László Tarnay

László TarnayE-mail address: tarnaylaszlo@gmail.com
Home institution:
University of Pécs
Academic position:
associate professor
Areas of research:
cognitive studies, film theory
Title of the presentation: Simulating Perception in New Media


Most important Publications

  • Realism Reconsidered: On the Aesthetics of Visual Simulation in Games. Á. Pethő (ed.): Film in the Post-media Age. Oxford: Oxford UP. 2012. To be published.
  • Az eredeti eszméje és az új médiumok. Apertura (2011/1)
  • On Perception, Ostranenie, and Specificity. In: Annie van Oever et alii (eds.): The key debates. Mutations and appropriations in European film studies. Vol. 1. Ostranenie. Amsterdam: Amsterdam UP. 2009.
  • Texuality Beyond the Word: A Cognitive Approach to Experimentalism in Film Making and Filmic Perception. In: Á. Pethő (ed.): Words and images on the screen: language, literature and moving pictures. Oxford: Oxford UP. 2008. 213-227.
  • On the Metaphysics of Screen Violence and Beyond. Apertura 3 (20008/4).
  • (w/Tamás Pólya) Specificity recognition and social cognition. Berne-Frankfurt a/M-New York-Oxford: Peter Lang. 2004

Title of the presentation

Simulating Perception in New Media


The paper is an attempt to give a determining description of how human perception is extended and/or modified through simulation in the new media, especially in video games. It starts with a brief summary of Sensorama, a recurring attempt at ?total? perception and discusses a variety of fairly recent prosthetic phenomena like the Eyeborg project, telepresence, Second Life, body swapping, simulation gloves, etc. Next it offers a theoretical framework to conceptualize extended perception, which has two major components.

The first is an evolutionary theory component which distinguishes basically between two important stages in the evolution of man: a rainforest stage and a savannah stage. The two stages are contrastive in that the selective pressures of the corresponding niches: the first favors fast reaction and is temporally fine-grained, whereas the second favors the observation of details and deliberation and is spatially fine-grained. The distinction is in line with the general idea that the erect position was a result of coming out onto the vast fields of the savannah which imposed the need of having far reaching eyesight in contrast to the visually rich but impenetrable surrounding which required a very sensitive aural perception. The distinction is reflected in the current brain structure of man with two different and segregated pathways, the dorsal for fast, prompt reaction and the ventral for more ?reflective? jobs like shape, color and other detail perception.

The other major theoretical component specifies a few important points about the current brain structure which may be relevant to understanding the way how perception works in the new media. They are: the proprioceptive feedback and the body as synoptic unity (= the supremacy of the first-person perspective), the rewarding function of the amygdala and the limbic system, mirror neurons, mind/narration analogy. Each point is briefly argued for on the basis of recent references in cognitive and game studies. One key issue to be debated is the idea that today?s new media and, especially simulation, constitutes, in many respects, a return to the rainforest stage where prompt reaction was all that mattered and there was not much time for reflection.

Finally, the paper offers a couple of consequences which could be interesting to anyone working with or in new media. They concern their growing popularity, the ?branching? narration and ?loophole? narratives they introduce, the potentially ?full-blown? simulation of everyday life forms and activities and the shift from passive ?voyer? personality to (inter)active all-controlling personality.

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