by Benedikt Kaul & Tobias Lugmeier

Thoughts on the role of physical objects in a virtual world.


Based on its outer appearance we can tell whether an object is old or has been used a lot: it grows a patina. This patina depicts the relation between man and object – all those traces tell stories and are related to certain experiences which add an emotional value and a particular beauty to the object. Do virtual representations kill this beauty of physical things?

The things we frequently use in our everyday lives and which accompany us become worn out and lose their tangible value. The emotional value though increases because we connect certain experiences and emotions to the objects we use. By growing a patina they become special, personal and unique – they become ours. Everybody owns things which they simply love not just because of their financial value but because of the moments we have been sharing with them.

But with our lives becoming more and more virtual, physical things start to lose their emotional values. In fact, the way we see them has been changing a lot: we avoid any kind of damage to the outer appearance of the objects we possess and imperfectness seems to have disappeared completely. We cannot see any relation between human and object any more.

So the question arises in how far our awareness of the beauty of physical objects will change and whether they can be fully replaced by digital representations. Can the sensation of interacting with a physical thing be transferred to a virtual world? Can the qualities of objects exist in a world of representations? What defines an object after all?

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