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Extended Realities in the Digital Age

Extended Realities in the Digital Age: How do current visual arts practices challenge our understanding of digital, virtual and augmented spaces?

Name of Author

Timothy Betton


Extended realities in the digital age are formed of physical and digital material. Current artistic practitioners challenge our understanding of digital, virtual and augmented spaces by pushing and critiquing the definition of materiality and by referencing physical space in digital settings. This study aims to construct theories on the future of extended realities in the digital age and the plethora of outcomes that this creates. How is our understanding of digital, virtual and augmented spaces represented in current visual arts practices and what does this say about our past use of these spaces?

Why did you choose to write about the topic that you did?

Extended realities, the physical and digital and augmented spaces are all areas that I have explored in my practice. Examining and researching this topic in depth provided me with information that I could use to enhance areas of my practice such as working in augmented reality and experimenting with the materiality of the digital. Throughout my degree I have been interested in the interface between art and architecture, with a view to work in the field of interior architecture eventually, so this topic allowed me to develop experience and knowledge in this area.

What was the key thing that you learned from your topic/ writing process that you would like to share?

Whilst researching digital, virtual and augmented spaces I discovered the continuing environmental impact that digital media has on the earth. Using an augmented reality vision, whereby we see the physical and digital as interchangeable, we can understand better extended reality spaces; their construction, significance and future in the digital age. Extended realities in the digital age not only enhance our society by creating digital, virtual and augmented spaces, they also provide a system which can be used to improve the impact, use and future of digital media.

What are some new thoughts and ideas which came about from learning about your topic-- What would you like to know more about?

In terms of future development on this topic, I believe that visual arts practitioners working in the context of extended realities in the digital age need to recognise augmented reality space as a form of reality, and a tool which can be used to understand our relationship with space. Expanding on this research, it would be beneficial to examine how the geology of media and our use of digital, virtual and augmented spaces is affecting the earth and environment, and the real impact of extended realities on our planet. Perhaps the very spaces made up of material from the physical and digital, such as virtual and augmented spaces are the boundaries and tools in which visual arts practitioners, scientists and conservationists will use to examine, test and minimise the digital’s impact on our physical world.

What is your favourite excerpt from your dissertation?

Adjusting future conduct by past performance is something that is of great use in terms of how we understand digital, virtual and augmented spaces. Using elements of noise, something that is so often thought of as being an interference and embracing it as an ‘architectural’ form makes way for an intersection of physical and digital form. Constructing form from noise in past performance creates a space that exists not only as “an effect of information-processing dynamics and multi – scale complexity” which is physically there in the present moment but also it can disappear within an instant - being ‘cancelled out’ and not existing. The fact that something can be architectural - which implies it has physical form, can interact in human conditions but can suddenly disappear at an instance shows that there is a complexity in the physical - digital overlap. Noise does not appear to me as being ‘patterned and habitual’ like the wider definition of the system of the digital because noise is classed as a mistake and an interference. Noise is often not wanted so it is hard to predict when noise will occur. The over excess of information that we are told by the likes of Bridle will create a world of “complex uncertainty”, will in fact create a constant disruption of noise. The complexity of the digital age and the overabundance of information that is having to be dealt with on ‘platforms’ such as the cloud means that we are going to become more frequented with noise. What I propose is to use noise as a way of understanding and constructing digital, virtual and augmented spaces. Just the same way that we should use the physical and digital to construct an augmented reality vision, noise should be embraced as another tool to construct the reality around us. This makes the point even stronger that visual arts practices are highly important as a way of understanding how elements such as noise can construct and alter digital, virtual and augmented spaces. This system will lead to a better understanding of spaces of the past whilst enabling a better understanding of how to construct the extended reality spaces of the future. (p.28)