University at Buffalo
Department of


Art & Design

Art History

Visual Studies

New Course: VS 500 Theories of Immersion

April 5, 2008  by: Dom

Theories of Immersion
Graduate Seminar – Fall 2008 Term
VS 500, Reg # 036386
Tuesdays, 5:00 pm – 7:50 pm
UB North Campus, Room 606, Clemens Hall

Opinions are divided on the notion of immersion. Some assume it to be a by-product of the so-called “New Media” and the particular qualities set out by the apparatus itself, which enables those media to simulate an environment into which the viewer or user may insert him- or herself as a foreign body. In the context of this school of thought, one that recalls the impetus behind André Bazin’s “Myth of Total Cinema,” the synthetic spatial properties of such media are paramount. Thus technological developments are seen as key to an every more plastic experience.

However another school of thought sees immersion not only in virtual reality but also as part of literary experience. Marie-Laure Ryan, for example, instead highlights the various kinds of activities, which the user/reader/viewer is called upon to perform: “The difference in behavior between VR and literature is seen to reside in the participation of the body. While textual worlds are created through a purely mental semiotic activity, which presupposes an external point of view, the worlds of VR are created from within through an activity both mental and physical. A mind may conceive a world from the outside, but a body always experiences it from the inside.“

In this seminar we will read texts by Marie-Laure Ryan, Michael Fried, Espen Aarseth, Janet Murray, Lev Manovich and others in order to consider the specific ramifications of the experience of film, video, IMAX, the computer game, painting, installation und literature. In addition several excursions will take place during the semester, which will allow us to consider the effects produced by these and other media.

Instructor: Ph.D. Robin Curtis
Born in Toronto. Based in Berlin since 1989. Filmmaker, Curator (e.g. Special Programme “Out of Time” Oberhausen 2001) and Film and Media Scholar. Assistant Professor at the Freie Universität Berlin in the Collaborative Research Centre “Cultures of Performativity” in the Project “Synaesthetic Effects: Kinetics and Colour in Film.” PhD 2003 Freie Universität Berlin. Humboldt Fellow 2008-2010.
Publications – Monography: Conscientious Viscerality: The Autobiographical Stance in German Film and Video, Berlin: Gebrüder Mann Verlag / Edition Imorde, 2006. Editor: Einfühlung – Zur Geschichte und Gegenwart eines ästhetischen Konzepts. [From Einfühlung to Empathy: The History and Contemporary Career of an Aesthetic Concept] Ed. Robin Curtis and Gertrud Koch. Munich: Fink Verlag, 2008. Synästhesie-Effekte: zur Intermodalität der äisthetischen Wahrnehmung. [Synaesthetic Effects: The Intermodality of Aesthetic Experience] Ed. Robin Curtis, Marc Glöde and Gertrud Koch. Munich: Fink Verlag, 2008. Special Issue “Immersion”, montage/av. Ed. Robin Curtis and Christiane Voss. 2/2/2008. Deixis und Evidenz. [Deixis and Evidence] Ed. Horst Wenzel, Ludwig Jäger, Robin Curtis and Christina Lechtermann. Freiburg: Rombach Verlag, 2008.


202 Center for the Arts, North Campus
Buffalo, New York 14260-6010
(716) 645-6878
(716) 645-6970 fax
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