Friday, March 19, 2010

Blog #6 - S03

Having little information about the Cave before my visit today, I didn’t really know what to expect, and found myself very intrigued by the immersive visual world which encapsulated us. The concept of a virtual reality – a three-dimensional space which, in the instance of the Cave, felt very “real” in its ostensible tangibility, despite the obviously manufactured aesthetics of the program – interests me greatly in its opposition to the “real” world which it partially mimics and, in many ways, expands upon. The notions of power and control in relation to new technological media were especially prevalent in the Pim program, which was described to us as a “torture program.” By simply clicking “More,” I single-handedly enacted the torturous death of a virtual being I could barely even see. At this exact moment I felt like I was occupying both positions in Bentham/Foucault’s panopticon: I was both the controller/surveyor and that which is controlled and surveyed. The glasses and laser-pointer device were hooked up to the transparent sphere above the cave, which situated the location of the person wearing the glasses within the Cave itself (for accurate use of the laser-pointer, presumably); in this sense, we were surveyed by a computer that we could not see, much as the prisoners in the panoptic jail are surveyed by the unidentifiable, invisible yet omniscient guard in the tower. At the same time, I also played a role similar to this guard: I surveyed Pim (albeit very vaguely, through flickering images) while remaining invisible to the virtual being, and moreover I held an obvious power over him in that, with the mere click of the “More” button, I could kill him.

My first thought when playing Pim was that the virtual realities created by new technologies and media represent some sort of human desire (albeit a perverse one in the case of Pim) to, essentially, play God – to watch, control and affect other beings from behind the shield of invisibility. However, as so many of the works we’ve read this semester purport, these new media inherently contain their own means of controlling those who use them. My position of power in relation to the virtual victim (achieved through my invisibility, partial surveillance, and possession of the “weapon,” i.e. the laser-pointer) was countered by my own subjection to an equally invisible and surveillant power: the computer itself, which simultaneously enabled my own power in the virtual realm and, having created this realm, inflicted an equal power over me the moment I entered it.

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