Cody Turner: “‘Augmented Reality, Augmented Epistemology, and the Real-World Web”

Check out graduate student Cody Turner's recent article in Philosophy and Technology, "Augmented Reality, Augmented Epistemology, and the Real-World Web."


Augmented reality (AR) technologies function to ‘augment’ normal perception by superimposing virtual objects onto an agent’s visual field. The philosophy of augmented reality is a small but growing subfield within the philosophy of technology. Existing work in this subfield includes research on the phenomenology of augmented experiences, the metaphysics of virtual objects, and different ethical issues associated with AR systems, including (but not limited to) issues of privacy, property rights, ownership, trust, and informed consent. This paper addresses some epistemological issues posed by AR systems. I focus on a near-future version of AR technology called the Real-World Web, which promises to radically transform the nature of our relationship to digital information by mixing the virtual with the physical. I argue that the Real-World Web (RWW) threatens to exacerbate three existing epistemic problems in the digital age: the problem of digital distraction, the problem of digital deception, and the problem of digital divergence. The RWW is poised to present new versions of these problems in the form of what I call the augmented attention economy, augmented skepticism, and the problem of other augmented minds. The paper draws on a range of empirical research on AR and offers a phenomenological analysis of virtual objects as perceptual affordances to help ground and guide the speculative nature of the discussion. It also considers a few policy-based and designed-based proposals to mitigate the epistemic threats posed by AR technology.