Many online video games nowadays feature voice-chat capabilities that enable players to speak with one another through microphones connected to computers and gaming consoles. Players who speak out via voice-chat telegraph ambiguous bodies and often end up participating (willingly or not) in instances of identity assimilation, repression, deception, and revelation. This chapter examines how voice technologies in online games compel players to negotiate practices of domination, masquerade, and passing through acts of speech and silence. Attempts here to put pressure on voice-body relations speak to a broader effort to reassess conventional theories of the voice as a site of authentic and agentic expression. The chapter will conclude by considering the sexual politics of voice-chat in the audibly male-dominated communities of online first-person-shooter games.
With its roots in psychological writings of the twentieth century, the subject of the uncanny provides ways of critically analyzing why some objects appear eerie or make us feel uncomfortable. For researchers building on this appraisal, the uncanny is now associated with realistic, human-like characters featured in film and video games. Such characters may fall into an “Uncanny Valley” as their increased realism evokes a negative affective response in the viewer. This chapter presents a possible psychological explanation of the uncanny in virtual characters, based on a perception of a lack of empathy in a character. Aspects such as a lack of facial mimicry and a belief that there is an inability to forge an attachment with a character may lead to an abnegation of self and evoke the uncanny. An assessment is also made of how old and new definitions of the virtual may be applicable or untenable to the uncanny.
James K. Scarborough and Jeremy N. Bailenson
The explosive growth and dissemination of internetworking technology has changed what we may consider community, culture, and society. A major part of this movement toward the virtual is the use of self-representative avatars. Studies have demonstrated that interactions between humans while they are embodied in avatars have distinct psychological implications both for the user and for others who may interact with the virtual representation. Social scientists are beginning to study avatars as a way of understanding people. This chapter explores research on the effects of human avatar interaction as well as effects found to occur when people interact via technology-mediated environments. It will cover the concepts of presence (the feeling of being there) and social presence (the feeling that others are there as well) and detail the theories of transformed social interaction and the social influence model. Several practical applications and examples will be discussed as well.
Keysha I. Gamor
This chapter discusses observations about the common pitfalls when embarking upon a project to design and implement a virtual world. These include the omission of a front-end analysis, the failure to recognize the unique affordances of virtual learning environments (VLEs), the reusing rather than re-engineering of content, and the failure to contain expectations of what VLEs can accomplish. This chapter suggests that while virtual worlds are not the answer to all training, education, business, collaboration, and analytical problems, it highlights the fact that immersive learning environments have the ability to provide a whole new dimension, indeed, to open a whole new world to an organization.
André Nusselder’s chapter references the work of philosophers such as Kierkegaard and Badiou to argue for an ethical framework to regulate the excess of virtuality brought about by the computer and Internet revolution. Virtuality is approached from the perspective of the signs and symbolic representations that humans use, and the virtual condition is seen as one of exceeding physical limitations: a breach of the natural condition. Because of this freedom, the human self is characterized by a fundamental instability: it hovers between sophistication and greediness. Nusselder concludes by calling for a framework to protect humankind from the nihilism we are at risk of suffering through the excesses brought about by the freedom implicit in virtuality.
Giuseppe Riva and John A. Waterworth
This chapter examines the concept of presence in a virtual world. It discusses recent findings of cognitive sciences research to offer a broader definition of presence. It suggests that presence is not the same as consciousness and discusses the three critical features of presence that cannot be explained by other cognitive processes. These include the ability of presence to allow the evolution of the self through the incorporation of tools and the role of presence in providing feedback to the self about the status of its activity. This chapter also explains that presence is an intuitive process.
The fourth wall is a term borrowed from dramatic theory that considers the theatrical stage as having three walls (two sides and a rear) and an invisible fourth-wall boundary between the actors and audience. This chapter considers the experience of user-generated sonic content in virtual worlds in terms of the concept of the fourth wall, situating this content in regards to the dynamic between audience and virtual space. While much of the work on user-generated content in virtual worlds has focused on this relationship between developers and players, there are many interesting aspects of user-generated content that have been neglected, particularly when it comes to sound. The chapter argues that user-generated sound is in a unique position with regards to breaking the fourth wall, presenting an overview of user-generated content in virtual worlds, and exploring how user-generated content contributes to the social interactions that occur and to the breakdown of the fourth wall. The chapter then focuses on the types of auditory content that are generated and shared between players, situating the use of sound as a mediator between the virtual and the real world spaces.
Paul C. Adams
Virtuality has a long history involving a continuous process of virtualization and revirtualization. In order to recognize the central role of virtuality in human history it is useful to focus on three attributes of virtuality: intangible architecture, sensory fragmentation, and distanciation. This provides a way to triangulate encounters with older forms of virtuality, including the virtualities of the word, writing, and printing. The emergence of verbal communication in a prehistoric period of orality opened up virtual worlds that were multiplied and expanded with the innovations that created and promoted literacy. Thus, virtuality has been with us for hundreds of years (in the case of printing) and thousands or hundreds of thousands of years (in the case of writing and speech). Spoken, written, and printed words have not been left behind but contribute in fundamental ways to the continuing evolution of virtuality.
Computational Modeling of Brain Function and the Human Haptic System at the Neural Spike Level: Learning the Dynamics of a Simulated Body
The sense of touch and related haptic capabilities are essential for skilled interaction with our environment. More generally, the study of these capabilities offers a unique window into key features of brain function. Paradoxically, such capabilities have been much less studied than other senses such as vision and hearing. The computational modeling of haptic capabilities is also a little-explored area. Here a computational approach is presented to model basic aspects of important haptic capabilities. It is proposed that neural spiking signals following a Poisson process can be used to learn the dynamics of a simulated, nonlinear body. More generally, this Poisson learning approach can be extended to situations involving multiple sensory signals (haptic, visual, etc.). This approach also allows linking millisecond-level neural computations to complex behaviors happening at larger time scales. Finally, the realism and virtuality of an environment are discussed in terms of Poisson learning computations.
The chapter treats cybersex as a multifaceted form of erotic experience and interaction, explaining how we use digital and computer-based technologies to do it and why. It traces the term from its historic origins, via current practice and technologies, toward experimental, multisensory, and future-oriented possibilities. The concept of cybersex is explained as a set of complex, wide-ranging practices from sex chat, teledildonics, sex with machines, visions of instant sex and cyberorgasms, to telematic communication in bodysuits. Central to this overview are also critical commentaries that color and channel cybersexual practice, societal acceptance, addiction, ethics, and technological developments. Important questions treated include, Is cybersex “real”? Or just the virtual counterpart of sex? A fake, phantom kind of sex? And perhaps the most challenging question: What is the future of sexuality?
Mark Billinghurst, Huidong Bai, Gun Lee, and Robert Lindeman
In recent years smartphones and mobile devices have become powerful enough to provide a handheld augmented reality (AR) experience. However, although the hardware is commonplace, there have been few directions published on how to design effective handheld AR interfaces. This chapter gives an overview of typical handheld AR interfaces and provides seven specific guidelines for developing such systems. These include the following, among others: provide an uncluttered AR view, match interface to device ergonomics, and use natural physical motion for input. Three case studies are provided showing how following these guidelines can produce effective handheld AR applications. For example, the CityViewAR application uses a very uncluttered AR view to show buildings that used to exist in a city, and maps user viewpoint onto very natural motion of the handheld display. In the future, as new handheld AR devices are developed, there will be an opportunity to develop even more interface guidelines.
John A. Waterworth and Eva L. Waterworth
This chapter discusses the notion of mediated presence, the feeling of being experientially present in a virtual or mixed reality, and describes how this form of virtuality is developing into “distributed embodiment.” When we experience strong mediated presence, our experience is that the technology has become part of the self. Distributed embodiment describes how our sense of being present in the world is becoming separated from our sense of ownership of a particular body, through the development of new approaches to deploying the technologies of virtualization that give rise to what is known as “mediated presence,” or “telepresence.” The possibility for distributed embodiment comes from the physical-virtual nature of familiar, first-person embodiment. We move from a sense of presence in the physical world, though a mediated sense of presence in virtuality, to the mediated sense of being in the physical-virtual world in another body than our own.
This chapter examines the differences between virtuality and reality from the point of view of emotions. It analyzes some definitions and theories of emotion and reviews theater studies that focus on the actor’s paradox and the double, parallel management of actors’ emotions and characters’ emotions. It summarizes corpus-based research about the recording and evaluation of multimodal expressions of emotions and discusses the design and evaluation of computational models of emotions and virtual agents.
This chapter examines the status of the virtual in perception. As understood philosophically, the virtual (or “pure potentiality”) is strictly complementary to the actual, not in opposition or contradiction to it. The virtual is abstract by definition, which means that it cannot be reduced to the empirically present. But neither can it be separated from it. There is a reciprocity between the actual and the virtual that enters actively into the constitution of every act of experience. Although the virtual as such cannot appear in perception, as a factor in constitution of experience it cannot but make itself felt with each perception’s arising. The question then becomes, in what way does the abstractness of the virtual come with coming perception? How does it make its active implication in experience felt? What is a virtual image? Is there such a thing as virtual event? If so, in what sense can virtual events be said to have value? The chapter develops throughout a realist account of the virtual as “lived abstraction.”
Charles M. Ess
The chapter first shows how the strong dualisms underlying prevailing understandings of the relationship between “virtual” and “real” in the 1990s have been largely replaced in this century by views emphasizing the inextricable interrelationships between these two experiential domains. It then reviews the philological history of these terms in order to avoid potential conceptual confusion in common uses of the terms. The chapter further offers a philosophical anthropology (rooted in phenomenology and foci on embodiment) and correlative ethical framework conjoining deontology and virtue ethics: these are shown to allow us to analyze and resolve important ethical issues in two case studies involving virtuality more successfully than with earlier frameworks. This philosophical anthropology and ethical framework thereby reiterate challenges to early dualisms that privileged the virtual, and reassert the priority of real-world practices and harms as the touchstone of ethical reflection.
This chapter discusses the possibility of instilling a virtual world with mechanisms for evolution and natural selection in order to generate rich ecosystems of complex organisms in a process akin to biological evolution. Some previous work in the area is described, and successes and failures are discussed. The components of a more comprehensive framework for designing such worlds are mapped out, including the design of the individual organisms, the properties and dynamics of the environmental medium in which they are evolving, and the representational relationship between organism and environment. Some of the key issues discussed include how to allow organisms to evolve new structures and functions with few restrictions, and how to create an interconnectedness between organisms in order to generate drives for continuing evolutionary activity.
Julie M. Albright and Eddie Simmens
Early theorists in the field of computer-mediated communication posited it would be difficult, if not impossible, to form interpersonal relationships over computer networks because of the lack of physical proximity of communicators. Despite these dire predictions, online dating has flourished, recently becoming the third most common way that people met their spouses in both the United States and Europe, and it continues to grow in developing nations like China and India. The following chapter surveys the extant research on the demographics, issues, and outcomes surrounding online matchmaking and relationship formation, beginning with an historical overview of the technological developments that have facilitated it since the early 1990s. The chapter ends with a discussion of new technological developments impacting the genre, including the emergence of geolocation-based matching made possible by the migration toward smartphones and mobility, and the implications of the convergence of the physical and virtual worlds.
This article appears in the Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Digital Media edited by Carol Vernallis, Amy Herzog, and John Richardson. During the ascension and commodification of Web 2.0, online music videos became host to a new kind of glitch: the digital stutter of insufficient buffering in Adobe Flash Player and other streaming media software. Some female performers recognized the potential of this electronic disruption to interrupt the male gaze and the traditional objectification of the female body. Working inside the genre of corporate music video and the logic of the glitch, performers like Madonna and Lady Gaga make visible their ambivalent relationships to patriarchal, heterocentric video culture through simulated freezes and drop outs in the streaming image. These “errors” open up intervals of frustration—and potential critical reflection—in the playback and, by extension, in the temporal structures of fantasy. In so doing, they remind the viewer that although she may perceive female music video stars as objects of fantasy, as fantasies they are not always under her control.
Applying virtual reality and virtual-world technology to historical knowledge and to cultural heritage content is generally called virtual heritage, but it has so far eluded clear and useful definitions, and it has been even more difficult to evaluate. This chapter examines past case studies of virtual heritage; definitions and classifications of virtual environments and virtual worlds; the problem of convincing, educational, and appropriate realism; how interaction is best employed; the question of ownership; and issues in evaluation. Given the premise that virtual heritage has as its overall aim to educate and engage the general public (on the culture value of the original site, cultural artifacts, oral traditions, and artworks), the conclusion suggests six objectives to keep in mind when designing virtual worlds for history and heritage.
Virtual worlds are enabling experiences that were not previously available through other media. One such experience is the potential to have a sense of inhabiting the simulated spaces they offer, not just through the use of the player’s imaginative faculty, but also through the cybernetic circuit between player and machine. This phenomenon has been described by the terms “presence” and “immersion.” Although the two terms are used in various fields and have been discussed for three decades, there seems to be a lack of consensus as to what either of them actually refers to. This chapter argues for a reconceptualization of the phenomenon of virtual-world habitation by replacing the metaphors of presence and immersion with the notion of incorporation: an experiential phenomenon that accounts for the simultaneous assimilation into consciousness of the virtual world and the systemic acknowledgement of the player’s location and existence therein.