Virtual Reality in the Age of Panoramas: Mapping out buildings, a village, capitals, and Hell

[Dix-Neuf, Journal of the Society of Dix-Neuxiémistes, Vol. 20, 2016, Issue 2]

05-dapfrontAbstract: This paper follows a network of correspondences across media and technologies in nineteenth-century visual culture that developed alongside realism in literature and painting. The path they plot out at the intersection of panoramic literature, the diorama, and optical technology grants us insight into how notions of simulation we associate with computer-generated virtual reality coalesced in various combinations and perspectives during that era.

The article notes the role played by the motif of the devil in that process, cross-section representations of urban dwellings, and stereoscopic tours of actual and virtual spaces. It aims to make the case that the thematic and topographic breadth of some Second-Empire photographic tours mapped out broad virtual territories, offering 3D immersion, extensive contiguity, and cross-referencing as a first step towards the seamless continuity of digital environments.

09-diableries

Fig. 1: J. J. Grandville [Jean Ignace Isidore Gérard]. Illustrations from Un autre monde (1843) recycled in Pierre-Jules Hetzel, ed. 1868. Le Diable à Paris. Paris et les Parisiens à la plume et au crayon. Vol. I. Paris: Hetzel, pp. 46-47. Source: Gallica.

Fig. 2: Two stereocards from Diableries ou Voyages dans l’autre monde (ca 1870). Paris: Block.
1. La Loterie infernale. Louis Alfred Habert. 1868.
2. Cabinet d’étude de satan. Pierre Adolphe Hennetier. 1860.

 

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