asli-k Annotations

What three (or more) quotes capture the critical import of the text?

Thursday, August 29, 2019 - 7:12am

"What if the analysis of near-future VR SF pieces focused not on the technology but rather on the social worlds they imagine? The works of Marge Piercy, Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood, and N.K. Jemisin are often analyzed as experiments in social relations because they focus more on the lives of characters than the technologies they live with (Pandian 2018; Penley et al. 1991; Womack 2013). Following suit, feminist STS scholarship has also taken a speculative turn to explore sociotechnical future-making, most prominently in the work of Donna Haraway (2013) and her methodology of speculative fabulation. " (4)

"Both authors have done fieldwork in Los Angeles’s VR industry, part of the city’s growing tech scene otherwise known as Silicon Beach. Brandt (2013, 2016) focused on VR-augmented therapy, conducting research before the current VR boom when most VR innovation had retreated to military-funded university laboratories. In this period (2010-2011) when VR was still expensive, clunky, and difficult to develop, clinical VR was seen by many as not only benevolent but perhaps the only worthwhile use of the technology. Though VR was largely out of the entertainment media spotlight, hundreds of news stories hailed its potential to help care for traumatized war veterans. Messeri conducted fieldwork in 2018 with people producing VR content for both entertainment and workforce training. During this period of affordable hardware and accessible tools for creating VR experiences, the community embraced a narrative of VR being an inclusive industry; a counternarrative to the tech and entertainment industries that are traditionally male, white, and deeply hierarchical (Messeri 2018). In both periods, we found VR entangled in issues of gender and diversity as the industry reimagined itself as a site of care and inclusion. " (5)

"The work of care is the central drama of these SF imaginaries. While care work has historically been feminized and devalued (Martin, Myers & Viseu 2015), the counternarratives explored here elevate the status of this affective labor to heroic labor. Staged in the context of VR SF, practices of empathetic communication become a form of “tech work,” in which VR is a tool to understand, interpret, and/or intervene in the pain of others. These women are not heroic fans and gamers, but rather heroic caregivers: not the soldiers of the virtual world, but the nurses who remedy and sustain its occupants." (12)

"Home operates differently across these three SF worlds. Each piece suggests a different attitude toward the healing potential of VR." (20)

"In this analysis, we recast current VR SF as “hyping” innovative social configurations rather than tech devices. Much is at stake in these portrayals. They may help to reorient how the VR industry imagines itself, how it imagines its own purpose and labor in building worlds for others to inhabit, and how it imagines who can participate in building and occupying these worlds. It seems important that these stories do not simply gender-swap female characters into masculine hero journeys. Though they toe the line of gender essentialism, the stories we have examined nevertheless carve out spaces where women may be seen as heroes because they never lose sight of the human(ity) in technology. With these fictional images in place, the actual VR industry faces the challenge of bringing forth the worlds it is now evidently capable of imagining." (22)

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