“The Body Eclectic: Mimesis and Play in Contemporary V.R.”
Darshana Jayemanne (Abertay University)
4 – 6pm, Wednesday 24 January
Dalhousie Building, Room 1S05, University of Dundee
This talk extends Walter Benjamin’s concept of mimesis in order to challenge discourses of ‘immersion’ that are often used to understand contemporary virtual reality technologies. Benjamin argues that there are two aspects to mimesis: semblance and play. Modern technologies of reproducibility such as photography and film have caused a shift from the once-dominant notion of semblance towards the playful pole. This playful form of mimesis takes the form of distraction, and allows audiences to habituate themselves to the emergent forms of embodiment implicit in their relations to technology, developing what Benjamin calls an ‘optical unconscious’. Through a reading of contemporary digital games, mixed reality technologies and imagery of V.R. experiences, this presentation will argue that it is necessary to update Benjamin’s notion and proposes the term ‘tactile unconscious’ to do so. Far from ‘immersion’, then, in accounting for the shift from auratic to playful mimesis, we can understand contemporary virtual reality technologies in terms of ‘distraction’: a conceptualisation operative at both individual and collective levels.