Neo-Orientalist Approaches in XR (Extended Reality) Applications

Neo-Orientalist Approaches in XR (Extended Reality) Applications

Barış Atiker
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7180-4.ch022
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Being one of the most prominent reflections of intercultural interaction, orientalism is the West's description of the East according to its own beliefs and understanding. This concept also includes the alienation and isolation of the human while trying to define 'the others'. The digital culture has searched for alternative realities and identities visible through virtual worlds controlled by the individual. This search for identity has led to the transformation of a fictional and shallow imagination into a cultural commodity through various stereotypes, just like in orientalism. Extended reality is one of the new oases of neo-orientalism as a research subject that combines the concepts of virtual and augmented reality. The increasing fusion between the human mind and machines radically changes the way people are born, live, learn, work, produce, dream, discuss, or die. This research aims to interpret the effects of transformation of information in XR technologies within the axis of neo-orientalism perspective through new individual experiences.
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Orientalism always stands out as an approach that expresses situations in which separation between post-colonial societies and cultures becomes clear in a general sense. Boehmer describes colonialism as 'the settlement of territory, the exploitation and development of resources, and the attemp to govern the indigenous inhabitants of occupied lands often by force' (Boehmer, 2005:2). Fanon (1961) was one of the first thinkers to argue that colonialism is inherently destructive due to its oppression of the identity of the colonized countries and the dehumanization of its people.

Orientalism is the form of information that authorizes and justifies the assertion of western power over the east. Although the meaning of the Latin word ''oriens'' is the place where the sun rises, it has been used by politicians, clergy, and especially the media to depict darkness, mystery, and danger. As the creator of orientalism, Said (1978) defines the orient as at the bottom something either to be feared (the Yellow Peril, the Mongol hordes, the brown dominions) or to be controlled by pacification, research, and development, outright occupation whenever possible.

Orientalism is therefore, according to Said’s perspective, ‘a set of discursive practices, the forms of power-knowledge that Western cultures used to produce (and hence control) a region of the globe known as the Orient’ (Klages, 2006: 153).

According to MacKenzie (1995) ‘Orientalism’ came under critical attack from the 1870s, as Impressionism superseded Realism, but it had a remarkable power of survival: in the 1880s and 1890s it re-established itself as an exceptionally popular form, surviving until the inter-war years.

Orientalism has also been not only the West's view of the East but also the view of itself. While the idea of orientalism became visible in literature and art under the auspices of the 19th-century colonialist British and French states, it is now undisputed how the post-colonial social changes that underpin Said's ideas are explicitly or covertly reflected in today's creative industries such as film, video games, and literature. In fact, the biggest consumers of this ideology are not only the western societies that created a virtual world but also the eastern societies that have adopted the orientalist perspective.

'In a sense, the limitations of Orientalism are, as I said earlier, the limitations that follow upon a disregarding, essentializing, denuding, the humanity of another culture, people, or geographical region' (Said, 1978). As James Thompson has argued, the East was a major preoccupation of nineteenth-century painting, an East which was, in turn, ‘Imagined, Experienced, Remembered’ (MacKenzie, 1995).

Snake Charmer (1879) is an orientalist painting by the French painter Jean-Léon Gérôme. The inclusion of this picture on the cover of Said's book has made it one of the symbols of orientalism. According to Lee (2012), it brought together quite different and even incompatible elements. Snake playing is a kind of entertainment that was not part of Ottoman culture and was practiced in Egypt in the nineteenth century. The artist realized this installation in a mixed, fictional space derived from Egyptian as well as Turkish sources.

Figure 1.

The Snake Charmer (1879) by Jean-Léon Gérôme.


Nochlin (1983) discusses the idea of Orientalist images implying timelessness, the absence of history, and the western man that represents western superiority. Gérôme suggests that this Oriental world is a world without a change, a world of timeless, atemporal customs and rituals, untouched by the historical processes that were ‘afflicting’ or ‘improving’ but, at any rate, drastically altering Western societies at the time.

The ‘orient’, according to Said, is a discursive construction and not an expression of an inert truth of nature or a description of the essential and real ‘orient’. The Orient, Said contends, ‘was Orientalized not only because it was discovered to be ‘Oriental’ in all the ways considered commonplace by an average nineteenth-century European, but also because it could be – that is, submitted to being – made Oriental’ (1978: 5).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Cloud Computing: Is the delivery of computing services—including servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence—over the Internet or “the cloud.”

Application: The digital products like games or simulations focusing on XR technology.

Extended Reality: It is a reality environment that covers environments such as VR, AR, MR, and it enables new environments to be created by combining the features of other realities.

Virtual Reality: All of the digital and physical elements that make the user feel as if they are actually in a virtual world.

Immersion: The level of experiencing physical and virtual reality.

Augmented Reality: Augmented reality is the live, direct or indirect physical view of the real-world environment and its contents, enriched with computer-generated sound, images, graphics and GPS data. This concept is briefly changing and enhancing reality by computer.

Machine Learning: Is an application of artificial intelligence (AI) that provides systems the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed.

Artificial Intelligence: The simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions.

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