Distributed Matters: Production of Presence and the Augmented Textuality of VR

Abstract (in English): 

The paper proposes a descriptive (i.e., non-hermeneutical/presence-driven) reading of the virtual reality work Screen by Noah Wardrip-Fruin et al. (2002) designed for Brown University’s CAVE. Because of the non-triviality of its demands, one might argue that Screen is as much about its theme (memory/forgetting) as it is a self-referential study on VR as a literary medium. In this context, seemingly incompatible notions such as those of "flickering signifiers" (Hayles, 1999) and “presence effects” (Gumbrecht, 2004) can operate as coextensive tropes of analysis. Are we to speak of a new phenomenology of language wherein processing protocols precede literary semiosis? Does proprioceptive awareness of the linguistic mark not also trigger a concurrent semiotic reaction obligatorily leading to an act of interpretation? Or is the immediacy of the de-anchored text in the CAVE more intimately related to what Gumbrecht characterizes as “being in sync” with the things of the world or, with a nod to Heideggerian ontology, Erleben (lived experience) that exceeds Wahrnehmen (perception) and precedes Erfahrung (interpreted knowledge)?

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Eric Dean Rasmussen