99-043 (VIRTUALY2K)
Distributed October 26, 1999
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Mark Nickel

Virtual war: Better than the real thing?

Conference to examine impact of virtuality on international affairs

VIRTUALY2K, a three-day conference sponsored by the Watson Institute, will bring more than two dozen political and literary theorists, economists, military officers, computer scientists, filmmakers, journalists and foreign affairs specialists to Brown Nov. 5-7, 1999. They will discuss the current and future impact of digitized and networked technologies.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — More than two dozen authorities on virtual technology and culture will gather at Brown University Nov. 5-7, 1999, to examine and discuss the impact of digitized and networked technologies on global affairs. VIRTUALY2K, a three-day conference sponsored by Brown’s Thomas J. Watson Jr. Institute for International Studies, will take place in the Salomon Center for Teaching, located on The College Green. All presentations and discussion sessions are open to the public without charge.

Conference participants represent a wide range of perspectives, including political and literary theorists, economists, military officers, computer scientists, filmmakers, journalists and foreign affairs specialists. A schedule of presentations and discussions is included below.

At a time when a burst of satellite data can move billions of dollars between nations and wars can be fought at a computer screen, virtual reality is already a significant factor in global commerce and foreign affairs. “Global politics – only just keeping pace – is undergoing a radical change,” said conference organizer James Der Derian, a research professor at the Watson Institute and professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst. “The virtual now touches every aspect of our lives: our identity, economy, environment and security. Never before in history has such a technological concentration of information and power become not only possible but an accepted reality.”

Presenters will discuss what is at stake as the world comes to rely more heavily on virtual technologies and will explore the technical, political, and ethical implications of the human future in an increasingly virtual world. In addition to the Watson Institute’s sponsorship, the conference is made possible by a grant from the Ford Foundation with additional support from Brown’s Malcolm S. Forbes Center for Research in Culture and Media Studies. Additional information is available on the Web (www.brown.edu/Departments/Watson_Institute) or by e-mail (VIRTUALY2K@brown.edu).

VIRTUALY2K (all sessions in the Salomon Center for Teaching)

Friday, November 5

1:30 Opening
Abbott Gleason, Watson Institute, Brown University
2:00 On Virtuality: Machines, Bodies, Ethos
Moderator: James Der Derian Watson Institute
Andries Van Dam, Brown University; N. Katherine Hayles, UCLA; Michael Ignatieff, New Yorker
3:30 Virtual States: From the Wall to the Web
Moderator: Thomas J. Biersteker, Watson Institute
Jon Katz, Slashdot.Org and Rolling Stone; Ira Magaziner SJS Inc.; Mark Pesce, USC
5:00 Virtual Scenarios: Y2K and After
Moderator: Adam Ashforth, Institute For Advanced Study
Thomas P. M. Barnett, U.S. Naval War College
blockquote6:00 Presentation
Jaron Lanier, Tele-Immersion

Saturday, November 6

9:30 Virtuality vs. Reality: A Nice Place To Visit But...
Moderator: John Phillip Santos, Ford Foundation
John Perry Barlow, Electronic Frontier Foundation; Jean Bethke Elshtain, University of Chicago
11:00 Virtual War: Better Than the Real Thing?
Moderator: Thomas, Keenan Bard College
Mary Kaldor, London School of Economics; Michael Macedonia, STRICOM, U.S. Army; General William Nash (Ret.) National Democratic Institute for International Affairs
1:30 Virtual Identities: Are We Not Human?
Moderator: Mary Ann Doane, Brown University
Yaron Ezrahi, Hebrew University; Ron Deibert, University of Toronto; Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Brown University
3:00 Virtual Economy: Markets, Politics, Interventions
Moderator: Ian R. Douglas, Power Foundation
Manuel De Landa, Independent Scholar and Filmmaker; Ricardo Dominguez, Carmin Karasic, and Stefan Wray, Electronic Disturbance Theater
5:00 Virtual Environments: Demonstrations and Discussion
Moderator: Thomas Levin Princeton University

Demonstrations: Virtual Helicopter Pilots, USC; TOPSCENE, Naval Air Systems Command; Virtual Collaborative Environments, Fraunhofer Center For Research in Computer Graphics

Discussion: Laura Kurgan, Princeton University; George Landow, Brown University; Michael Zyda, Naval Postgraduate School

Sunday, November 7

11:00 Roundtable: A Virtual Future? Lower Salomon Auditorium
Moderator: James Der Derian, Watson Institute
Adam Ashforth, Institute for Advanced Study; Thomas J. Biersteker, Watson Institute; Mary Ann Doane, Brown University; Ian R. Douglas, Power Foundation; Thomas Keenan, Bard College; Thomas Levin, Princeton University; John Phillip Santos, Ford Foundation