AR and the Body

The inspiration for this post comes from Helen Papagiannis’ AR Stories site. Papagiannis focuses on AR and its many applications but the article that caught my eye was Augmented Reality Storytelling: The Body and Memory Making. This article examines the ways in which Augmented Reality experiences invoke the body and require the viewer to use their body in order to take full advantage of the interactive experience. The active involvement of the body caused me to wonder how AR can be used as a source for inclusion or exclusion.

In society and in many spaces there are moments where bodies are invoked, sometimes involuntarily. For certain marginalized groups of people the body can become a battleground and a source for prejudiced behaviour. Discrimination against bodies often arises from the gender binary. Whether people fit into this binary or not they can still feel alienated because of it. More and more it is important for spaces and institutions to become non-binary or at least attempt to be. I am wondering if AR can assist in doing this.

AR, as it exists right now, is not exclusively for video games but has been shown to be a useful tool in the future of games. Video games, for a long time, have been seen as a masculine field and pastime. This outlook is fortunately changing and different groups are now taking advantage of gaming and the wide range of stories available to them. But I think it should be noted that AR as a tool for gaming could, by association, potentially be used with a more gendered lens. In this scenario, this application could prove to be exclusionary for many people.

But if I learned anything from our class discussion, it is that AR is still full of possibilities. And I think even when AR is applied to games this does not necessarily limit its potential in any field (including gaming). The body’s presence as a key part of Augmented Reality means you can tailor experiences to involve the viewer but alter their surroundings. By altering a user’s surroundings can we also provide a different perspective? AR on its own is arguably non-binary. It shouldn’t really refer to anything outside of itself. When programs are created using AR do they automatically take on some significance within the existing gender binary? I think you could argue they do as most things in society are currently still defined by typical gendered views/language/etc. But is there a way to take the gendering further and program a wholly masculine-feeling or feminine-feeling experience? Could a user get an understanding of a different existence in the world through programming? Could we strip away gender altogether and program a non-binary experience?

B fernandes
Part of “As One” another project by Brendan Fernandes aimed at animating the museum.

I regrettably don’t have answers to these questions nor do I have ideas for how to program something of this nature. But I wonder how these concepts can be applied to the museum. For many users a museum space can be alienating because of their bodies. This is often due to lack of representation. AR could be able to act as a means of providing representation through user’s interaction with exhibits, artifacts, etc. Through Augmented Reality you could assist user’s in seeing themselves in the museum space. This could be done perhaps in reflecting people within different time periods and exhibit spaces. Interaction with objects could also prove useful. Building off some of the work of Brendan Fernandes in the exhibition Lost Bodies, user’s could animate or re-animate the objects. We have often talked this semester about what is lost when artifacts are put behind glass or on the wall, never to be used. Could AR be used to re-animate the objects and give them use again without fear of damage? I think this particular avenue would depend upon the object as I do not know what the ethics are surrounding a digital recreation of something that had a past life or spiritual significance.

I have no idea how viable any of these options are and I think a lot of institutions are already doing things similar to this. But it’s really exciting to see where AR started and where it has to go.

Today’s song doesn’t really have to do with the above, it’s just what I like listening to:

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