Immersive Ideals / Critical Distances
: A Study of the Affinity Between Artistic Ideologies Based in Virtual Reality and Previous Immersive Idioms

  • Jospeh Nechvatal

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    My research into Virtual Reality technology and its central property of immersion has indicated that immersion in Virtual Reality (VR) electronic systems is a significant key to the understanding of contemporary culture as well as considerable aspects of previous culture as detected in the histories of
    philosophy and the visual arts. The fundamental change in aesthetic perception engendered by immersion, a perception which is connected to the ideal of total-immersion in virtual space, identifies certain shifts in ontology which are relevant to a better understanding of the human being. This understanding was achieved through a broad inquiry into the histories of Virtual Reality, philosophy, and the visual arts and has lead to the formulation of an aesthetic theory of immersive consciousness indicative of immersive culture.

    The primary subject of this discourse is immersion then: an experience which will be identified within the dissertation as the indispensable characteristic of Virtual Reality. The understanding of immersion arrived at here will be used to fashion a synchronous theory of art particularly informed by encounters and concepts of immersion into virtuality. To sufficiently address this subject in a scholarly fashion, I have researched, found and accumulated aesthetic and philosophic examples of immersive tendencies, as found within the histories of
    art and philosophy, which subsequently contributed towards the articulation of what I have come to call immersive consciousness. As a result of formulating such an immersive consciousness, a good deal of the basis for the questioning of the Western ontological tradition has been found in the Western tradition itself when we look with new eyes and ask new uncertain questions. Moreover, this immersive consciousness will be used to propose some abstract questions encircling today's electronic-based culture.

    Through the structuring of the argument within the thesis - and overtly within the conclusion -1 have articulated a non-teleological creative strategy which provides the basis for an unconstraining integration of noologies (ways of semblancing the thinking process). This strategy provides a means of exemplifying - and for honoring - various methods of thinking. This structuring strategy is consistent with the 'hacker ethic' as defined by Steven Levy, as a demand that access to computers - and anything which might teach us
    something about the way the world works - should be unlimited and total. To follow this strategy, this dissertation has set out to understand how topical conceptions of virtual immersion connect to pre-existing systems of thought as revealed in art as they have extended out of antecedent ontological self-understands, historical human self-understands which have evidenced themselves in the elaboration of technological objectives. To do this I have forged a certain rhizomatic paternity/maternity for Virtual Reality within this
    dissertation by joining choice immersive examples of simulacra technology into mental connections with the relevant examples culled from the histories of art, architecture, information-technology, sex, myth, space, consciousness and philosophy.
    Date of AwardJan 1999
    Original languageEnglish


    • Interactive art
    • Immersion
    • total-immersion
    • Virtual Reality
    • VR

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