High technology

Virtual vs Remote

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Jonar explains the differences between the words ‘virtual’ and ‘remote’. At which point will we stop using the word ‘virtual’? To listen to an excerpt from the radio broadcast, please click on the green play button below.

Here is a transcript of the audio file.

Host: Looking at the process of virtual reality, do we perhaps confuse the word ‘virtual’ with the word ‘remote’?

Jonar Nader: Yes, I think the word ‘remote’ is what many people mean when they speak of the ‘virtual’ corporation or ‘virtual’ teams. Sometimes they mean ‘not official’. For example, ‘virtual teams’ in an office are teams who do not normally work together but come together for a specific project. Remember the word ‘virtual’ means ‘almost but not quite’, so you can very well learn how to drive a car ‘almost but not quite’, until you actually get on the road-that’s assuming that you actually have to drive the car on the road. It will be ‘virtual’ until you hit the road. You can learn about much more dangerous things behind a ‘virtual’ car than you would if you were on the street in an actual car because on the street they are forever telling you not to go over 60 and you are forever bracing yourself etc. The best way to teach people something is to teach them its tolerances. Most people don’t know their car’s tolerances on a wet road or an oily road.

In the future when people will be able to vote through their computer or a local computer. That is a ‘real’ ballot box. It just so happens that it is a different way than we know now. It is in effect a ‘remote’ ballot box but it will only be considered remote until it becomes the norm. If everybody uses the computer ballot box at home for five years running, they will stop calling it the ‘remote’ ballot box or even the ‘virtual’ ballot box.

Then we have things like virtual bulletin boards, or virtual business park – a business park that has all sorts of business resources on the net where people can exchange information, buy goods on the net etc. Just like they have virtual shopping centres and virtual corporations (those that don’t have to have the building infrastructure in the middle of the city). Virtual coupons are the usual coupons you go to the supermarket with, except now they are just tokens made up of bits and bites and you can use them like virtual money. At what point will we stop using the word virtual? So your virtual office will be, ‘Honey I am going to the office’ which is probably upstairs or downstairs in the home, not necessarily elsewhere. But I think you are right, not always is ‘virtual’ the correct word to use.

Host: That assists me no end. I was speaking to someone in Melbourne the day they had the transport strike and rather than go to work and get stuck in the traffic he was able to work from home via his computer and modem and in that sense his home had become a virtual office but he was doing it via remote.

Jonar Nader: Yes, for example, you have things called the ‘virtual stockyard’. When the fish comes into a major fish market, the buyers these days sit on panels like a lecture theatrette with a keyboard on the panel, and they bid for the stock or the fish or whatever they are buying, via this pane. No longer do they shout at each other. Even at the Stock Exchange, very little shouting takes place, and they call that the ‘virtual stockyard’. Actually there is nothing virtual about it. It is ‘the’ stockyard and you do it there at the lecture theatre. What is happening now is a large percentage of stock is purchased over the phone as you can now buy at any major auction, so it is ‘remote’ but it is ‘actual’ not ‘virtual’. It is just one of those words that has to go through a cleansing process until people become comfortable with it, until it becomes invisible in the same way that we can speak over the telephone with a friend and you don’t necessarily emphasise that you spoke over the mobile you say I spoke over a phone, or I just spoke to my friend which is the more important thing to say. Just as you don’t say I watched a ‘colour’ television last night because ‘colour’ is no longer an important thing to emphasise.

Host: Although once upon a time in the mid 70’s when it landed it was, but as you say it eventually disappears in terms of the description.

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