(To be read after Posts 1 & 2)
Reusing the modified nature vs nurture analogy (Post 1) combined with the rationale between horticultural therapy (Post 2), if genes dictate what a person’s potential would be and environmental factors what the person will grow up to be, a media designer basically adds some green stuff to this person’s worldly experience (via one’s visions, muscles, or any additional physical and mental processes for that matter, Rokeby puts up a good case for this). And when this gun-person fires with such green dust on his/her mind or body, a greened-up version of a experience is resulted. Philosophical possibilities can then be raised:
- A target is hit with the aid of this magic green dust;
- A target is hit with or without the green dust;
- A target turns green whenever green dust is used;
- The target is green to start with;
- A green target will appear and be hit whenever green dust is used;
- A target, green or not, will be hit at the same time as every time the trigger is pulled, green-dusted or not;
- ….(I have confused myself at this stage so I’d better stop listing more possible maybe situations and just keep on shooting whatever I see in front of me at present time, metaphorically speaking of course.)
These are the kinds of questions one should ask when living in an increasingly VR-ed world. David Rokeby illustrates this line of inquiry by pointing out that interactive artist creates relational artworks in which power of the expressions multiplied when interactors themselves become referents of the work; and also that as interactive technologies become so common and transparent that they become the new reality for those whose awareness of the control, manipulation and deception ends (Rokeby, 1998).
The burden of creating illusion or a sense of self-believe for media users lies with the media designers, who are responsible for making the users either actually being part of the improvement (green-ed gun actually does a better job), or perceived to be part of the improvement (green-ed gun thinks it does a better job), or alleged to be part of the success (green-ed gun is led to think so by showing the improvement/success wherever it pulls its green-up trigger). In all cases only the designer will know for sure if that is achieved co-incidentally or causation-ally.
This view is supported by other scholar and artist works. If ‘presence as invisible medium’ or ‘presence as transformed medium’ and thus perceptual illusion of non-mediation becomes the true sense of presence for media users (Lombard & Ditton 1997), and that illusion becomes unquestionably accepted and totally incorporated into ones’ ordinary course of life, mixed or total virtual reality will become the new reality. The notion of these altered states of reality to be taken as the only known and therefore accepted reality is famously deployed in Warner Bros’s 1999 movie production The Matrix where different degrees of (dis)believe and acceptance are portrayed.
Are We Living in Reality, Mixed Reality or Virtual Reality Really?
First coined in 1817 by the poet and aesthetic philosopher Samuel Coleridge, suspension of disbelief is defined as a willingness to suspend one’s critical faculties and believe the unbelievable, during which realism and logic are sacrificed for the sake of enjoyment (Dictionary.com) (Holland, 2003). The physical and psychological effects are normally rest on the receiver rather than the creator of the medium design. Such gratifications felt not only the participants but also the viewers are exemplified by Blast Theory’s interactive pervasive game A Machine to See With 2011.
Success of this project lies in the facts that causes and effects of presence (Lombard & Ditton, 1997) are well understood and convincingly applied. Participants acting as avatars are put on the streets among unsuspecting members of the public, with the surroundings as the props and backdrop for its fictitious thriller storyline played in real time and location. This work shows how people elect to be tricked and surrender the control of their own bodies or moral judgements voluntarily for excitement.
VR, simulations and game-up real life scenarios can all be seen as practice rounds for certain aspects of ones’ real life we either love, hate or need to face without risking too much, as per the biological imperative reasons promoted by MONA. For example, Crimewave Shows by Survival Research Laboratories (1979-current) are likened visual rehearsals to possible apocalypse conditions we are all stressed about in real life. Viewers’ senses are stimulated and de-sensitized after prolonged exposure to similar conditions can be found in many other media platforms (eg TV series on vampire attacks or zombie fighting video games).
Mirroring the four chosen human evolutionary theories behind On Origin of Art exhibition (in Post 2) a better sense can be made in understanding many of our additive social behaviours in media context (all graphic but not necessarily artistic though). Examples are:
- Preference or reliance on technologies to function/perform daily activities with the believe that humans survive better in the digital jungle with silicon tools eg Online self-promotion/dating activities on social media vs face-to-face presentations of self (Art/cultural practices being a form of cognitive play that translates to vital survival skills);
- Popularity of using image-sharing apps to signal mate values eg Instagram pictures showing constructed identities of self/properties/rights (Art/cultural practices evolving as part of the sexual or fitness selection process);
- Attraction to on-screen representations and presentations of perfect lives eg beautifully brightly interactively promoted website contents on all possible subjects/objects, real or unreal (Art/cultural practices acting as a senses pleaser);
- Any activities that give human brains a good work-out, be it entertaining, saddening, satisfying at the end of the session, participants normally feel anew for another day (Artistic/cultural practices as an exercise for the otherwise laid-off brains).
Pornography, thrill/kill games on- or off-line, arguably fit into the first and last categories depending on what sorts of skills the media users required and how stressed or bored the individuals are with other part of their lives.
Jonathan Steuer in the course of defining virtual reality, distinguishes ‘presence’ and ‘telepresence’ as ‘the sense of being in an environment, generated by natural or mediated means, respectively’ (Steuer, 1994). All examples presented in these blogs are based on various degrees of telepresence (VR is a special case of telepresence according to Steuer) except for those who are deluded enough to accept any mediated presence as natural. This is possible for human experience is considered to be the perception of those surroundings mediated by both automatic and controlled mental processes (Gibson, 1979). In that case, media-induced presence becomes the true presence: a different version of reality like the one in The Matrix film becomes THE reality.
I argue that followers who place unproven confidence or blind trust in communication technology/mass media in running their lives will definitely fall into this category. Manovich stresses the importance of human-computer interface and the interfaces of software applications used to author and access new media objects in the new world of “computer’s ontology, epistemology and pragmatics” (Manovich, 2001). An updated version of this dataist worldview is also depicted in historian Yuval Noah Harari’s 2016 book ‘Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow’. Harari proposes that we are risking loosing humanist authority to the hidden force of the big data currents.
“…as the Church and the KGB give way to Google and Facebook, humanism loses its practical advantages. For we are now at the confluence of two scientific tidal waves. One the one hand, biologists are deciphering the mysteries of the human body and, in particular, of the brain and of human feelings. At the same time, computer scientists are giving us unprecedented data-processing power. When you put the two together, you get external systems that can monitor and understand my feelings much better than I can. Once Big Data systems know me better than I know myself, authority will shift from humans to algorithms. Big Dada could then empower Big Brother.” – Harari 2016
Harari suggests you shall ‘know thyself’ if staying clear of Dataism is your choice.
My three posts examine different ways media artists looks at humanism, with media user’s participatory and reflective roles taken into heavy account. Media art plays a vital role in the dataist society by constantly reflecting and critiquing the ever-evolving media-induced human conditions.
Gibson, J. J., The Ecological Approach To Visual Perception, Boston Houghton Mifflin, 1979
Harari., Y., https://www.ft.com/content/50bb4830-6a4c-11e6-ae5b-a7cc5dd5a28c, accessed 18 October 2016
Holland, N., The willing suspension of Disbelief: A Neuro-[suchanonalytic view, PsyART, Vol 7, Jan-Mar 2003, http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2003-03357-001, accessed 26 October 2016
Manovich, L., The Language of New Media, MIT Press, 2001, Chapter 1.
Rokeby, D., “Transforming Mirrors: Conclusion – Designing the Future”, ACM Press, 1998
http://srl.org/shows.html, accessed 20 October 2016
http://steinhardtapps.es.its.nyu.edu/create/courses/2015/reading/steuer.pdf, accessed 28 October 2016
https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/biographia-literaria-by-samuel-taylor-coleridge, accessed 28 October 2016
http://www.blasttheory.co.uk/projects/a-machine-to-see-with/, accessed 24 October 2016
http://www.dictionary.com/browse/suspension-of-disbelief, accessed 26 October 2016
http://www.iconeye.com/opinion/review/item/9657-a-machine-to-see-with, accessed 24 October 2016
http://www.warnerbros.com/matrix, accessed 26 October 2016