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Why is 'virtual' often synonymous with 'digital'? I suspect that the term 'virtual reality' had something to do with it, as when it was coined in the early 1990's new visions of digitally-driven immersive experiences invaded popular culture. Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Lawnmower Man, Max Headroom, and similar media exploited early digital technologies to imagine a future of complex virtual environments.

But "virtuality"—the systematic approximation and representation of reality—existed long before computers. Ancient Greek philosophers used shadows to measure the universe and establish mathematical principles. Renaissance artists created a formula for vision when they applied linear perspective to art and architecture. Lenses and mirrors gave artists and scientists new imaging powers for centuries leading up to the 19th century. And photography and cinema ushered in the media age of the 20th century. The computer—"digitality"—is wholly dependent on several millennia of virtuality. The human condition is so wrapped up with virtuality, that at times it may be difficult to see that digitality is merely one small subset—a new means to that virtual end.

What would a renaissance artist do with a computer? How would a computer learn about its ancestors? What does the digital teach us about the difference between the virtual and the real? How can we use the past to shape future narratives?
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PABLO GARCIA is Assistant Professor in the Department of Contemporary Practices at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Trained as an architect, Pablo's recent work has evolved from design-for-hire to internationally exhibited artworks, provocations and research studies. Previously, Pablo has taught at Carnegie Mellon University, Parsons School of Design, and The University of Michigan. From 2004-2007, he also worked as an architect and designer for Diller Scofidio + Renfro. He holds architecture degrees from Cornell and Princeton Universities.

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