Out of Our Minds: Ontology and Embodied Media in a Post-Human Paradigm

Out of Our Minds: Ontology and Embodied Media in a Post-Human Paradigm

Keram Malicki-Sanchez
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2433-6.ch002
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With the exponential development rate of technology at the start of the 21st century, humanity faces data that it alone cannot process without the aid of even more technology. As we move into a post-human era, how can immersive, spatialized, and embodied media assist us in comprehending the effects of these agents, and reconsider our past conclusions? These are media that can communicate new perspectives or run complex simulations tirelessly. They can provide the scaffolding to test our analytical reasoning and process to potentially escape our cognitive biases, develop greater plasticity, or even test new forms of embodiment. We must also consider how they can be manipulated and weaponized, and the rights of our future digital selves, as we become subsumed by data. This chapter explores ontology and embodied media in a post-human paradigm.
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“Immersive,” “spatialized,” and “embodied” media—where the participant feels to be inside of the experience rather than an external viewer observing action within a frame, generally terms not limited to but that are interchangeable for the study of the technologies more colloquially known as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), and sometimes Extended Reality (XR), creates a head-scratching and exhilarating nexus of participation and observation, action and reaction, dread and awe. For many, its myriad “launches” into the public sphere have often proven underwhelming, frustrating, or lacking longevity or long-range utility. Extended inquiry into the media from a philosophical layer, and a very quick list of small victories and failures, may foster new discussion around what is missing and what is possible.

What are the ultimate effects of these media beyond the mere novelty or industrial application? What is their stuff of dreams that can bring us a deeper understanding of our yearning for the truth and our place and potential within it?

This chapter will explore how these new spatialized media can provide the mental scaffolding to create an expanded line of inquiry and understanding of our consensus reality and what is beyond the sensorium through which we process it. Coverage will include essentialism, social relativism, scientific process, ritual, and ethics from the pursuit of knowledge to the posthumous legal rights of digital ghosts.

What can we achieve through the affordances of the models provided, and how we can use immersive media as powerful epistemological, phenomenological, and ontological tools to discover the qualities not addressed by mathematics, physics, marketing and diversions? What is the warping power of art, love, and objects typically relegated to being outside of consciousness?

How can we use new spatialized digital media—immersive media—to explore the concepts of metaphysics, ontological materialism and quantum indeterminacy? Will these media take us closer to a simulated universe, or help us to escape one?

We will look at the opportunities for how these media can lead to short term and immediately actionable positive gains, including examining the efforts of several doctors, researchers and developers working with sick children and hospitals who are exploiting cognitive limits to override endemic pain responses. What we are truly exploring here, however, is the idea that the mind can transcend matters of the body and in so doing betrays how it is also capable of creating for us a reality that is wholly our own.

Further, we will explore the matter of ethics, aesthetics and legalities around volumetric effigies—three-dimensional digital likenesses. In a paradigm where our bodies can be captured at scale in photo-realistic detail, what are our post-mortem rights?

Key Terms in this Chapter

Ambisonics: A spherical audio format; rather than mere left and right stereo, this technique captures audio in 360 degrees.

Simulation Hypothesis: The argument that the nature of reality is an artificial construct created and operated by a computer.

Chatbots: A digital avatar, text, or speech program that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to respond to questions and conduct conversations around specific subjects in a meaningful way.

Walking Simulator: A colloquialism for a genre of videogame that involves exploration more than completing any goal in particular.

Volumetric Effigy: A digitally captured, three-dimensional, photographic model representing the likeness of a person, living or deceased.

Anthropocentrism: Interpreting or regarding the world in terms of human values and experiences.

Animism: The belief that all things have a spiritual essence and character.

Virtual Assistants: Digital avatars that reliably answer queries to assist an end-user.

Phenomenology: A philosophical approach initialized by Edmund Husserl to study the perception of events and how consciousness corresponds to it.

Psychogeography: An examination of how constructed environment affects mood and emotion.

Deepfakes: A machine learning process that uses visual data about a face to mutate, modulate or transpose onto another actor. The cumulative effect is that the target object appears to be the source object, while using the target’s expressions.

Light-Field Capture: A data-intensive approach for capturing all light data in a space.

Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs): An artificial intelligence process that includes a “generator” that produces samples, and a “discriminator” that differentiates between computer-generated samples and samples derived from “real-world” sources.

Essentialism: In the Platonic sense, the idea that all things carry attributes that identify their nature and form.

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