Words-Worth

Virtual. Gone 'virtual' yet? It's good enough for NewsCorp, apparently.

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Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Gone 'virtual' yet? It's good enough for NewsCorp, apparently. The reference was to the Murdoch company's decision to spend $650 million on an online 'community', a sure sign that a new internet boom is under way. 'Virtual' is ambiguous. A 'virtual war' could be anything from an outbreak of armed conflict to a lot of students in a darkened room playing Doom and eating pizza. In its everyday sense, it means something that exists in all essentials but not in detail. The source is the Latin virtus, meaning 'strength', and 16th-century theology. Anglicans talked of the 'virtual presence' of Christ in holy communion (meaning his power), unlike the 'real presence' that Catholics believed in. Thus 'virtual' came to mean 'in essence'. In the 1960s, 'virtual' computer features mimicked hardware but existed only in software - eg, 'virtual memory'. Now, a 'virtual company' is one whose functions are dispersed while its essence remains. But even a 'virtual' organisation has to make real money.

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