Gui Sanches de Oliveira & Christopher Riehm
Department of Philosophy, University of Cincinnati & Center for Cognition, Action and Perception, University of Cincinnati / Department of Psychology, University of Cincinnati & Center for Cognition, Action and Perception, University of Cincinnati
Embodiment, Synergies, and the Prospect of Meaningful Shared Experience in Virtual Reality
While in his first book (What Computers Can’t Do, 1972) Dreyfus offered a phenomenologically-inspiredcritique of artifcial intelligence, in his last book (On the Internet, 2009) Dreyfus extended his critique of computer technology to argue that virtual reality cannot provide a rich enough environment for human embodied experience. For Dreyfus, rich embodied experiences such as participating in focal events necessarily offer the possibilities for co-participants to directly express and pick up moods in shared situations and to feel that \they have contributed to their being taken over by a power outside their control” (2009, p. 119); importantly, for him virtual reality technologies available at the time were unable to satisfy these conditions of embodied experience in focal events. In his analysis, Dreyfus focused on Second Life as a prime example of virtual reality. But while participation in Second Life may be limited and mediated by mouse and keyboard, current and future virtual reality technologies use head-, hand- and eye-tracking to allow for immersive and deeply interpersonal experiences. Here we draw from recent research in experimental psychology to propose that, even if Dreyfus was right ten years ago, current and future virtual reality can or will be able to in fact satisfy the conditions Dreyfus identified for rich embodied experience. In the experimental psychology literature, \synergies” refer to \higher-order control systems” formed by the coupling of degrees of freedom in a given system (Riley, Richardson, Shockley and Ramenzoni 2011). Synergies are used explain both intrapersonal coordination (i.e., how different parts of the body work together by forming a unit larger than the parts) and interpersonal coordination (i.e., how different people collaborate in joint action by forming a unit larger than the individuals), and as such synergies can be said to correspond to a way in which the behavior of individual components (body parts or entire persons) are taken over by a larger coordinative structure or `power outside of their control’. We propose that the technological advances characteristic of immersive virtual reality described above afford the possibility of co-participants to form synergies and, therefore, to support the features of rich embodied experiences Dreyfus argued were absent in virtual reality.
1. Dreyfus, H. L. (1972/1979). What computers can’t do: The limits of artificial intelligence. Harper & Row.
2. Dreyfus, H. L. (2009/2013). On the internet. Routledge.
3. Riley, M. A., Richardson, M., Shockley, K., & Ramenzoni, V. C. (2011). Interpersonal synergies. Frontiers in psychology, 2, 38.
virtual reality, embodiment, phenomenology, interpersonal synergies