The Body Electric: Notions of Self and Identity in the Age of Virtual Reality | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 10, Issue 3-4
  • ISSN: 1539-7785
  • E-ISSN: 2048-0717


This article begins by exploring the relationship between Walt Whitman's "body electric" and Marshall McLuhan's "discarnate man." It then applies the concepts of body arising from that discussion to the changes that have occurred in Western culture's notion of "self," "identity," and particularly "the body" as a consequence of the development of virtual reality and immersive systems in the past two decades. An overview of the writings of various cultural critics and media theorists is provided to illustrate that conflicting attitudes have continued into the next phase of virtual reality—social networking and trans-human technologies—which challenge the prevailing notions of "body." The article concludes that, despite these developments, the body remains the basis of our humanity.


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