Kevin Slavin's Talk on How Augmented Reality isn't Real Enough

"Reality is augmented when it feels different, not when it looks different. And when the senses of time and obligation, and rewards are altered, maybe the aspiration of 3-d optical augmented reality begins to feel a little bit like pornography. Like a thin veneer of the actual experience that is flattened for the eye—that is rendered for the eye, which is the one sense most easily fooled to begin with," said Kevin Slavin (co-founder of Area/Code) recently at Mobile Monday Amsterdam. It's a thought-provoking talk, and one bound to be referenced in years to come as augmented reality transitions from cyborg theory buzzword to an unavoidable component of the digital experience. Slavin quotes film studies professor Elena Gorfinkel (cited in Salen and Zimmerman’s book Rules of Play): " The confusion in this conversation has emerged because representational strategies are conflated with the effect of immersion. Immersion itself is not tied to a replication or mimesis of reality. For example one can get immersed in Tetris. Therefore, immersion into game play seems at least as important as immersion into a games’s representational space." He considers augmented reality as an uncanny valley "not for the human face, but for the actual world around us." And here's a great response to the talk from Rhizome contributor Greg J. Smith on his blog Serial Consign: [T]he initial buzz was slightly misleading as it suggested that the presentation was an outright dismissal of AR. I don't really think this was the case...My reading of the talk is that Slavin is extremely curious about augmenting reality—as praxis—and suggesting we (startups, developers and consumers) need to be considerably more thoughtful in our application/exploration of the emerging medium and consider how it might activate other senses – AR should not distill down to "an overlay for all seasons". I think the key takeaway point is in Slavin's suggestion that "reality is augmented when it feels different, not looks different" – which basically echoes Marcel Duchamp's (almost) century-old contempt for the 'retinal bias' of the art market. If AR development (thus far) is lacking imagination, perhaps the problem is that we're very much tethering the medium to our antiquated VR pipe dreams and the web browser metaphor.