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Hacking Reality

Kate Genevieve

Our physical body and the spaces we inhabit seem very real, but what is this sense of reality – of presence in the world – and is it simply a story told to us by our brain, a neural fiction? Just over a decade ago, neuroscientists at Princeton discovered the ‘rubber hand illusion’, a way of persuading the brain to incorporate a fake hand into its internal body image, so that the fake hand became a felt part of the body. Since then, scientists and virtual reality experts have developed ‘full body’ illusions showing how our attachment to our whole body is somehow provisional and flexible. The talk will consider these strange findings and what potentials are emerging through creative VR projects. I will discuss my own work with Virtual Reality, which investigates how immersive audio, visual, touch and haptic environments enable us to "slip our moorings" and experience transformed relationships to our environment, to other people and to our own bodies. I’ll describe the interdisciplinary experimentation undertaken in the Sackler Centre's Labs and the development of visual technologies and multi-sensory techniques that invite audiences to investigate the architecture of their own subjective experience for themselves. Our understanding of what it is to be human is undergoing a dramatic seachange: a biological, embodied, emotional and fundamentally social understanding of human subjectivity is emerging across disciplines. These powerful immersive technologies and techniques for hacking the human sensory system have uses beyond entertainment. This session will end by outlining some ways ahead for creatively working with this tech to bring us into deeper relationship with the systems we live in and distant ecosystems, other people and the vital feelings of our own bodies.

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