(Be warned there may be links to adult sites in this blog)
Have been invited to participate in several discussion panels of late on VR and pornography amongst other things, and one of the interesting problems is witnessing how the general public perceive notions of Virtual Reality (VR) and how the porn industry is taking the term and using it on trend to promote what is basically 360 degree stereoscopic film. Such 360 films/experiences do not allow you to totally interact within them, and tend to work from a single viewpoint – that of the camera (along with all the usual film/media/psychological theoretical approaches to ‘the gaze’).
The idea of current VR porn is a relatively interesting and up and coming industry (excuse the pun). It could be seen that using the term VR is a gimmick in order to generate more sensationalised hype surrounding the technology. Any imagery you see is mainly from one user standpoint. That said, there are some innovative entrepreneurs who have built production companies that deliver specific genres of 3d porn.
But my main problem with it generally is the conflation of 360 film with a computer generated digital world – giving the impression that the two are similar – which they are not. I look to some VR pioneers surrounding this issue – and I was recently reminded of Dr. Brenda Laurels‘ definition of VR and her apt and timely description of her definitions of VR:
- Complete surround environment.
- Affordances for depth perception and motion parallax.
- Spatialized audio, not just stereo.
- Affordances for tracking the participant’s direction of motion distinct from the direction of gaze.
- The participant’s sensorium as the camera.
- Natural gesture and movement.
- Affordances for narrative construction.
- The principle of action.
It is the nature of these 8 points that set computer generated VR apart from 360 stereoscopic entertainment. It is from this ability to interact that I think about how we look at our bodies and how we actually sensate them when our consciousness is telepresent within a virtual digital space. It is looking at the actuality of 360 VR porn in relationship to personal agency available in True VR (saying ‘True’ VR may help to distinguish the difference rather than saying something like ‘real virtual reality’ which sounds a bit of a mouthful.. sorry.. another pun…). In which case, I think that in True VR (TVR) there is a better chance of identification with the virtual phantom phallus. This would have major impact on LGBTQ+ interactions in digital space, and our engagement with sexual content and notions of embodiment.
I was lucky enough to broach this subject to VR Pioneer Jaron Lanier at a recent event. It is something that we need to explore further .. so I think I need to get onto it asap!
Sometimes you have to spend some time off, and I tried to do that over the summer… with not too much success I might add. You can hear my latest Podcast with Virtual Futures:
…but it has been a summer of scary disasters….
With the influx of information surrounding sex/Robot tech/philosophy/design/AI available there is way too much to think about. Whilst nature – inspired by our mistreatment – wreaks death and havoc across the Atlantic and over Asia at the time of writing, it puts things coldly into perspective as to how our lives have become a microcosm of self, with intimacies reliant on digital artefacts that do not exist in the physical world, such as sentiment and longing. Floods and natural disasters destroy the physical – leaving the digital to remain in the ether of our memories that reside not only in the electrical impulses in our heads but also accessed through our devices as physical object. With no power, or no interdependent support how would you express your attachment and affection for a loved one in such a disastrous situation if they were not with you? Remember those discussions from the past? If the ‘three minute nuclear warning’ was suddenly announced would you have intimacy/sex with the person nearest you as everything is blown to smithereens? What if there wasn’t a real person near by… what if it was just technology… ? What if your loved one is telepresent in that technology?
During contemporary times of disaster, mobile phones signify attachment as we see news stories of those frantically trying to contact their loved ones, or send texts, take video and make those final messages. After the earthquake the sound of mobile phones are left wringing in the rubble unanswered as the loved one desperately tries to contact the missing. After the flood the photos on the mobile of ‘what was before’ gives a painful reminder of the notion ‘you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone’. Technology and attachment during times of urgency become part of salvation and connection to that which is lost.
The discussion of sex and love with robots and our attachment to technology therefore has a context that can reveal a reaction to an underlying thread of anxiety and loss and how we transfer and react to those during times of stress. Attachment to our technology is revelatory and crucial to understanding our experience of some of our final moments amplified in isolation, is a tool of sublimation and love, that can be recalled and revealed over and over again. Then attachment and grief are connected through devices and then we are looking at technology, sex and death… and that’s another discussion entirely…
Actually finding some time to write in this blog at long last. Teaching and assessment work take up a lot of focus at this time of the year… but always look forward to seeing my students graduate this month! The past few months have been very hectic, involving quite a lot of discussion and writing surrounding the theme of robot sex. The conference proceedings from the last Love and Sex with Robots 2016 conference have been published, and my article on attachment is in it. I have also been participating in a few speaking panels, where I discussed the more positive side to sex and technology alongside Dr K Richardson who doesn’t approve of such things. Interesting discussions – but you’ll have to make your own mind up on the different arguments here.
It’s great to see young women in sex tech developing their entrepreneurial capabilities which makes me feel like I should have been born at least 40 years later than I was!! It is refreshing to see ideas surrounding sex and tech that were considered crazy all those years ago now making sense to people, and becoming physical realities. Consequently, I submitted a short journal article about the recent UK cultural history of VR/sex/tech. This is an interesting story that needs to be told and is continuously developing and I am writing about it. If we are going to look at possible future of sex and technology, then we need to also understand its history.
There are various snippets of interest in the digital world at the moment – the new report on Sex and Robots by Sharkey et al is out. I found it a little limited in approach, particularly when it came to specific sex practices that could have been better researched and articulated, with nothing really new in it that had not already been discussed in both the popular press and in multidisciplinary academic circles. Nonetheless, it was good to see a general overview on the subject, whether you agree with it or not. I still argue that Robots, AI, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are becoming ubiquitous in all aspects of our lives – including sex, intimacy and the body – and are part of an evolutionary sexual strategy for the anthropocene era.
Currently reviewing my own VR research practice signing up to Steam so that I can get to grips with Tiltbrush and start to produce my own concepts and contexts of eroticism in digital space. I’m the sort of person who likes to ‘do’ stuff if I am going to write about it. Also other talking engagements are coming up – including some trips to both Exeter as part if their contribution to the Women of the World programme and to Zurich for the Future Media Day in the autumn with other earlier events still in development.
Interactive sexual fantasy design for VR. (Some links show adult material)
Got my usual trend alert newsletter from Shaping Tomorrow this week. This time it mentions interactive design and how virtual reality (VR) will change the way we do things. So I looked up some of the links in the newsletter and was fascinated to see how creativity and innovation is predicted to change – particularly in relation to interactive design – and this got me thinking – specifically in terms of VR. I have been doing research on robots/VR/tech/sex/attachment for quite some years now and thinking seriously on how to create VR engagement which does not necessarily follow the usual pornographic or erotica route, but looks at relationship forming and how an individuals’ psychological love map is developed and mediated in some way as an interactive narrative.
Part of the trend alert suggests that various new concepts of ‘jobs’ will come into creation and many old ones will disappear – so it is time to diversify. So, on top of being a lecturer, researcher and artist I could think of myself as an interactive sex fantasy designer or a gamifier of romance…. watch this space…
one of my old illustrations way back in 1991…Cyberdom
Writing and contributing to quite a few things recently mostly about robots, VR and sexuality and tech.. and a Podcast I did for the Guardian is now available here:
Some of the things I have been writing about this week for various online publishing ventures, a conference and book chapter: Artificial Humans (AH) and attachment; the geekification of fetish; exploring and combining psychosexual theories and applying them to robots. Once some of these have been published, I will put them up on this blog…
One of my lino prints: My Happy Little Robot Skipping!
Looking at all the VR that’s available now, and remembering the early 1990s – the cost of VR kit at the time, the SIZE of the kit then and the HYPE and disappointment of the content… but VR, a new tech combined with sex/sexuality? – why should they even go together? There were magazines like ‘Future Sex’* , there were early CD ROM games like Virtual Valerie* ( a sort of kinky Tron game), and there were classic attempts at physical connections over very early Internet links with some very inventive and creative individuals and teams – such as CyberSM… oh… yes and there was a little something that myself and a super team at a media tech company called Virtual S made back in 1992….
But before I describe my work in any detail – in order to look at the context of the technology at the time I suggest you watch this documentary from BBCs Horizon – about early VR..
Horizon – Colonizing Cyberspace
*Please be aware that some of the content of this Blog may be for over 18s only.
This is my independant ‘thinking out loud’ blog and will focus on my work surrounding digital technology and sexual futurology. Building on from my participation in the debate on Synthetic Emotions at FutureFest 2016 in the image above, this blog will inform about my new ideas and research surrounding contemporary entertainment and media landscapes such as virtual reality, haptic devices, robots and other forms of technology and communication – in an exploration of deviation, innovation and the body.