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Landscaping the subject: Virtuality, embodiment, and the discourse of the interface

Shinkle, Eugenie Bess; (2003) Landscaping the subject: Virtuality, embodiment, and the discourse of the interface. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis examines the linear perspective interface as a key technology in the staging of Western subjectivity, and the body and 'nature' as critical terms in the description of the subject and its environment. It examines three historical moments in the discourse of the interface - Brunelleschi's perspective demonstration, eighteenth century landscape gardening, and the present-day virtual reality interface - and shows how, in each case, the discourse of the interface insists on a distance between the subject and its perceived environment. In this visualist paradigm, the body and nature are framed as excessive - uninvolved in the constitution of subjectivity. This is also the framework assumed by Lacan in his description of the subject. Though this distinction may work in theory, in practice it is impossible to sustain - a fact that is made explicit in the eighteenth-century landscape garden. Focusing not only on the landscape view, but on the enclosed sections of the garden between the views, this thesis investigates the complex involvement of representation and the carnal body in the construction of the subject and (its) nature. Here, the relation of the subject to the anamorphic image becomes important. Against the distance and disembodiment implied in the perspectival view, the anamorphic relation is one of embodiment and proximity - suggesting that phenomenology, rather than psychoanalysis, is the most effective approach to the discourse of the interface and its subject. This hypothesis is developed through an examination of the virtual reality interface. The latter both assumes and exceeds a/the actively viewing subject, foregrounding the ontological complexity of subjectivity and the failure of theory to fully describe or prescribe it. Psychoanalytic models in particular fail to address interfaced being as embodied being. The notion of 'anamorphic subjectivity' - interfaced being as a multistable condition of technological embodiment - is put forward as a possible alternative to perspectival models.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Landscaping the subject: Virtuality, embodiment, and the discourse of the interface
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Psychology; Linear perspective interface
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10099360
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