Sensing the Virtual

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Session Title:

  • Sensing the Virtual

Presentation Title:

  • Sensing the Virtual




  • Synesthesia: communication between the senses; the translation of input from one sense into an object for a different sense; also, “amodal” perception — a sensation that arises from no one sense in particular, and all at once.
    Kinesthesia: the direct perception of movement, in the body before the brain.
    Synesthesia and kinesthesia are increasingly central to experimentation in and analysis of computer culture. Technological expressions of the conditions of human perception may in fact be considered a fundamental problem facing practitioners of computer-integrated art. How can an immersive, full-sense experience be produced through a medium that remains primarily visual? Can the functions of the other five senses, in particular tactility, be accessed through vision? Or is it necessary to address the other senses directly? Even in immersive VR environments where other than visual stimuli are provided, the body remains relatively static, anchored in the technology. Is an effectively synesthetic experience possible without the participation of the sixth sense, that of motion? Is not movement the medium through which the senses communicate? If so, for computer spaces to be effectively synesthetic they would have to be truly kinesthetic as well. But isn’t literal motion in an abstract space a contradiction in terms? Or is it conceivable that both synesthesia and kinesthesia are already in play, but unremarked, in even low-tech computer environments, such as email and hypertext? Is their functioning in fact the measure of “reality” in the virtual?
    This panel will explore issues of synesthesia and kinesthesia in computer art and culture. The participants will attempt to define the terms and their interrelation, drawing on analyses of allied arts and cultural phenomena, such as performance, dance, literature, and the mass media, in addition to the electronic arts. The papers will converge around concepts of face, interface, memory, and affect as necessary points of reference in the perceptual economy of computer culture.