Telepistemology and The Aesthetics of Telepresence


Session Title:

  • Telepistemology and the Aesthetics of Telepresence

Presentation Title:

  • Telepistemology and The Aesthetics of Telepresence



  • “We must rediscover a commerce with the world and a presence to the world that is older than intelligence.” Merleau-Ponty (1945)

    My work considers the distance between the viewer and what is being viewed. How does technology alter our perceptions of distance, scale, and truth? Technologies for viewing continue to evolve, from the camera obscura to the telescope to the atomic force microscope; each new technology raises questions about what is real versus what is an artifact of the viewing process (Foster 1988). Recent evidence (Manovich 1996, Lunenfeld 1997) suggests that the subject of “telepresence” may be relevant to artists and theorists.
    What is telepresence? I agree with Kac’s (1997) distinction between virtual reality (VR) and telepresence:VR presents purely synthetic sense-data lacking physical reality. Telepresence presents sense-data that (1) claims to correspond to a remote physical reality and (2) allows the remote user to perform a physical action and see the . results.The WWW has the potential to bring telepresence out of the laboratory. Some projects I’ve been involved with include:
    The Telegarden (1995-97), Legal Tender (1996-97), The Invisible Cantilever (1997). The recurring question: “How do I know this is real?” suggests a Turing Test for epistemology. This may be the last refuge for realism.

    “Although the senses occasionally mislead us respecting minute objects, such as are so far removed from us as to be beyond the reach of close observation, there are yet many other of their informations, the truth of which it is manifestly impossible to doubt; as for example, that I am in this place, seated by the fire, clothed in a winter dressing gown, and that I hold in my hands this piece of paper….”  _Descartes (1641)

    The visitor acts and perceives this “reality” through an instrument with no objective scale. How does the framed vision of the microscope (Hacking 1983) differ from the framing induced by the World Wide Web? Discontinuities induced by these media can undermine what Husser calls the “inner” and “outer” horizons of experience.These horizons are vital to what I call “telepistemology”: how distance influences belief, truth, and perception.
    R. Descartes, 1641. Meditations.
    H. Foster, ed. 1988. Vision and Visuality. Bay Press.
    I. Hacking.1983.Representing and Intervening. Cambridge Press.
    J. Herbert.1997.The Robotic Billfold: Counterfeits and Telepistemology. Mondo 2000. 16, pp 126-128.
    E. Kac. 1997. Aspects of the Aesthetics of Telecommunications. Leonardo.
    P. Lunenfeld.1997 (to appear). In Search of the Telephone Opera.. Afterimage.
    L. Manovich.1996.The Labor of Perception. In: L. Hershman ed. Clicking In. Bay Press. 183-193.
    M. Merleau-Ponty. 1948. Sense and Non-Sense. trans by Dreyfus and Dreyfus. Northwestern University Press.