Expanded Definition of Virtual

TO:              Prof. Jason Ellis
FROM:        Jiaqi Huang
DATE:         Oct 27, 2021
SUBJECT:  Expanded Definition of Virtual


The purpose of this document is to elaborate on the word I pick for the expanded definition project. I picked three words at the beginning, virtual, network and space. The term Network is kind of a new word, it doesn’t have that much history than the other two terms. I can not get enough information for the expanding project. For the term space, we know it is a big prerequisite for everything to work normally, computer systems are no exception. But the term space is an old word and has various meanings in different areas. It can represent time, the universe, etc. Though it has such various meanings, the term virtual is more related to my major computer information system, and it is also more representative in the computer field, which means it is more close to a special word for a specific area. At least people now heard the term virtual will associated with computer stuff immediately. The term space is not only used in academic fields, we also use it in our daily life. That’s why I chose the term virtual instead of space. The term virtual has been clearly pointed out to the “virtual technology” in the past few years. As new technology in these years, virtual technology is relatively mature than others and there is considerable room for development, no matter the technology itself or in the applied fields.


The origin of the term “virtual” is borrowed from Latin and has a long history we can look back on. There are a lot of meanings of “ virtual”. At first, it represented “Inherently powerful or effective owing to particular natural qualities”[1] in “See if the Virtuall Heat of the Wine, or Strong Waters will not mature it.” from Sylva sylvarum. Most of the Other definitions at first also related to power. However, they were Obsoleted because it is no longer in line with usage habits or we can say it was too far away from how we use the term now. When people talk about virtual, it mainly means a kind of technology. In Proc. Eastern’s Joint Computer Conf actually used the term virtual at a description “The sole function of the virtual memory is to increase machine speed”,  which we can conclude it “being on or simulated on a computer or computer network.”[2]


In the article “Virtual reality environment using a dome screen for procedural pain in young children during intravenous placement: A pilot randomized controlled trial ” there is a description using the term virtual. It stated, “Virtual reality (VR), often referred to as a virtual environment, is a computer technology that enables users to view or ‘immerse’ themselves in an alternate world, and it is attracting attention as a digital distraction technique”.[3] in this statement, the term virtual had been clearly defined as a kind of computer technology. The term virtual inherently carries a fake meaning, it presents something that does not truly exist in reality. That’s why the article used the statement “immerse’ themselves in an alternate world”, a world built by a computer that can not physically touch it. And just like what I stated in the definition section, the term virtual has totally different meanings in the past. Based on P. Miller’s Gardeners & Florists Dict, we can find the used the term virtual in a sentence that “the virtual Qualities of the Sun and Air, [vapours] are formed into Clouds.”[4] In this situation, we can consider that virtual is an inherent power of nature. In the 1700s, the secret of nature had not yet deciphered. The science ability in that age was not enough to figure out the physical principle so it is suitable to use the word virtual to present something powerful while unreachable. 

Work Definition

Obviously, in the computer information system field, the term virtual is the name of a kind of computer technology. From the past till now, virtual always carries the meaning of fake and out of understanding in the past, and artificially created, non-physical existing in modern science. Virtual is a technology with a lot of possibilities in various areas and it has a big room to develop. In industry and the medical field, it can provide a safer and more efficient environment for users’ training. In-game areas, it brings a totally new experience to gamers and a new direction to game makers, same for other art areas. So I will define the term virtual as a technology “being on or simulated on a computer or computer network”.


[1]”virtual, adj. and n.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, September 2021, www.oed.com/view/Entry/223829. Accessed 6 October 2021. 

[2]“Virtual.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/virtual. Accessed 6 Oct. 2021.

[3]Lee, Ha Ni, et al. “Virtual Reality Environment Using a Dome Screen for Procedural Pain in Young Children during Intravenous Placement: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial.” PLoS ONE, vol. 16, no. 8, Aug. 2021, pp. 1–11. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0256489.

[4]P. Miller, “Gardeners & Florists Dict,” The Oxford English Dictionary, Oct. 12, 2021. Available: https://www-oed-com.citytech.ezproxy.cuny.edu/view/Entry/223829?redirectedFrom=virtual#eid

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