While the digital space is not a new phenomenon, it has, however, become the new norm due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The digital world has replaced physical relationships and physical activities such as travelling and face to face communication; new identities are created and people are forced to adopt, adapt, and experience the virtual space as a means of Technological self-identification. As humans continue to connect in revolutionary ways (Shirky, 2008), the spaces they occupy virtually, the behaviour and language that define these spaces, are many-layered and ever-changing. This can be seen as a phenomenological process of virtual embodiment.
Digitization can be considered as “a coming together, and arranging that brings various and often disparate elements, humans and machines into a particular constellated synchronicity or ecology.” (Castrillon, 2008, p. 16)
Given the aforementioned statements, the experiments conducted in the Feeling Digital Workshop allowed me to write about my experience and, through a video, document the aesthetic experience.
While the written text was in the form of an ethnographic diary, my aesthetic experience virtually documented a range of emotions that I experienced from March 2020 onward. At this time, the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago experienced its first Lockdown that has lasted up until the present. This documentation process was done through the use of symbols, objects, poetry, significant words that stood out in my mind both in the workshop and throughout the period previously mentioned. The video embraces all aspects of my being physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual; it is also me talking to myself and talking to everyone to reach out and hold hands, virtually lending support to each other.
While many will argue that the real and the virtual represent two distinct worlds, it is important to note that the digital space is a space where we are now compelled to “interact with each other according to a new set of rules” for the sake of social connection (Jenkins, 2006, p. 3).
Sunden (2003) posits that the meeting of real space and Cyberspace produces an interspace that loops between body and text. This interspace forces users to continuously transit between the material and the textual in a way that makes them “… blur and mingle, twist and change” (p. 3). According to Hillis (2004), users represent themselves digitally in an “immersive virtual environment that collapses the distance between the subject’s eyes and the screen to almost nothing” (p. 496). This process can therefore be seen as virtual embodiment.
An excerpt of my ethnographic diary can be seen hereunder. The accompanying video is a product of my spiritual self speaking to my physical self and talking to everyone physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually.
Excerpt from ethnographic Diary
Group 2 was assigned the following experiment
EXP I: Virtual co-presence
Aim: to tune into the feeling of time-delay-response virtually conditioned by internet connections.
EXP II: Shared body and aesthetic experience
Aim: The experiment was intended for the participants to generate in the others the sensation of a shared body that is touched, saddened, moved, etc., despite the non-presence.
Castrillon, F. (2008). Digitizing the Psyche: Human/Nature in the Age of Intelligent
Machines (Doctoral dissertation). California Institute of Integral Studies, San
Hillis, K. (2004). The dream of a virtual life: from Plato to Microsoft. In Dream
Extensions (pp. 94-108). Ghent, Belgium. Catalog for the Museum for
Contemporary Art/Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K).
Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New
York, NY: New York University Press.
Shirky, C. (2008). Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without
Organizations. New York, NY: Penguin Press.
Sunden, J. (2003). Material Virtualities: Approaching Online Textual Embodiment. New
York, NY: Peter Lang