Monday, November 7, 2005

Bolter and Grusin - Remediation (1999) III

In the final section of Remediation, B&G break out three self orientations--three varieties of self in light of the forceful processes of remediation: the remediated self, the virtual self, and the networked self.  The remediated self basically begins with a notion of self as summative and re/configurable (like William James' empirical self (233)) rather than rigid or authentic.  Remediated self gives way to (at least) two variations of self:  immersed and interrelated/interconnected.  These selves correspond to the poles of remediation; the immersed experiences the visually mediated as transparent and immediate; the interrelated/interconnected self experiences the visually mediated as opaque and navigable (232).  According to B&G, we experience ourselves in both ways.  This connects up with expressive activity, too. Virtual reality (where the user moves through) fits with romantic selfhood, while opacity and ubiquitous computing are akin to the fixed-subject self of the Enlightenment.  The clearer part of this first chapter in section three--"The Remediated Self"--builds on the duality of self as object and subject in the specific case of bodybuilding.  In bodybuilding, when "the body is reconstructed to take on a new shape and identity," the body as medium seems most plausible (237).

The virtual self opens onto vast possibilities for perspectival free-play: "this same freedom can serve a more radical cultural purpose: to enable us to occupy the position, and therefore the point of view, of people or creatures different from ourselves" (245).  The most optimistic response to this virtual freedom frames it as a way to reapportion point of view, ultimately fostering empathy (245).  Jaron Lanier suggested more radical notions of empathy with the idea that VR users might move beyond human subjects to empathize with dinosaurs or even molecules (246).  Of course, there are as many skeptics as proponents, but VR has sprung these questions to the fore, challenging us to sift through the implications of "perspective as a locus of all knowledge" (249).  In the section, "The Dissolution of the Cartesian Ego," B&G hold VR up to Descartes' cogito and distrust of sensory experience (may as well trace this all the way to Sextus Empiricus and the Pyrrhonists...some of the earliest virtual-realists?).   

Next chapter: "The Networked Self."  Unlike the remediated self and the virtual self, which are forged through through the visual (?), the networked self is deliberately constructed out of felt connectivity among multiple and oftentimes simultenous points of view (257).  The networked self is hypermediated because it is hypertextual.  The examples in this section draw on MUD/MOO encounters--the encounters in multi-user online spaces (chat, etc.). 

From the conclusion:1996 presidential campaign, Mars Surveyor landing, and Princess Dianna.  "As we have shown, what is in fact new is the particular way in which each innovation rearranges and reconstitutes  the meaning of earlier elements.  What is new about new media is therefore also old and familiar: that they promise the new by remediating what has gone before" (270).

Terms: overwhelmed self (232), authentic self (233), William James' empirical self (233), operational degrees of freedom (244), adaptive interface (248), Cartesian perspectivalism (249), empathetic knowing (251), haptic feedback (252)

Figures: William James (233), Hayles (250), Descartes (250), Bourdieu (250), Lanier (251), Butler (264), Wittig (264)

"These virtual reality films take the process of empathetic learning dangerously far--dangerous, that is, for the characters, who may find it difficult to get their minds back into their original bodies" (247).
"Now, in the late twentieth century, no one in the virtual reality community can share Descartes' distrust of the senses" (249).
"The crowding together of images, the insistence that everything that technology can present must be presented one at a time--this is the logic of hypermediacy" (269).

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