Stefanie Kiwi Menrath / Alexander Schwinghammer (Hrsg.)

What does a Chameleon Look Like?

Topographies of Immersion

In the anthology What Does a Chameleon Look Like? scholars from art, culture and media studies backgrounds consider immersion in terms of aesthetic, historical, ethical, and political issues. Science and technology studies persistently took up the term immersion as an engulfing momentum of interactive engagement of man and technological device. Consequently, and as a result of the influence and prevalence of the concepts and terminology of computer related discourse, the phrase ›immersive environment‹ has been generally assumed to denote a ›virtual‹ environment. However, the extent to which immersion should be considered solely in terms of new media is questionable: the interconnection of modern society entails that considerations of contemporary art, theory, culture and consumer capitalism all lead towards viewing cultural practice and experience as forms of immersion. After all, technology is not only the pre-condition for contemporary culture, but is actively generated by it (Fassler 2005); and rather than suggesting a restricted analysis confined to the consideration of particular media, the problematic of immersion encourages investigations into the long histories of »interfaceless interface(s)« (Bolter/Grusin 1999:23) within art and media practice.

Liberating the concept of immersion from the technical and digitally-oriented rubrics under which it is often thought, What does a Chameleon Look Like? indicates that concept‘s applicability throughout the humanities. The publication assembles recent interdisciplinary work on immersion as technique and cultural topos: While the human-machine relationship has long been one of fascination and utopian positivism (manifested for example in the motif of the virtual voyager), we have seen the advent of new visual technologies such as television in the 1960s create a certain uneasiness towards immersion, or indeed an outright fear of it. As our societies become increasingly technologically determined immersion has become a pervasive phenomenon. In the 1990s the topos of immersion merged with discussions on artificiality and the aestheticization of everyday life. The focus of this discussion of immersion has been less technology per se, but rather the consumer worlds that it constructs and the reality that they give rise to. This apparent ›society of immersion‹ lead into a field for critique on the spectacle. Since the 1990s then, technology became conceptualized as a second nature, albeit one that is both internal and external (Huhtamo 1995: 171). As a result, debates around human-computer-relationships (HCI) returned – although this time with immersion taken as a basic human capability.

What does a Chameleon Look Like? holds that the concept of immersion extends far beyond the remit of virtual reality, and provides enquiries into the historical and contemporary significance of immersion offering new perspectives on aesthetics, technology and ethics.


Stefanie Kiwi Menrath

Stefanie Kiwi Menrath is a doctoral student in the international research training group InterArt. With Alexander Schwinghammer she organized the Interkollegiale Conference ›That’s what a chameleon looks like. Illusion – Imagination – Immersion‹ 2008 at FU Berlin. She is currently working on a PhD-project about the Pop Music Persona at CCS Goldsmiths. ...

Alexander Schwinghammer

Alexander Schwinghammer is a research associate at the Bauhaus University in Weimar and he was a fellow at Image-Body-Medium in Karlsruhe. His research project on visual dramaturgies of war is jointly based at the CCS Goldsmiths and the Institute for Cultural Anthropology, Goethe-University Frankfurt. ...


Yuk Hui, Andrew Christodoulou, Rania Gaafar, John Hutnyk, Jeff Kinkle, Asko Lehmuskallio, Florian Leitner, Kristin Marek, Sónia Matos, Stefanie Kiwi Menrath, Bettina Papenburg, Jörg Scheller, Martin Schulz, Alexander Schwinghammer, Daisy Tam, Christian Tedjasukmana, Mirjam Wittmann, Julie Woletz

What does a Chameleon Look Like?
  • 2011
  • 376 S., 62 Abb., 1 Tab., engl.
  • Broschur, 190 x 120 mm
  • ISBN 978-3-938258-51-4

  • 26,00 EUR
  • Titel vergriffen


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