Diane Gromala’s response (excerpt)

Diane Gromala’s response (excerpt)

Diane Gromala
Riposte to: 

Cyberpractitioner Diane Gromala celebrates virtual immersion’s unsteady body-knowledge.

To further explore Moulthrop’s proposition, I would ask him to expand on the idea and felt experience of immersion. Can immersion be redefined in more productive ways? Are there forms of immersion that can be critical? Is immersion necessarily dependent on transparency?

Allow me the indulgence of using my own work as a foil (see figure 6.response.1). Using biofeedback interfaces in virtual and augmented reality pieces, I explore sensory immersion and subjectivity in ways that I hope disturb our tendency to continually reinscribe the mind/body split. Sensorial immersion, I argue, can also be a form of critical awareness. Such complex experiences in simulations may not be games in the strict sense, but are certainly configurative practices, and configurative practices that engage our bodies in very direct ways – and in ways that question the social and material conditions of our felt experience. Yet this strategy is reliant on a sense of immersion. What then is the relation of such a form of immersion to the notion of transparency?

6.response.1: Dancing with the Virtual Dervish: Virtual Bodies

It would be easy to dismiss “immersive” virtual reality (VR) as simply an example of transparency par excellence. To assume the position of the devil’s advocate, by provoking the sensory responses characteristic of VR, we are both playing on our well-worn fears and denigration of the body, as well as engaging in the pleasures of sensorial stimulation. In the first instance, by provoking sensory immersion, we are foreclosing the possibility of critical awareness. Why? Because in our intellectual tradition, we routinely deny the body as the very site of knowledge.

Stuart Moulthrop responds