Sunday, March 18, 2018

Immersing Oneself In A Chair

            In a recent article in this column there was a discussion of the creation of virtual and augmented reality experiences for people who were bored as passengers in driverless cars.  The particular experience discussed was making the rider feel like his vehicle was the Batmobile and he was Batman and he was riding around in Gotham with the potential to save innocent citizens from the acts of criminals.  It is an excellent example of using an experience that qualifies as kicks as a means of pulling a person out of an extreme experiential vacuum created by the enclosed frictionless environment of the interior of an autonomous vehicle, AV.  But the sense of hyperstimulation, this tension-pocket mini-environment is a special kind of kicks. It is not like drugs, alcohol, gambling or compulsive sex where the source of stimulation is one defined source of substance or one defined source of activity.  Same with riding motorcycles or racing cars. A disco is a little like the Gotham environment, but it’s not totally closed or contained.  Rather, it is a social place where a person interacts with other people who are not directly a part of the virtual reality environment.  The other people pull the person into the external world.  What is distinct about the Batmobile is that the hyperstimulation comes from a whole artificial entertainment environment in which a person immerses himself in order to lift himself out of his numbness and feel more fully alive.
            And the Batmobile is not going to be an isolated instance.  All sorts of artificial immersive entertainments environments are being created in order to pull modern humans out of their numbness. One other example is the musical lounge chair being created by the French company Aurasens.  What the chair does is link music to massage.  Music is created that is specially attuned to the rhythms of massage.  The massage that comes out of the chair helps a person to feel the music within a trans-sensory experience.  What makes this an immersive experience are the headphones that block out noise and the eye mask.  In other words, a person is supposed to immerse himself in sound and touch and nothing else.

            This musical lounge chair is definitely a private immersive experience.  The virtual reality experience of the Batmobile may be less so.  After all, there can be more than one passenger in the autonomous vehicle (AV) having the same VR experience.  Nevertheless, the Batmobile is still somewhat a private experience, in that social interaction between passengers will not contribute significantly to the immersive experience in the same way a couple dancing surrounded by other people dancing contributes to the kicks experience of loud electronic instruments and strobe lights at a disco.

            As people have more and more kicks experiences, they need stronger and stronger kicks
to pull themselves out of their basic numbness that is the result of the sensory distortion of being in a modern technological living environment.  Normal more organic natural experiences are not only scarce these days, but they are no longer enough to stimulate a person to life.  People become addicted to kicks when they are too numb to fully experience other life stimulations.

            Up until recently, the primary way to make kicks more powerful was to make them more intense.  An example would be as people began to take stronger and stronger drugs for the kick effect.  But now it seems that maybe more intense may no longer be enough.  The kicks will have to envelop a person.  And this is where artificial immersive entertainment experiences come in.  They may not be as explosively strong as a drug.  And that’s actually good.  So they won’t hurt a person’s physical health.  But these experiences temporarily transform a person’s entire field of experience.  The massage is done by focusing on 30 haptic or touch points on a person, creating sensations of massage, shake and tingle.  Again as is common with modern technology, the emphasis is on defined discrete stimuli rather than more organic flowing blendable continual stimuli.  What traditionally has been a flowing blendable continual experience has been turned into an experience that is at bottom built on digital points.  So even as a person is having an experience that is supposed to sense organic needs, it is actually an experience that over time slowly reconfigures a person’s nervous system to become more receptive to machine-based robotic stimuli.  The stimuli that come from this mechanized massage process are not as explosive as previous explosive mechanized experiences we have discussed in the past: motorcycles, racing cars, loud electronic music, strobe lights, roller coasters, etc.  Here we have found a way of creating kicks that don’t lead to total jadedness and burn-out.  On some level it partly imitates an organic process. Perhaps this makes it more insidious.  Jadedness and burn-out lead a person to feel incapable of being receptive to a particular kick stimulus.  And this can be protective.  With the Aurasens invention, there supposedly would be no burn-out.

            Perhaps a close equivalent experience already existing would be a vibrator.  But a vibrator does not demand such complete separation from external world reality and partners sometime use it with each other.  Nevertheless, a vibrator does subtly reconfigure a person’s nervous system to become more receptive to mechanical defined discrete stimuli in order to achieve sexual satisfaction.

            Using a vibrator does not require a person to purposely close off all the other senses besides the one being used the way that the Aurasens massage chair does.  In this case, the vibrator is not totally a private experience, is not a totally immersive experience the way that the Aurasens massage chair is.  As people become more and more numb from their modern technological living environment, private isolating immersive experiences will become an increasingly important pathway to obtaining an ongoing non-explosive form of kicks to help them feel alive.  And again what is so insidious about this is precisely because these immersive experiences are more tolerable for longer period of time, they have the capacity to subtly transform humans, reconfigure them so that they are more receptive to machine-based stimuli rather than organic stimuli, and, in the long run, gradually contribute to the robotization of these humans.

            These immersive experiences seem on the surface to be so innocent.  They offer a false sense of grounding, while gradually transferring people away from their basic human nature.  They comprise just one of the many technological pathways today that are undermining our humanity.

(c) 2018 Laurence Mesirow

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