Fundamentals of Immersion

Jul 23

Grau, Oliver. Virtual Art: from Illusion to Immersion. MIT Press, 2007.

  • Grau warns that the diminishing interface has the potential to remove critical engagement. Fully embodied immersion may cause problems we have not yet encountered or even considered. Grau’s warning is central to my interest in immersion. Immersion’s potential for misuse and manipulation is, to me, related to the trend of social media manipulation and “fake news” and the disintegration of the interface. We are being asked to undergo immersion frequently – social media platforms, it can be argued, have the goal of immersing the user so they become engaged in a virtual space, and the interface is miniscule. Users of social media are immersed to a degree, and Grau’s warning and rationale are relevant.
  • New Keywords: Natural Interface,
  • The observer – the “immersant” (Char Davies)
  • Osmose controlled by a vest full of sensors
    • float up when lungs are full etc
  • sfumato deceives the eye, a mechanism of suggestion present in all media of illusion
  • Osmose presents a Natural Interface (an ideology) (201)
  • As interface dissolves and become more natural and intuitive, the more psychological detachment, the more distance from the work vanishes (202)
  • Without distance a work cannot be perceived as an autonomous aesthetic object
  • distancing is a prerequisite for critical reflection
  • ‘‘All happiness is immersion in flesh and cancels
    the history of the subject. All consciousness is emancipation from the flesh to which nature subjects us.’’ (Hartmut Boehme)
  • the more “natural” the interface the greater the danger – the “technological iceberg” will be inaccessible to the user as they are unaware of it.
  • “Against the backdrop of virtual reality’s illusionism, which targets all the senses for illusion, the dissolution of the interface is a political issue.”
  • The more powerful computer the more suggestive potential of virtuality
    • has a psychological and manipulative influence
  • “In conjunction with the attempt to generate the feeling of real presence, these impressions, which run counter to habitual perception according to nature’s laws, may result in problems of perception that should not be underestimated. The serious contradiction between corporeal reality and artificial image illusion is likely to be at a level that almost precludes rational access.”
  • “For Allan Kaprow, who gave the word ‘‘happening’’ its new meaning in the late 1950s, art is an ever-changing ‘‘work in progress,’’ a narrative created by audience participation.”
  • “such works are defined increasingly in terms of their processual nature, which stresses their unfinished or open quality and  locates art within a framework of communicative social relations.”

Soloski, Alexis. “The Problem with Immersive Theatre: Why Actors Need Extra Protection from Sexual Assault.” The Guardian, 12 Feb. 2018,

  • Performers and participant safety is at risk in immersive experiences, as participant behavior can’t be controlled or effectively predicted. Corporate policies are not an effective deterrent against misconduct. Context and in-the-moment investiture (such as audience costume, crowd, or even the endistancing of the self via immersed transportation) have an effect on participants and may tend to encourage misconduct and unsafe practices. Technology, especially experimental or untested designs, may break or even harm users. Corporate culture may tend to discourage complaints from employees. Instituting best practices to ensure participant safety should be the highest priority when developing an experience, even if it is to the detriment of the production.
  • Actors are in danger in immersive performances
  • Companies often do not have effective policy to manage audience misconduct
  • No physical divider between performer and audience
    • no stage
  • in Sleep No More audiences are masked
    • The things an audience is invested with affect their behavior, and what they understand is appropriate.
  • crowd congestion means anonymity is high

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