Royal College of Art Cross-College Staff Research Symposium + Manifestation
Symposium: Thursday 9th May, Lecture Theatre 1 (9.30am – 17.45pm)
Manifestation: Thursday 9th May (9am – 6pm), Friday 10th (10am – 6pm), Bar Area
This one-day symposium held at the Royal College of Art investigates current practice and thinking about the technologies of Virtual Reality, and the related mediums of Extended, xR and Augmented Reality.
Now that they are sufficiently developed and accessible for artists, designers and the general public, Virtual Realities and Alterities remain an emerging field of study, and what constitutes the ‘virtual’ is still open to debate. At the Royal College of Art, practitioners and academics from across the Schools have been engaging with the technologies of virtual and augmented reality, expanded or immersive media – in often highly experimental ways.
Whilst the dream of VR its potential for limitless possibility – what is currently produced is a specifically gendered and raced concept of ‘cyberspace’ that replays the ultimate fantasy, where the protagonist can be anyone and do anything, and have anyone. Unfettered by physicality – and arguably responsibility and accountability, the ethics of taking such a position in a VR experience remain unexamined. VR+A situates itself in contrast to this dominant epistemology by centreing Alterity – the state of being other, or different – as its grounding.
Myths of presence and empathy persist in VR which deny a politics of situatedness and other knowledges. Several practitioners at the Royal College of Art are creating counter-narratives to the application of VR within the entertainment-experience economy and questioning the rhetoric of empathy that is embedded within the medium. We are calling these Alterities – other ways of doing VR, XR and AR. By bringing these practices and positions together in a symposium, we present a cohesive yet diverse body of work that celebrates the possible alterities of VR.
The Virtual Realities + Alterities symposium has come out of discussions and interests of members of the VR+A collective of staff, technicians and students at the Royal College of Art, from the Schools of Design, Communication, Architecture, Arts and Humanities and Research Centres.