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Instrumental vision

chapter
posted on 01.01.2013, 00:00 authored by Rosemary Woodcock
This chapter interrogates stereo-immersive ‘virtual reality’ (VR), the technology that enables a perceiver to experience what it is like to be immersed in a simulated environment. While the simulation is powered by the “geometry engine” (Cutting, 1997: 31) associated with high-end computer imaging technology, the visual experience itself is powered by ordinary human vision: the vision system’s innate capacity to see “in 3D”. To understand and critically appraise stereo-immersive VR, we should study not its purported ‘virtuality’, but its specific visuality, because the ‘reality’ of a so-called ‘virtual environment’ is afforded by the stereoacuity of binocular vision itself. By way of such a critique of the visuality of stereo-immersive VR, this chapter suggests that we think about the ‘practice’ of vision, and consider on what basis vision can have its own ‘materiality’. Pictorial perception is proposed as an exemplary visual mode in which the possibilities of perception might emerge. Against the ‘possibilities’ of vision associated with pictures, the visuality of stereo-immersive VR emerges as a harnessing, or ‘instrumentalisation’ of vision’s innate capabilities. James J. Gibson’s ‘ecological’ approach to vision studies is referenced to show the degree to which developers of VR have sought — and succeeded — to mimic the ‘realness’ of ordinary perceptual reality. This raises a question concerning whether the success of stereo-immersive VR is simultaneously the source of its own perceptual redundancy: for to bring into being the perceptual basis of ordinary ‘real’ reality, is to return the perceiver to what is already familiar and known.

History

Title of book

Carnal knowledge : towards a new materialism through the arts

Chapter number

12

Pagination

171 - 184

Publisher

I.B.Tauris

Place of publication

London, England

ISBN-13

9781780762654

ISBN-10

1780762658

Language

eng

Publication classification

B1 Book chapter

Extent

14

Editor/Contributor(s)

B Bolt, E Barrett