Sunday, April 22, 2007

The New "Virtual Presence"

I found “The Reception” act of the Berkeley Dance Project to be the most pertinent to our studies, in that it related modern technology’s effects upon one’s sense of presence and existence. As explained through the narration, we understand someone to be “present” when we can touch or see them physically. However it was further explored that in one’s absence, their “presence” may be replaced by something as simple as a letter or phone call from them. In this sense, presence is captured simply by any temporary filling of the void that remains when someone exits your immediate life. The next step in this exploration focused upon the ability of technology to visually construct a sense of presence. As we entered the theater, we watch as the performers danced before a screen, as a digital image of a dancer very nearly mirrored their moves. It was explained to the audience that the technology was called tele-immersion. A computer in a separate location received the imaging of the dancers movements and then sent the digitally constructed dancer’s image to the stage and was projected upon the screen. This capability, along with others such as video chatting and video recording, allow for a new experience of “presence” in that it can recreate one’s visual image. In effect, one no longer has to be within the same room as another to feel connected with such technology. But the question that then came to my mind, and what I feel was something the performance aimed to address, is how does this change one’s overall value of corporeal presence? Growing up in an age of endless advancements within technology, programs such as video chatting, while exciting, are not shocking or unexpected developments. Where as previous generations were far more reliant upon physical interaction, phone calls, letters etc. to remain connected to those in their lives, younger generations live in a perpetual state of simulated interactions e.g. text messaging, Facebook, video chatting, and instant messaging. In the dance performance, two dancers were often paired together, alongside a single dancer, as the single dancer performed with the pair in unison, as if accompanied by a fourth dancer. The single dancer moved as agilely and gracefully as the pair who moved together, demonstrating that a physical presence was of no need. Furthermore I felt that the constant interactions of the dancers, choreographed in a way such that their movements were wholly reliant upon these interactions, reinforced the idea that though we may have a virtually constructed sense of presence, the things that move us are in fact the physical interactions in our daily lives that cannot be replaced by a screen or a telephone.



Blogger Jeff said...

thou there was a sense of presence conveyed by the virtual dancer. It seemed quite hard to determine if the dancers in real time or prerecorded but they told us it was in real time. This was hard to believe because the dancers were not coordinated. Sometimes the dancer would copy the virtual dancer and others the virtual dancer would copy the real dancer but most promising to be doing their own dance. Even though they said that the time was instantaneous and there was no lag it appeared that there was by the lack of coordination between the dancers.

4/23/2007 8:03 AM  
Blogger Shane_Wey said...

I thought the same thing when I watched the projection of the dancer replacing actual, real dancers. But I thought of it in the specific realm of business. People fly hundreds of miles to have meetings in conference rooms. Is it possible to replace these in-person meetings with video conferencing? Instead of a physical table surrounded by businessmen, is it just as effective to have a montage of all the people present at the video conference? It seems as though the crutch in video conferencing is that documents can't be passed around and a presenter can't point to places on a powerpoint. Also, video conferencing still has a huge layer of separation between people. They can not shake hands and go to lunch after the meeting. I find it very hard to ever replace person to person meetings.

4/25/2007 3:39 AM  
Blogger Miriam said...

I agree that this performance raised many questions of presence and existence. People can exist even when their physical bodies don’t. Simultaneously, this presence and existence is limited by a screen. When chatting, video conferencing, and dancing all these images are limited by a screen. Outside of this screen, they do not virtually exist. Even if there existence in only 2-dimentional, if done using advance techniques, our minds are easily fooled. During the performance, when the group was dancing on the stairs, I kept wondering if this was in fact a video or a real-life scene.
I also found myself wondering how we are going to be able to tell the difference if holograms became 3-dimentional self-structured substitutes for presence. What if holograms were no longer defined or limited by screens? What if human presence, could be mimicked? Then how would we know the difference?

4/29/2007 5:52 AM  

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