Apparitions explores several questions raised by virtual reality technologies. These questions center around the way technologies function in the construction of our identities and how we relate to the physical world, and slippages between reality and its representations. Imaging technologies determine and are determined by the ways we see ourselves. Who we are, and who we understand ourselves to be, are bound up in this seeing. It is in this way that subjectivity and representation are inextricably linked to the emerging technologies of computer-aided visualization.
Apparitions looks at these technologies in both their liberating potential and their history of constraint. Technologies of medical imaging exemplify this difficult dynamic. In training the eye of scientific knowledge on real bodies, these technologies exert control over their actions. A sonogram of a fetus, for example, can be used to motivate someone to block entrance to an abortion clinic, or to abort the fetus because it has “undesirable” characteristics.
The way control is exerted in a system depends on how things appear to be knowable. The objective gaze of science is not disinterested; it both produces and is grounded in a whole range of ideological assumptions. At the same time, the technologies of visualization produce images that motivate public opinion and infiltrate the aesthetic texture of daily life. Increasingly, computer-aided visualization is being used in popular entertainment, from Hollywood film to home video games. The technology's twin roots in military and medical imaging drive its pop culture application toward technoviolence and cybersex. Apparitions uses virtual reality to question the assumptions that underlie this entire range of emerging computer technologies.
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