Coogan Lecture - Joseph Dumit. "Embodying Improvisation: 3D Fieldwork with Scientists in the KeckCAVES"


Location: 310 DeBartolo Hall


Embodying Improvisation: 3D Fieldwork with Scientists in the KeckCAVES

In collaboration with the KeckCAVES and Humanities Innovation Lab at UC Davis and Natasha Myers (York U), this paper explores ethnographically the processes of engagement with a three-dimensional immersive holodeck-like CAVE that is the ongoing project of seven years of collaboration and encounter between geologists and computer scientists, and many others including artists and performers. The construction of a digital environment to facilitate scientific research on a daily basis makes explicit the need to formulate "research presence" as a related form of what in virtual reality research is called illusive "presence". In particular, the ability to responsively scale data enables a form of "haptic creativity," where researchers are moved by moving images to invent new metaphors. Through temporal and spatial scaling, experimentalists are caught up in prolonged encounters with their data, instruments and stories. As one scientist explained, "The give and take, back and forth between you and the data suggests what to do next in the experiment." A temporal slice into what Hans-Jorg Rheinberger calls experimental systems. In turn, I discuss the the improvisational lessons learned at scales from software design to presentational modes to funding restructuring.