[-empyre-] immersion

Dear Jun-Ann Lam, Patrick, and others,

I just want to take a moment to comment on the immersion thread. When you say, Jun-Ann, that "There are different types of immersions?" I tend to disagree. There are different degrees.

When you say that "online text is far more immersive than anything I have "seen"" - I think we need to take a harder look at what we mean by the term immersion in terms of virtuality. I think that you are describing ?absorption? ? not immersion (in the VR sense). For reasons of clarity, experiences of absorption must be separated out from experiences and expectations of total-immersion. Absorption is a necessary prerequisite of immersive presence. Certainly it is necessary to give ourselves up to an artwork and to forget other matters temporarily in order to receive an immersion of any particular emotional benefit. Also it is true that absorption and intense concentration are cardinal factors in inducing the sense of out-of-bodiness typical of total-immersion. But reading or viewing film, interacting with Multi-User Dungeons or MOOs (in their present state), or Internet Relay Chating (IRCs), however engrossing the activity can become, is by my terms non (or only very partially) immersive in that the activity is primarily frontal, involving a centrally directed concentration of sight.

Indeed U. S. Army researchers flatly state that total-immersion in a VR world "is not like being immersed in a book or a good movie" and that "it appears to be more like remembering your dreams". (Psotka & Davison, 1996) Loss of self-consciousness when watching standard television programs, video, or a staged performance is equally non (or only slightly at best) immersive.

In my view one of the most important characteristics of immersion is a sense of total enshrouding closure in the visual and audio environmental field. This definition counters that offered by Ken Pimentel and Kevin Teixeira who, in their book Virtual Reality: Through the New Looking Glass, state that the feeling of being immersed in a computer-generated world involves the same spontaneous substitution involved in suspending disbelief for an interval of time as "when you get wrapped up in a good novel or become absorbed in playing a computer game". (Pimentel & Teixeira, p. 15) Though I agree with the "suspending disbelief " component, I do not agree with their reading example and I believe that my definition of total-immersion is more specific and accurate than theirs as it insists upon the importance of macro-perception and an encompassing total visual field (given individual measures of susceptibility and a measure of depth and complexity of the visual data-field). Once this distinction has been made it becomes easier to trace various forms and levels of artistic immersive intent back through history and prehistory, always bearing in mind that the intention and ideal of encasing total-immersion has changed radically as simulacra technology changes.

It is art's feeling for opulent fulfilment delivered through atmosphere, an immersive viractual atmosphere which embraces us, which is what separates out artistic immersive events, ideals and intents from ordinary immersive acts, such as the entering of each and every room, bed, and bath. Naturally even this distinction evokes thought-provoking philosophical questions concerning the relationship between art and life, a distinction which much late-20th century vanguard art has called into question.

As for when you say "? in the visually immersive experience, where is the discussion of what the eye candy does or fails to do to your mind?" - You can now download a PDF "Immersive Ideals / Critical Distances : A Study of the Affinity Between Artistic Ideologies Based in Virtual Reality and Previous Immersive Idioms" at: http://www.eyewithwings.net/nechvatal/ideals.htm if you wish. I deal with that extensively.

Telepresently Yours, Joseph Nechvatal




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