Some weeks ago we pondered over the oddity of a space race in cyberspace. Rockets and jet-packs –so cool in the previous century– don't make sense in a virtual environment. The advent of VR-technology introduces new perceptual spaces where the laws of physics aren't given, but have to be programmed. Although the space race is over, researchers in well funded institutions all over the world are still trying to invent techniques to transport people at the speed of light: It's called telepresence.
According to John Thackara we are currently caught up in a fake-space race. "Telecommunications companies have invested heavily for years in telepresence systems with the aim of reproducing as closely as possible the sensation of "being there." Thackara claims that "it's an insult that telecoms should expect us to meet in hideous sterile rooms in front of huge screens." Yet "sustainability demands that we compromise".
Thackara argues for a more artful telepresence: "There are more interesting tasks for design than the use of brute bandwidth to achieve 'being there' verisimilitude. The communication quality of cyberspace can be enhanced by artful and indirect means."
"Evolutionary psychologists believe that magical ways of thinking may be hardwired into us, and cite as evidence the human capacity to invest inanimate objects with meaning...souvenirs, heirlooms, childhood toys, objets d'art, dolls, totems, talismans, and charms. This ties back to the idea of the uncanny valley. Humans are actually quite generous when ascribing emotional and even spiritual attributes to inanimate objects—but we’re also very sensitive to being deceived. Current attempts at verisimilitude seem to underestimate our imaginative capacity, while tripping our deceit sensors."
"It's a matter of timing. The world needs artful telepresence more urgently than ever before. Can we please get on with it?"