Augmented Spaces: The Inhabiting of Virtual Places

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Nov 14, 2013 (3 years and 9 months ago)

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Augmented Spaces: The Inhabiting of Virtual Places


Affect and Emotion

Mitzi Martinez



When Lev Manovich wrote
The Poetics of Augmented Space
in 2006 the
technologies for Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Smartphones, Tablets and
mobile communications were just starting to take off. Since then, a huge leap has
been taken; one that makes the discussion
of how we experience the

space when is
aug
mented by
layers of information,

crucial.


Virtual
, and above all

mixed spaces are everywhere

now
. The technology that
creates these augmented spaces has permeated into our everyday lives to a point
that is embedded into the simplest activities, and has b
ecome a fundamental part of
how we live our lives and how we experience our activities, ourselves, the space and
the places. In a sense, we are everywhere and nowhere at the same time.


Is in this context that redefining what it means to have a sense of b
eing in a place
becomes important, both to reflect on how it affects our life, and also to re
-
think
how we design these new

places that we are dwelling in;

socially, economically,
politically, culturally and
artistically
. As William J Mitchell says, the ne
w urban
design is not about

creating

buildings and streets, but about designing these places
that are becoming hubs for

human activities
.
The

network connections or where our
conscious dwells is as important
now as where our body resides.
The human habitat

is becoming reinvented in many ways, not only by designing completely virtual
spaces as Virtual Reality or Cyberspace Hubs nested in the internet for financial,
political, artistic, cultural and social activities, but a
lso in mixed spaces taking
the
locat
ion

and its dwellers and transforming them into data to be sent somewhere
else, or receiving information via mobile media, screens and computers

and creating
a physical space that contains all of these information
, both the immediate and the
remote one
.

Ma
novich call these cel
lspaces, that is, spaces that are

augmented by
layers of information by either gathering it and sending it or by receiving it.


In all of the aforementioned cases,
the question that arises is:
are we really
there
?
Are we present

into
these virtual and mixed spaces? To answer this question we
need to ask ourselves what does it mean to be in a place, and therefore, define

the
how the being relates to the place.


In contemporary approaches to the subject in phenomenology, the place and th
e self
are reciprocal and inseparable. The humans constitute the place as much as the
place constitutes the self
.
But
lets
first define
the

difference between space and place

as is
fundamental to the discussion. The space is
a volumetric

void that is
undifferentiated,
it

contains people and things, but according to Cassey, Tuan a
nd
other phenomenology experts,

a place is constituted by the subject through adding
value to it by means of experiencing it and giving sense and meaning to it. The
spaces need

to become meaningful in order to become
a place
, while the spaces are
undifferentiated, the

sense of being
in a place
does not occur, not only because is a
space more than it is a place, but also because without this differentiation, this
identity of a pl
ace, the subject goes by it without really experiencing it.


The place does not exist without the self, and according to Heidegger, the place also
constitutes the being, they
construct

each other constantly and become by being
together.
This radical view o
f the place hasn’t always being like this,
Philosophical
theories of the self previous to Heidegger, tended to view the self as a independent
from the place
. Locke
understands

the self as a function being conscious of one’s
past. A person is as far as they

can link their present consciousness with their past
consciousness. For Locke, place belongs to the physical realm and the self to the
consciousness.


For Heidegger,
the connection between the self and the place is n
ot just reciprocal,
but

essential for t
he existence of each other
. T
his relationship is created by building
and dwelling in
the spaces
. From the way that we
dwell
in the space

our being is
made, and from the way we are in the space, the space is constituted. The human
being IS and constitutes i
ts identity thr
ough the daily experience of

the multiple
ways that they inhabit different spaces and the space takes identity from how is
being inhabited.

In this sense, dwelling is not only to possess a place, but also
to
temporarily

dwell on it.

We not
only inhabit our houses, we inhabit the offices, the
roads
, the schools as we experience them.


As seen before, the human agents configure the place and the place
configures all
that is gathered

in

it, building this way

a location

in relative to the space

and

by

defining
its borders; but a border is not where a

place stops being, but where it

begins being

a place. From these borders, it establishes its

relationship with the
space
, a relationship that is measurable and that makes the space into an
encompass
ing void filled with places. Is this characteristic of relationship between
space and place
s

what makes possible that

thinking about a place does not
constitute only a representation of the place, but a transportation of it
as our
relationship wit
h the pla
ces is one of dwelling and experiencing.


Although when talking about cyberspace we may think that we dwell in the spaces
and hubs, the relationship between these places in the spatial void creates a
detachment sense that does not allow us to transport the
se places. Another aspect
related to VR and Cyberspace is the relationship between the space and the body.
We

now

will exami
ne both aspects in relation with the sense of being in a place.


Other phenomenologist like
Casey de
fine the

space as the volumetric void where
people and things exist and are set, the place is the environment experienced by the
body in different dimensions, that is physical, historical, social and cultural, the self
as the agency and the subject that is situate
d in the place, the body as the agent that
links the self with the space by perception and sensations and the landscape as a
whole encompassing all the places.

From this we understand that the body aspect
will affect our ability to experience a space as a
place, but it is not that we don’t
experience these hubs as places, but that given their characteristics of not being
traceable in spatial relationship to other places or to a physical location,

or even in
relation with our location in space,
its patterns
related to places are being
attenua
ted, they lack the substance that
physical places
have
as they’re are
constantly being re
-
located and re
-
linked in vicinity with other places as we
navigate from site to site.
The same can be argued about mixed or augmen
ted
spaces as we are jumping in a sense from the physical space to these augmented
locations that lack a locative aspect. Following Heidegger logic of the place building
the being and the being building the place, the being that we are in these places also

lacks substance, as are dwelling in these places lacks continuity.


This however does not mean that we are losing substance as beings altogether, it
only relates to who we are and how we construct our identities in these virtual
environments. This means
that how we are in the physical place is different of how
we constitute ourselves in the virtual environment.

Since Heidegger theories of
being are prior to the informatics era, all of it relates to physical places. Casey argues
that these new spaces that

we inhabit require a re
-
configuration of how we think
about what it means to be in spaces. He suggests a middle place between a lived
place and the geographical consciousness. From Bourdieu, he takes the term
habitus
, a figure that is at midway between co
nsciousness and body and that is
basically a certain way of being related to specific environments and circumstances
and is temporary by nature. That is, is related to the place and is temporary. Is in
this way that we commit to these not
-
locative places,
that he suggest, constitute a
thirdspace
.
a term introduced by Edward Soja, a place that is perceived, actively
lived and experienced. This space has the social, historical and spatial qualities in
the sense of having the affordances for being experienced,

even if we don’t
physically travel through these places, we move through them as we navigate.


Is in this aspect that we experience the space actively, but another aspect of these
thirdspace is that the body experiences it not only by going to places, but

by
receiving them, the places come to us.


As we move further and further into
integrating virtual and data elements into our
environment, our experience on how we relate to these spaces is changing radically.
The way we relate to the spaces, the places a
nd integrate them into our being is
related to how we are used to deal with them. In the past we were used to deal only
with the geographical physical world, but as we move further into integrating the
cellspaces into our everyday lives, the more accustome
d we get to deal with them
and incorporate them into our experience of being. The moment where this

third
spaces become truly one
with the physical space is closer now with the leaps that
Augmented reality is taking
. When that day comes, our experience for

dealing with
the virtual world will be probably very similar to the way we experience now the
physical one, but as we step by step move along, we are learning to be and create a
sense of being in these mixed spaces by jumping from one to the other and
com
bining ways different ways of experience being in a place, i.e: when we are in a
social network, for the short time that we navigate through status updates and
stories, we dwell and are in that place in the world, we constitute the place and the
place cons
titutes us, even if its the place the one that came to us instead of us going
to the place. The same principle applies to virtual reality, Augmented reality and
Augmented Spaces. As the Geographical places are changing, so is our concept of
being as human,

our conception of space, place and sense of being.


















References:

Casey, E.
S. 2001: Between Geography and P
hilosophy: What does it Mean to be in
the Place
-
World? Annals of the Association of American Geographers.

Costello, B Muller, L, Amita
ni, S. and Edmonds, E.A. 2005.
Understanding the Situated
Experience of Interactive Art: lamascope in Beta_space.
In Proceedings of
Interactive
Entertainment
CSS Press: Sydney, Australia.

Heidegger, M. (1971). Building, D
welling
, T
hinking.

Poetry, Language
, Thought
. New
York: Harper and Row Publishers.

Manovich, L. (2006). The Poetics of Augmented S
pace.

Visual Communication
,
5
(2),
219
-
240.

Murray, D.E. (2004).
The Language of C
yberspace.
In E. Finegan and J Rickford (eds).
Language in the USA: Themes for th
e twenty
-
first century
. New York: Cambridge
University Press.

Relph, E. (1976).

Place and P
lacelessness

(Vol. 67). London: Pion.