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Gabriel Shalom
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    Augmented Reality vs. Aura Recognition [part 2]
    Project: Polytopia
    This post was first published as part two of a series of three posts on on Augmentology 1[L]0[L]1

    Part 2: Infinite Summer Afternoons



    Images from Initiations-Studies II by Panos Tsagaris with Kimberley Norcott

    Having summarily rejected the term augmented reality for the reasons listed here, I’ll now propose alternate terminology to describe the phenomenon. The following elements contribute to this formation:

    • The mobile web will enable us to become aware of metadata that was previously obscured in day-to-day life.

    • Many current AR applications pride themselves on exposing indications of present metadata relationships which are not as readily apparent as traditional urban indicators (think: fashion).

    • Contemporary visions of AR as something which will merely allow us to hold up our smart phones and look through an AR “window”.


    This process of metadata revealing is termed “aura recognition” (or aurec for short). In a future post I will address what I see as shortcomings of visual interfaces for aurec.

    In his essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1935), Walter Benjamin makes the following observations regarding aura:

    “If, while resting on a summer afternoon, you follow with your eyes a mountain range on the horizon or a branch which casts its shadow over you, you experience the aura of those mountains, of that branch. This image makes it easy to comprehend the social bases of the contemporary decay of the aura. It rests on two circumstances, both of which are related to the increasing significance of the masses in contemporary life. Namely, the desire of contemporary masses to bring things “closer” spatially and humanly, which is just as ardent as their bent toward overcoming the uniqueness of every reality by accepting its reproduction. Every day the urge grows stronger to get hold of an object at very close range by way of its likeness, its reproduction.”


    Certainly – since 1935 – these two “social bases” identified by Benjamin have reached their apex in contemporary digital life. Never before have we had as much convenience in bringing things – whether physical objects or information – into our immediate proximity (think: Amazon, Ebay, Google). Neither have we had the experience of such widespread meme and brand propagation in our physical environment (eg shopping malls, international airports, and fast food franchises). Benjamin continues:

    “Unmistakably, reproduction as offered by picture magazines and newsreels differs from the image seen by the unarmed eye. Uniqueness and permanence are as closely linked in the latter as are transitoriness and reproducibility in the former. To pry an object from its shell, to destroy its aura, is the mark of a perception whose “sense of the universal equality of things” has increased to such a degree that it extracts it even from a unique object by means of reproduction. Thus is manifested in the field of perception what in the theoretical sphere is noticeable in the increasing importance of statistics. The adjustment of reality to the masses and of the masses to reality is a process of unlimited scope, as much for thinking as for perception.”


    This “sense of the universal equality of things” is the hallmark of the web. All searches are, ostensibly, equal before Google. Yet, among the ruins of this auric destruction, the web is simultaneously imbuing our lives with all kinds of unique and permanent phenomena. These phenomena make up the essence of our digital auras; auras created less by physical objects than by the specificity of context, relationship and juxtaposition. Aura Recognition is the means by which we access these phenomena.

    Consider for instance how unique it is to geophysically meet someone who you’ve only previously known online. In the best case scenario, aurec will help us make sense of the emotional significance of digital phenomenon in ways which are meaningful and helpful. Location based services (think: GPS technology) provoke new experiences which are just as dependent on proximity as Benjamin’s proverbial summer afternoon.

    (to be continued in "Part 3: The Crystal Ball")

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    shiftctrlesc     Tue, Mar 16, 2010  Permanent link
    Great series of explorations Gabriel.

    I've always stumbled with Benjamin's notions of aura and authenticity.

    Like hot and cold or beautiful and ugly,
    the authentic only exists alongside the counterfeit
    the original only exists if there is a copy.
    Authenticity is created - not destroyed - by reproduction.

    There are many interpretations of Benjamin’s concept of aura
    some of them seem to conflict
    and few of them resonate deeply with me.
    But I like how you’ve promoted the concept in aurec.
    It’s crucial to envision aura as relationship
    not as something independent of the environment
    or the person doing the experiencing.
    This has always been the stumbling block for me when trying to understand Benjamin.
    Aura as relationship seems just as applicable to the physical as the virtual.

    Digital reproduction turns many of Benjamin’s ideas inside out.
    The traditional notions of original and copy become meaningless.
    Our digital universe is made up of nothing but copies.
    Aurec points to an important possibility:
    that once the line between original and copy disappears
    aura isn’t lost but renewed.
    A fitting reversal from the age of mechanical reproduction.

    I’ve been playing with some ideas under the umbrella
    Play is Art in the Age of Networked Reproduction
    It might be a good time to post some rough notes
    while the Spacecollective is thinking about these things.

    peaceandlove
    Wildcat     Thu, Mar 18, 2010  Permanent link
    I think this presentation should prove interesting:

    Beyond the Handset, Ecomm 2009View more presentations from frog design.
    shiftctrlesc     Thu, Mar 18, 2010  Permanent link
    "I can see through satellites now."
    .... wonderful quote in that slidedeck.

    It captures some of the awe of being turned inside out by new media.
    This is part of our job in talking about these things
    ... to show how incredible the ordinary really is,
    and to reveal the future as the present.

    What do you make of these thoughts on the real and virtual from Paul Virilio?
    folkert     Fri, Mar 19, 2010  Permanent link
    Thanks for sharing that Frog Design presentation, I also loved the "I can see through satellites now" bit, reminded me of a beautiful passage from Olaf Stapledon's Star Maker

    (this is from 1937)

    Probing as best we could beyond the formal similarity of spirit which gave us access to the bird-clouds, we discovered how to see with a million eyes at once, how to feel the texture of the atmosphere with a million wings. We learned to interpret the composite percepts of mud-flats and marshes and great agricultural regions, irrigated twice daily by the tide.
    Gabriel Shalom     Sat, Mar 20, 2010  Permanent link
     
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