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Research Seminar 2016 – 2017 – Session 3

School of Design, Research

The 3rd session of the Research Seminar 2016 – 2017 of Strate School of Design took place at Strate, on Wednesday 1st March 2017 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. The theme was “The Experience between the Real and the Virtual”.

The virtual reality, the augmented reality, the tangible interfaces, the new multimodal methods of interaction and display have flooded our entertainment, learning, communication environments. Technological innovation, user experience, and artistic expression have cross-bred with the common aim of manipulating/creating/enriching an immersive universe that resonates with perceptions, feelings, cognition – pillars of our sensory experience of the world (Boutaud, on 2007).

Some people fear the erosion of the body by bio-techniques and the shift from real-life experience to digital simulation (Fukuyama, on 2004; The Breton, on 2013), yet the immersive experiences can allow us to forge a relationship with our inner life and the world. Emersiology (Andrieu & Bernard, 2014), can thus be defined as bringing together Phenomenology, Neurobiology and Immersive Arts. Bernard Andrieu offers a topology that crosses 3 types of devices (Interaction, hybridization, Insertion), and 4 intimate provisions (Osmose, ecstasy, symbiosis, Vertigo). With these modes of experience, we no longer have an image of the world but a “natural” form of our presence in the world (Weissberg, 2003), constructed at the same time as perceived. The forms (objects, devices, environments) become habitable and experiment-able.

Thus, the encounter between the body and virtual can represent a new layer of amplification of reality, from devices expanding our field of perception and interaction (Casilli, 2011). According to Andrea Branzi, the design “must be applied to the territories of imagination, create new narratives, new fictions, which will increase the depth of the real” (Branzi, 1985).

Finally, the distinction between real and virtual is perhaps to be no more – or not to be (Vial, 2013). Indicating what is only possible, with no real effect, the true opposite of virtual is not real but rather material – and that of real, artificial. Current practices blur the boundaries between the digital and physical worlds, blending them in a troubling synergy (e.g. users of Pokemon go out of the home, discover places of interest, meet sometimes.) And yet the virtual world is at the heart of their real interactions.

In this sense, according to the notion of phenomenotechnic (Bachelard), technologies are matrices through which our experiences of the world flow. Considering any technique as a means rather than end, the designer is primarily interested in what happens in our bodies, our minds and our imaginations (both individually and collectively) when the experience alternates between the real and the virtual. We are confronted with ‘augmented’ objects/environments, with increasingly subtle behaviours. For the designer, it is a question of orchestrating this confrontation to be meaningful, on several dimensions:

  • Articulation between interaction and narrative (active/passive, or invasive?), sensational and emotional
  • Articulation between “real life” and the fictional universe (the world as it is/could be, projection)
  • Spheres of experience, entertainment, learning, aesthetic, escape (Pine & Gilmore, 1998) or therapeutic (e.g. limbs)
  • Temporal sequence (Karapanos, 2009)
  • Individual experience or social dynamics

In addition, the ethical dimension cannot be ignored. The unconscious effects of virtual worlds have been proven by neuroscience. At the political level, the strengthening of empathy that they induce can become a lever to educate or influence the public opinion (e.g. tracking, ad targeting). The designer must be aware of the harmful invasive power of the tools he manipulates – this is the sense of the Greek pharmakon, potential remedy as poison in society (Stiegler, 2008 according to Plato).