilizations are indeed steeped in the virtual – which has resulted in complex changes to the dimensions of our existence and experience. While thinkers such as Baudrillard (in Simulacra and Simulation (1981)) emphasize a dichotomous relationship between reality and virtual reality, the enmeshed character of modern individuals within emergent virtual spaces may call into question the continuing relevance of such oppositions.

The term virtuality (a conflation of the words reality and virtual) may present a challenge to dichotomous views on reality and the virtual. Virtuality does not merely refer to virtual reality, but rather – in a broader sense – circumscribes the many virtual spaces that arise from modern digital technologies within the life-world of the individual. Virtuality denotes not merely those ‘obvious’ virtual spaces that one engages with via so-called VR headsets and goggles, but rather the multitudinous forms of the virtual that already find their occurrence through social media networking sites and data transfer technologies, through instant communication (words spoken or written by one person and sent to another), through cell phones and TV screens, through advertising (targeted or otherwise), and by means of geographical guidance via GPS systems. The modern individual is immersed within virtuality, and we are living in a world of technological appearances wherein making sense of virtuality is becoming increasingly pressing.

A danger of the technological expansion of the virtual, especially as the virtual heads inexorably towards omnipresence, is that everything seems to fall apart into mere appearances.  Robert Sokolowski formulates the problem of appearances in our technological era in terms of three phenomenological themes: 1) parts and wholes, 2) identity in manifolds, and 3) presence and absence. He argues that we are “flooded by fragments without any wholes, by manifolds bereft of identities, and by multiple absences without any enduring real presence. We have bricolage and nothing else, and we think we can even invent ourselves at random by assembling convenient and pleasing but transient identities out of the bits and pieces we find around us. We pick up fragments to shore against our ruin” (Sokolowski, 2000: 3-4). Sokolowski suggests that, in our engagement with the virtual, we are caught up in a crisis of appearances. However, are other avenues open to us?

If phenomenology allows one to “return to the things themselves” (Husserl, 2001: 168), to “describe the basic structures of human experience and understanding from a first person perspective” (Carman, 2002: viii), then the individual’s encounter with virtuality is a problem that phenomenology is particularly suited to address. It is the aim of this special issue to promote interest in the emerging field of the phenomenology of virtuality, and insights from a wide variety of phenomenological perspectives (and multi-disciplinary viewpoints in conversation with phenomenology) are welcomed in addressing this topic.

Topics of discussion could include (but are not limited to) the following:

-          What is the relation between virtuality and phenomenology? In what ways may traditional phenomenological thought be re-deployed to gain insight into virtuality?

-          What is the relation / differences between non-virtual and virtual being? Is it possible to distinguish reality from virtuality?

-          How is selfhood constituted in virtuality? What does inter-subjectivity look like in this regard?

-          How are the notions of gender and race constituted in virtuality?

-          What is the relation / lack of relation between cognitive science and phenomenological interpretations of virtuality?

-          What is the relation between virtuality and the imaginary?

The contributors must submit their papers before 27 September 2020, with expected publication of papers towards the end of the year.

Link to online CFP: HTTPS://BIT.LY/2NGPWCX

Please send articles to:

Gregory Swer (editor of the journal): Email:
Jean du Toit (guest editor of the special issue): Email:


Baudrillard, J. 1981. Simulacra and simulation. University of Michigan press.
Carman, 2002. Foreword. (In Merleau-Ponty, M. 1962. Phenomenology of Perception, translated by Colin Smith. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Reprint, Routledge, 2002).
Husserl, E. 1900/1901. Logical Investigations, edited by Dermot Moran. 2nd ed. 2 vols. London: Routledge. Reprint, Routledge, 2001.
Kroes, P. and Meijers, A.W. 2016. Toward an Axiological Turn in the Philosophy of Technology. (In Franssen, M., Vermaas, P.E., Kroes, P. and Meijers, A.W. eds. Philosophy of Technology after the Empirical Turn. Springer Verlag. p. 11-30).
Sokolowski, R. 2000. Introduction to Phenomenology. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.