Immersion involves the sinking into an experienced environment. It pertains to the feeling of being present in a simulated ‘universe’ in a condition in which sensations of mediation are introduced directly to the human nervous system, which is manipulated to accept the mediation as authentic in our present environment.
Immersion is increasingly characterizing an ontological, media aesthetic condition of engaging with and within technologically advanced today. It has become an artificial condition of our sense of presence. Immersive environments affect how the world is ‘felt’, they configure our perceptual experiences in everyday life as driving design and innovation imperatives of our technological interfaces, social systems, networked information structures as well as cultural and artistic spaces. Immersive environments are increasingly merging with our social, political, economic and cultural systems. Very soon, ‘expanded reality’ is not merely something we will encounter in gaming, art and virtual architecture but will make the fabric of our social media environments, news consumption, travel experience, translocal meetings, and more.
In tandem with developments in optical technology, emerging modes of media aesthetic visual expression in urban environments are becoming increasingly immersive, too, and increasingly designed to synchronize with an emotional dimension of our presence. How we act – based on our perception of the world – does not simply pertain to psychological questions but complex cultural processes, which are influenced by technological innovations in optical technology and other immersive environments.
When media aesthetic immersive experiences mirror us and we experience a strong sense of immersion, we are more likely to accept the angling, framing, emotions, or knowledge imperatives presented to us, which however oftentimes align with the underpinning logic (oftentimes set out by corporations, political visions or economic forces). Consequentially, it becomes increasingly difficult for us to withdraw from immersion and question the design imperatives that mirror us, reflect our patterns, imitate our behavior, depict how we feel, facilitate our communication, and respond to our emotions and sympathies.
My research in this domain examines how manifestations of ‘expanded reality’ in immersive ‘images’ (virtual, augmented, mixed reality, and beyond) become factors of change as they are integrated in our everyday life and societal functions; as intelligent, presence-perceptual configurations that lead to behavioral change. I seek to challenge epistemologies of immersion in duolist, technocratic, Western-modern and neoliberal imperatives and instead look to holistic ontologies from ancient philosophical thinking, indigeneous life worlds and arts’ environments that make origins of knowledge on presence formulated outside of the dominant imaginary of late capitalism. By drawing out a phenomenology of sensibility and affective experience that learns from these origins, my aim is to anchor current orientations in virtual and other augmented forms of ‘generative’ experience today in trajectories of expanded reality that facilitate experiences that are holistically oriented, consciously anchored, and environmentally and emotionally sustainable in scope.
During 2018-2020 I am taking up a post-doctoral research project on ‘expanded reality – radical temporal change in immersive environments’ at the City University of Hong Kong.