Digital duet


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Performance using new media technologies often brings the performer into direct encounter with their virtual ‘other’, perhaps in the form of a projected image or a gaming avatar. What does this do to the performer’s understanding of their performance presence and kinaesthetic experience?

This paper and PhD research addresses the relationship between physical and virtual bodies as they are experienced by the performer. It draws upon Heidegger’s modelling of the hammer as the extension of the carpenter’s body, considering the virtual image as the extension of the performer’s body and ability to act in the world. I will build on common experiences identified in gaming culture such as the use of deictic markers to refer to a character (‘I’) and a kinaesthetic response to the shots fired at an avatar, and explore the nature of embodiment in a virtual body to explore key themes of agency, ownership and egocentric spatial representation.

Current research of the subject concerns challenging the myth of disembodiment in technology, fuelled by Cartesian dualism. I will go beyond this to examine more directly the experiential and philosophical nature of the embodiment of a virtual body, the factors which affect this and the effect that this has on the performer and/or audience member’s experience. It goes beyond questions of self and identity and impacts on our understanding of both our embodiment of technology and embodiment in everyday life.

This research crosses many fields including performance, philosophy and technology

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Digital duet

  1. 1. Digital DuetMy Body and My AvatarKelly Preece
  2. 2. What is an avatar?• Hindu – incarnation of aspiritual being in abodied form• Graphicalrepresentation of a user• Controlled in real time
  3. 3. Methodology• Phenomenology–The natural attitude–The phenomenological attitude(Sokolowski, 2005: 42)• Exploration of a phenomena
  4. 4. Performance Using New MediaTechnologiesTypes of environments:–Sensory environments–Immersive environments–Derived environments–Networked environments(Birringer, 2006: 45-46)
  5. 5. The Second Death of Casper Helendale (2009)
  6. 6. Telematic Dreaming (1992) Paul Sermon
  7. 7. Inter-disciplinarily of ResearchUnderstanding a performance phenomenafrom a variety of perspectives–Gaming theory and cultures–Philosophy of the body–Phenomenology–New media philosophy–Performance theory and analysis–Spatial theory–Language theory and philosophy
  8. 8. Focus of research• The relationship between your physical bodyand this virtual body or ‘avatar’• What is the nature of embodied experience inthe synchronous, real time control of a digitalbody/avatar?• Based on the principle that this is arelationship of embodied experience/perception (Hansen, 2006: 5)
  9. 9. What is embodiment?• Mind/body dualism• Theories of embodiment unites this separationof body and mind• We are embodied/ we are our bodies
  10. 10. Embodiment in the age oftechnology‘…human embodiment no longercoincides with the boundaries ofthe human body…’(Hansen, 2006: 95)
  11. 11. The Lived/Phenomenal BodySome DefinitionsKorper – physical bodyLeib – lived body(Leder, 1990: 6)
  12. 12. Tool use incorporation• Heidegger’s hammer as an extension ofthe carpenters body, of the lived body• Extension of your ability to act• Avatar as an equivalent to this
  13. 13. Agency and Ownership• ‘…match between motor intention andsensory feedback…’• ‘…agency is a powerful cue to ownership:my body feels like “mine” because I cancontrol it at will.’(Tsakiris et al., 2007: 2235)
  14. 14. ‘I’/‘Her’‘…so called deictic or context dependentterms, notably the personal, spatial andtemporal markers ‘I’ and ‘you’, ‘here’ and‘now’, in order to make manifest that theirmeaning is inextricably embedded with apragmatic, perceptual and interpersonalsituation.’(Stawarska, 2008: 399)
  15. 15. Egocentricity‘The ego is defined, in this case, as the centreof our perception – if we were to act, wherewe would act from.’(Schellenberg, 2007: 603)
  16. 16. Research Questions• What is the nature of embodied experience inthe synchronous, real time control of a digitalbody/avatar?• What is the nature of our sensuous experience inmixed reality?• How does environment and experience of spaceimpact on embodied experience?• What can description of experience reveal to usabout the nature of this embodied experience?• What is the relationship in this performance workbetween the body and the self?
  17. 17. Rethinking the Title• Title implies a binary – there isn’t one• My body and my avatar are the samething• Ownership, the ‘I’ or ‘My’• An approach to selfhood thatrecognises that the body is fundamentalto this
  18. 18. Bibliography• Birringer, Johannes (2008) Performance, Technology and Science New York: PAJPublications• Hansen, Mark (2006) Bodies in Code: Interfaces with Digital Media London:Routledge• Kozel, Susan (1998) ‘Spacemaking: Experiences of a Virtual Body’ in Carter,Alexandra (ed.) The Routledge Dance Studies Reader London: Routledge pp.81-88• Leder, Drew (1990) The Absent Body London: University of Chicago Press• Merleau-Ponty, Maurice (2009) Phenomenology of Perception London: Routledge• Schellenberg, Susanna (2007) ‘Action and Self-Location in Perception’ Mind 16pp.603-631• Sokolowski, Robert (2000) Introduction to Phenomenology New York: CambridgeUniversity Press• Stawarska, Beata (2008) ‘ ‘You’ and ‘I’, ‘Here’ and ‘Now’: Spatial and SocialSituatedness in Deixis’ International Journal of Philosophical Studies vol. 16 no. 3pp.399-418• Tsakiris, M. H. et al. (2007) ‘Neural Signatures of body ownership: A sensorynetwork for bodily self-consciousness’ Cerebral Cortex 17 pp.2233-2244
  19. 19. Contact detailsKelly PreeceResearch Associate in DanceSchool of Performance and Cultural IndustriesUniversity of LeedsWoodhouse LaneLeedsLS2 9JTEmail: 0113 343 8726