Immersivities: agency and interiority in contemporary environments
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date31/07/2022
Green, Felix Hunter
This project tracks elements of a conceptual and ethical vocabulary shared by immersive environments that have been designed to engender an aestheticized, consumable experience – often with entertainment, pedagogy or escapism in mind – and certain built spaces related to military combat. Specifically, it considers how the related notions of immersion and spectatorship problematise questions of engagement and agency, particularly if – or as – the staging of immersion is interpreted as a blurring of the cognitively adjudged threshold between a curated space or symbolic structure and everyday experience. Usually, this thesis will approach immersion as an oft-intangible intervention, designed or designable by a third party to isolate, distort or even focus a spectator/participant’s normal ‘frame-of- reference’. In doing so, and by assuming the initial burden of intentionality and agency lies with the designer/curator of such spaces, this research questions how an induced state of immersion can make a subject susceptible to ideology, mythology, objectification, obedience or, indeed, emancipation. Drawing on established conceptual/experiential notions of absorption and presence, as well as theatrical notions of ‘staging’, the thesis will consider how the structural conditions of criticality are formed and reformed in and through any immersivity. Following an extended introductory and theory chapter (Chapter 1) the project develops through a close spatial/dramaturgical analysis of three case studies which form the bulk of the study. By tackling immersion from a cross-disciplinary standpoint, and by counterposing analyses of immersive artworks with the psycho-physical functioning of the interior of military drone ground control stations and immersive therapy protocols (Chapters 3 and 4), the work aims to outline elements of immersive design that have been incorporated into certain conflict oriented environments, as well as – conversely – aspects of the ‘combative’ that are used to immerse spectators in a theatrical context (Chapter 2). At every stage the material analysis will attempt to broach the question of how design, be it conceptual/suggestive or physical, can inform our understanding of intentionality, authorship and the apportionment of agency and self-determinism in the immersive relationship.