[-empyre-] Re: immersion [was Re: intro from tamiko thiel]

Hi Adam,

Try read the fine print in my last email - I agree with with you on the primacy of message over medium.

I delight in using the term "virtual reality" because so many people have said for so long that VR is dead. And also exactly because of the phenomenon you complain of - because the tech nerds were restricting the use of the word "immersive" to the HMD/CAVE experiences. So for me it is a way of tickling people into thinking about what they expect out of virtual reality.

It would be fun to experience one of your performances sometime :)

- tamiko

Adam Nash wrote:
Hi Tamiko, everyone,

Sure, I enjoy the physical aspects of, say, sitting in a cinema with a huge screen (although, I swear if I see one more 'bullet time' kung fu sequence or hear one more 'overwhelming' dolby-digital explosion, I'm gonna hurl !!).

And I think you're right that the body reacts to it, but I still feel that it is the content (can we please reappropriate that word back from marketing? :-) of the artwork itself that defines whether the *experience* itself is an immersive one, a lasting one, a memory which transcends the physical situation of the beholding.

I believe the type of immersion of attention that you speak about when reading a book comes only from compelling subject matter and/or presentation, and is independent of the medium itself.

Do you mean to suggest, then, that a piece that lacks compelling subject matter will become compelling when presented in a physically immersive environment? Less confrontationally, would the Face To Face piece be as 'immersive' as Beyond Manzanar if it were projected in the same way?

So perhaps we can talk about:
- full physical/perceptual immersion, where you can't see anything else,
- perceptual/kinesthetic engagement, where you can see the rest of the environment but the virtual image still affects your kinesthetic senses,
- and a compelling artwork that holds your attention,
as being 3 different meanings that people use for the word "immersion."

Well, I don't know - I mean, certainly these distinctions are true when used to describe a physical situation, but I don't think that 'immersion' is achieved through any other means than the compelling artwork itself. I've had truly moving, memorable experiences (and yes, I'd call it immersive) looking at a 160x120 QuickTime window on my computer monitor, and have also been completely bored in an iMax theatre. When I think back on a novel I have read, I don't think of the physical situation I was in whilst reading (aside: reading is interesting because the beholding of a novel often takes place over temporally and spatially disparate situations), I enter the world in which the novel takes place. That, to me, is true immersion. Equally, when I remember the web excerpt of Beyond Manzanar, I am completely immersed within the environment of the prison camp itself - my computer monitor on my desk in my studio simply is not part of the memory.

I do specifically use the word "experiential" for the sort of interactive, navigable 3D VR that Beyond Manzanar is, and think that "experiential virtual environments" is a good term to distinguish these non-competitive works from games such as Myst and its follow-ons,

Yes, that could be an appropriate term, and whilst I am wary of the word 'virtual' because it does imply a copy of reality, it is hard to think of another way to describe, say, Melinda's Empyrean for example. But is it too grand a term? Will 'interactive 3D' suffice? Perhaps that removes an unreasonable expectation that the term 'virtual' sets up. I like the interactivity, or navigability, of Web3D, but have little or no interest in using it to represent physical reality (if Simon and John can work out what that actually is ;-) so it would be good to have a way of describing it that distinguishes it from true Virtual Reality endeavours.

There are two major negatives for me with the term Virtual Reality.

One, until 'The Other 3 Senses' are virtualised, it needs to be called 'Virtual 2/5ths of Reality' (I haven't forgotten about the other senses, but I think art by its very nature accommodates various of them).

Two, the sheer amount of physical and financial hassle required to mount physically immersive environments. This is not to say that I have anything against such environments (I love them, and try to expreience them whenever I can, which is not very often down here in the colonies :-), just that they don't appeal to my work method, which, being a performer and musician, is much more akin to using Web3D as if it were music, ie, conceive of it, write it, perform it, keep it in the repertoire, move on to the next one. I like the idea of it being non-site specific and able to be beheld in a variety of situations, be it in someone's home, projected in a gallery, or at a live gig a la live music - which is something I'll be doing a lot more of now that I've built up a big enough repertoire of pieces to make up a good length 'set'.

whose main point is the solving of a puzzle even though the process of solving the puzzle requires you to go use an experiential technique. I talk more about the development of experiential dramatic structure for Beyond Manzanar in the online paper:

This defines a crucial difference in approach - you have the much more difficult and concrete task of representing a dramatic structure and a physical structure, so I may be forcing you into a dialogue that you really needn't engage in. I am interested to hear your opinions, though, as well as those of others on the list.


 Tamiko Thiel       Media Artist



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