Lanier, Jaron

Lanier 2007
Jaron Lanier at his home in New York, NY in April 2007.

Jaron Lanier (1960 – ) is a multi-discipline dynamo. His HCI work has focused on direct interfaces between the human and the computer, including the data glove, virtual reality goggles, and gaming. Following a brief stint at Atari, Lanier founded his own Virtual Reality research organization, VPL, which later sold its patents to Sun Microsystems. Throughout the late 1990s, Lanier worked on the Internet2 and as a visiting scholar for numerous research institutions.

Lanier at CHI 1990
Jaron Lanier presenting at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Seattle, WA in 1990.

Lanier authored You are Not a Gadget (2010) and Who Owns the Future (2013)and is openly critical of some Internet2 developments, particularly Wikipedia. He is wary of the distance Wikipedia allows between information and its original author and context. Lanier recognizes the false sense of authority Wikipedia can instill in its readers due to hidden authorship. His book, Who Owns the Future serves as a call to re-enfranchise middle-class consumers, who Lanier claims get the least out of the Internet, because they provide their personal information as a commodity but receive little back. Two later books also gained widespread readership: Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality (2017) and Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now (2018).

Lanier is an accomplished musician, performer, and composer, who has mastered startlingly diverse instruments and genres.  TIME magazine named Lanier as one of the most influential thinkers in 2010. He received an honorary doctorate from Franklin and Marshall College in 2012.

“Jaron is among the people I cherish because of their brilliant, deep, and independent thinking.  He’s best known for coining the term ‘virtual reality,’ but that’s just a fraction of what he has done.  My visits with him go back to his New York City days; but he seems to fit in well with the Berkeley hills, where his musical instrument collection fills his home.  I love to read his books, eagerly turning the pages, happily agreeing with his fresh way of framing a problem and innovative solutions – sometimes I think he’s gone too far, but then I wonder if I haven’t gone far enough. His musical presentations and talks are great moments of theater, in which anything can happen.” – Ben Shneiderman


New Mexico State University (1973 – 1977)


  • Innovator in Residence, USC Annenberg (2010 – Present)
  • Interdisciplinary Scientist, Microsoft (2009 – Present)
  • Scholar-at-Large, Microsoft Live Labs (2006 – 2009)
  • Fellow, International Coimputer Science Institute, Berkley (2004 – Present)
  • Visiting Scientist, Silicon Graphics Inc. (2003 – 2005)
  • Fellow, Jones Center, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania (2002 – 2004)
  • Visiting Faculty, Dartmouth College (2001 – Present)
  • Chief Scientist, Eyematic Interfaces (1999 – 2002)
  • Visiting Scholar, Department of Computer Science, Columbia University (1997 – 2001)
  • Chief Scientist, Advanced Network and Services (1997 – 2001)
  • Lead Scientist, National Tele-Immersion Initiative (1997 – 2001)
  • Visiting Artist, Interactive Telecommunications Program, New York University (1996 – 2001)
  • CEO, VPL Research (1984 – 1990)
  • Researcher, Atari (1983 – 1984)
  • Independent Videogame Developer (1980 – 1983)
  • Student Researcher, Digital Graphical Simulations, New Mexico State University (1979 – 1980)
  • Independent Goat Milk and Cheese Provider (1974 – 1978)


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