90 Virtual Reality as Immersive Enclosure, with Paul Roquet (EF, JP)

Paul Roquet is an MIT associate professor in media studies and Japan studies; his earlier work includes Ambient Media. His recent mind-bending book The Immersive Enclosure prompted John and Elizabeth to invite him to discuss the history of “head-mounted media” and the perceptual implications of virtual reality.

Paul, Elizabeth and John discuss the appeal of leaving actuality aside and how the desire to shut off immediate surroundings shapes VR’s rollout in Japan. The discussion covers perceptual scale-change as part of VR’s appeal–is this true of earlier forms of artwork as well? We explore moral panic around VR in Japan and the U.S., recap the history of early VR headset adapters on trains (including Brookline’s D-line!) and learn about the geneaologies various Japanese words for “virtual” and their antonyms. Paul wonders if the ephemerality of the views glimpsed in a rock garden served as guiding paradigm for how VR is experienced.

Mentioned in the episode

Yoshikazu Nango, “A new form of ‘solitary space’….” (2021)

Haruki Murakami‘s detailed fictional worlds of the 1980’s onwards: real-feeling yet not actual history.

Walter Scott’s Waverley novels: can we also understand the novel as an immersive machine that leaves readers half in their actual world?

Lewis Carrol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), with its interplay between enclosure and expansion, and its shrinking/expanding motif)

Ian Bogost on e-readers

C S Lewis’s wardrobe as portal in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950)

Lukacs focuses on the dizzying and transformative scale in Naturalism in “Narrate or Describe?” (1936)

Wearable heart monitors as feedback machines for watching scary movies.

The pre-history of Pokemon Go is various games played by early users of VR headsets on trains.

Sword Art Online is a breakout popular example of Japanese stories of players trapped inside a game-world

Thomas Boellstorff, Coming of Age in Second Life

We Met in Virtual Reality

Neil Stephenson’s Snow Crash (1992) coined the concept of the metaverse.

Recallable Books

Madeline L’Engle The Wind in the Door (1973).

Cervantes, Don Quixote (1606/1615)

Futari Okajima Klein Bottle (1989)

Collections such as Immersed in Technology, Future Visions, Virtual Realities and their Discontents; also, other early VR criticism of the 1990s including early feminist critique, scattered across journals in the early to mid 1990s . Paul feels someone should put together those germane articles into a new collection.

Read the transcript here.

Listen to the episode here.

Author: plotznik

I teach English (mainly the novel and Victorian literature) at Brandeis University, and live in Brookline.

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