(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!