Physical interactions with virtual objects, virtual objects in a physical world
Pranav Mistry. This guy is a genius.
If you ask me, any future ontology must confront itself with the new kind of objects/actors that these technologies project (literally) on the world. The understanding of interactions with objects must be developed on the basis of a composed space which is the result of a merging of physical and non-physical virtual entities. What kind of ‘objects’ would these be? Insofar as they make a difference (Levi) they are real. But are they exhausted by their relationships (hardware, software, human user…) or not? Isn’t OOO better equipped than any other ontology to deal with them? Didn’t Latour say that the aim of philosophy is to make things ‘more real‘?
Moreover, such a topological reconfiguration of spatiality creates a new phenomenological challenge: to seriously approach new phenomena like the simple ‘copy and paste’ from material support to a digital one. Think of Heiddegger’s deseverance: how differently do we open up a world when even on an ontic level the spatiality of space is not anymore cartesianly constrained? Heidegger already saw how deseverance was linked to new technologies:
With the ‘radio’, for example, Dasein has so expanded its everyday environment that it has accomplished a de-severance of the ‘world’—a de-severance which, in its meaning for Dasein, cannot yet be visualized. (BT: 140)
[Actually, I think that there is a bit missing here in the English translation, since the German goes:
Mit dem "Rundfunk" zum Beispiel vollzieht das Dasein heute eine in ihrem Daseinssinn noch nicht übersehbare Ent-fernung der "Welt" auf dem Wege einer Erweiterung und Zerstörung der alltäglichen Umwelt. (SZ: 105)
Which could be translated into
With the ‘radio’, for example, Dasein has so expanded its everyday environment that it has accomplished a de-severance of the ‘world’—a de-severance which, in its meaning for Dasein, cannot yet be visualized, on the way towards an enlargement and a destruction of the surrounding world.
The result is even more powerful, if you think of the power of deseverance of the Internet and its reconstruction of a virtual Umwelt. [As for the translation, correct me if I am wrong, since I know very, very little of German.]
Surely in the mid ‘20s it could not yet be visualized, but haven’t we got it perfectly in front of our eyes today?
Also, what kind of embodied ‘optimal grip’ can we have over an augmented reality of this kind? The term is from Merleau-Ponty:
For each object, as for each picture in an art gallery, there is an optimum distance from which it requires to be seen, a direction viewed from which it vouchsafes most of itself: at a shorter or greater distance we have merely a perception blurred through excess or deficiency. We therefore tend towards the maximum of visibility, and seek a better focus as with a microscope. … The distance from me to the object is not [experienced as] a size which increases or decreases but [as] a tension. (PhP 302,352)
How is this optimal distance regulated and how is it embodied when the maximal degree of perception does not depend on our optimal proximity to the physical object but on the way a virtual object can be directly modified to be already optimally placed/displayed? How when an augmentation of reality allows us to reach optimal grip without bodily movement through space?
As usual with me, more questions than answers, but I just find the challenges offered by these technologies fascinating, both (and they are of course intertwined) ontologically and phenomenologically.