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Gerner, A, & Guerra, M., 2014, On the Cinematic Self. Cinematic experience as “Out-of-Body” Experience? In: A. Gerner, J. Gonçalves 8eds.) Altered Self and Altered Self Experience, Norderstedt: Bod, p.85-106

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Abstract

What we generally suppose in this chapter is that film experience is, from its very beginning, thought of as an experience rooted in our brain-body system, aiming to externalize our cognitive processes, feelings, emotions, and motor behavior (Münsterberg 1916; Freeburg 1918) and that certain modalities of perspective taking, switching perspectives, dynamic emotional empathetic behaviour with other bodies are part of a general cinematic experience that might be also present especially in technically induced or manipulated Out-of-Body Experiences (OBE ́s). Therefore we propose an explorative journey in the territory of the cinematic (bodily) self in relation to (1) Out-of-body experiences and (2) different modes of “(inter-) embodied” cinematic experience in relation to perspective taking and immersion. This will be persued in a theoretical “bifocal vision” of plastic and polymorphic bodies and selves in technologies.
Disembodiment of Self-experience: Out-of-Body Experience,
Full-Body Illusion and Cinematic Experience
5
On the Cinematic Self. Cinematic experience as “Out-of-
Body” experience?
Alexander Gerner1
CFCUL, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal
Michele Guerra
University of Parma, Italy
We are our bodies—but in that very basic notion one also discovers that our bodies have an amazing
plasticity and polymorphism that is often brought out precisely in our relations with technologies. We
are bodies in technologies.
—Don Ihde, Bodies in Technologies
Keywords: cinematic experience, immersiveness, cinematic self, perspective- taking, OBE
Introduction
What we generally suppose in this chapter is that film experience is, from its very
beginning, thought of as an experience rooted in our brain-body system, aiming to
externalize our cognitive processes, feelings, emotions, and motor behavior
(Münsterberg 1916; Freeburg 1918) and that certain modalities of perspective
taking, switching perspectives, dynamic emotional empathetic behaviour with
other bodies are part of a general cinematic experience that might be also present
especially in technically induced or manipulated Out-of-Body Experiences (OBE´s).
Therefore we propose an explorative journey in the territory of the cinematic
(bodily) self in relation to (1) Out-of-body experiences and (2) different modes of
“(inter-) embodied” cinematic experience in relation to perspective taking and
immersion. This will be persued in a theoretical “bifocal vision” of plastic and
polymorphic bodies and selves in technologies.
Therefore we explore the notion of self in OBE experiences in relation to the natural
medium of the human body that sometime has been iconically related to the
Gerner, A, & Guerra, M., 2014, On the Cinematic Self. Cinematic experience as “Out-of-Body” Experience? In: A. Gerner, J. Gonçalves 8eds.) Altered Self and Altered Self Experience, Norderstedt: Bod, p.85-106
Alexander Gerner & Michele Guerra
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cinematic apparatus. We give a short overview on a debate on film rooted in the
idea that this relatively new form of art is to some extent rooted in a “neurological
conception of modernity” (Singer 1995) and that its appeal is basically related to
what Georg Simmel would call an intensification of the nervous stimulation
resulting from the swift and uninterrupted change of outer and inner stimuli.
During the first decades of XX century, several physicians start studying movies
because they guess that something physical is happening to a viewer whose mental
and bodily faculties are altered cinematographically. Such a position is basically shared
by the tradition of French filmology – gathered around the “Revue International de
Filmologie” –, by people like Erich Feldmann (1953), who quite clearly talked of a
bilocated mind (cf: Furlanetto et al 2013) during film-watching, describing film
experience like formed by two ellipses, one related to the real world and the other
to the fiction with a small area in between intersection enacted by the viewer still
on his seat in the darkness. Henri Wallon (1953) then linked this discussion to
viewers’ motor behavior and mirror mechanisms.
Finally we will make a first explorative journey into the concept of “Cinematic
experience as a temporally limited immersive self-loss in the other” or inside –the-other-
(body) experience a) suspended in its status nascendi b) a flight interrupted when
the lights are switched on, or c) a morphing that regresses when we “drop out of
the game”.
1. Cinematic experience
According to a consolidate tradition within film studies, film experience challenges
our spatio-temporal cognition and implies an alteration of viewers’ self and body
and thus their embodied self, by using film style and editing to trigger in some cases
something very similar to Out-of-Body-Experiences (OBEs), switching the
spectator’s viewpoint and her emotional and empathetic identification or better: his
or her immersivenes into the film’s body.
With such a term – which has been used both in studies within film phenomenology
and in those within cinematic subjectivity (Sobchack 1992, 2004; Barker 2009;
Chateau 2011) – we refer to the layers of resonance represented by the bodies
depicted on the screen, but also to the gestuality simulated by the complex
experience with the movie itself, that is to the ability of film techniques of conveying a
peculiar form of subjectivity, including the immersiveness of the self of the spectator
in the cinematic experience. Let´s recall editing style that conveys such a form of
cinematic (inter-) subjectivity as proposed by Walter Murch (2001):
According to the American film-editor’s Rules of Six an “ideal” editing style conveys
six criteria at once and in a certain hierarchy of importance: 1) emotional
entanglement with the emotion of the cinematic moment (“51%”) 2) Advancement
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of the story (“22%”) 3) Rhythm (“10%”) occuring at the rhythmically right moment
4) Attentional Eye-Trace (“7%”), acknowledging the audience’s focus of interest at
each moment 5) Planarity (“6%”) of the screen and 6) the three dimensional
continuity of actual space (“4%”) where people are in the room and in relation to
one another.
Interestingly, one could add the suspension of feeling one´s somatic body as one of the
self-evident rules of cinematic experience together with the getting emotionally
entangled within not only the character of the movie but with the whole “body of the film”:
cinematic experience becomes an outcome of a specific embodied technique (Ihde
2002,2010).
If we vary our perspective, we can ask: Could we consider OBE as a cinematic
experience without a screen in which the proper body image would be projected
outside?
Why does perspective matter (Petkova et al 2011)? How do alteration of perspective
introduce change in the 1st Person Perspective (1PP) realized by a) alienation (OBE)
or b) appropriation (avatar identification) (see: Ganesh et al 2011) as well as by the
switch in between 2nd, 1st and 3rd PP in order to better understand (altered) cinematic
self experience: The egocentric reference frame, our orthodox 1PP might be not as
clearly as it seems our principal perspective we can assume. Beccio et al (2011) calls
the First person perspective “egocentric perspective” while imagining another
opposite perspective of our own would be for her a “disembodied perspective
taking”, while a second person actually sitting in front of someone would be an
“embodied perspective taking”. For her, perspective taking needs the presence of
another person to function plainly. However, we suppose that by our image-
consiousness (Husserl 2006) we are enabled to take the embodied perspective of
another embodied person also in his artificial presence on a movie screen (in all its
degrees of embodiment). If we talk here of perspective taking we have to clearify
that we can distinguish at least the following basic forms:
1) Visuospatial perspective taking 2) affective perspective taking 3) kinaesthetic perspective
taking 4) motivational or volitional perspective taking.
All four should seen as joint/ coordinated and sometimes segregated as in altered
self -experience.
Clearly the doubeling of the somatic /virtual self in autoscopic experiences, in which
the virtual body or body image is doubled and the attentional self-location between
the constitutional virtual body image (see: Ihde 2002) and the somatic body schema
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may switch as in OBE, should be considered different from the orthodox film
experience, where a moviegoer sits still in a dark movie theater.
And nonetheless, the viewer’s empathetic relations and social perspective taking
with the other on the screen, that is from a fixed body position to a virtually mobile
one, could lead to something similar to the feeling of displacement of one’s own
body (as in OBE), or transformation of one’s own body (OBT; see Gardner 2013).
Our proposal is connected to what Don Ihde (2002, 2010) designates as “embodied
technics” of cinematic experience: our embodied and mediated experience with and
through contemporary technologies, in our case mainly cinema (a 2D moving
picture in a dark room experience in which our body is quietly sitting on a chair)
and derived new forms of cinematic experience and immersiveness (from frontal,
stereo-sound to sensouround-sound in Apocalypse Now to several screens to being
immersed in a 3D atmosphere).
If we start from the position that our self in its dynamic constitution is actually
mediated by and through our body and the technologies we experience our bodies
though, we can´t favor a position of media-technologies, imaging, digital-
compuational or virtual reality and film being responsible for just “disembodying
ourselves”. Neither could we hold a position that our bodies might be reducible to
machinic bodies in which we can utopically “upload” our minds, but with John
Ihde we can realistically argue that the somatic human experience of embodied
technics is actually embodied or re-embodied in new interactive ways and thus our
self experience is transformed through new somatic externalization and
reinternalization: we become a cinematic self in its technically instilled and mediated loops
of intersbjective and empathetic embodiments- disembodiments and reembodiments.
What if, the lights never turn back on again in the embodied cinema, or if we turn
them on and we were in another place or in another body? Thereby different degrees
of self-loss and its different modes of the suspension/alteration of the self in filmic
(2D, 3D) or virtual reality can be thought of. These ideas are not so far from
contemporary research by Visch, Tan, and Molenaar (2010) on film immersion (2D,
3D, VR), and from Don Ihde’s proposals on embodied techniques (2010), where he
describes the position of the viewer respect to movies and videogames according to
three different typologies: embodied, disembodied, avatar. These proposed triads
of cinematic experience help us in understanding the different possible modes of
the self in altered self-experience and we might include OBEs as a forth mode of the
body-image in the sense of a doubled self.
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2. The of Out of Body (OBE) Experience and the general mechanisms of
perspective and perspective-taking
2.1 OBE´s
Diagram©2013 Alexander Gerner, In: Gerner (fc 2014)
OBE is often described as a breakdown of several necessary aspects of bodily self-
consciousness (see: Brugger et al. 1997; Blanke et al. 2002; Aspell et al 2012, Gerner
fc 2014). Thus Out-of-body experiences challenge and alter our everyday experience
of the spatial unity of self and body and the identity of self and body, whereby the
body is given as the most complex multisensory “object” in the world (Aspell et al
2012).
Out-of-body experiences are conventionally analyzed as “autoscopic phenomena”
that- as Bolognini et al (2012) put it- “refer to complex experiences involving the
illusory reduplication of ones own body”. According to Mohr&Blanke (2005)
autoscopic phenomena (AP) are rare, illusory visual experiences during which the
subject e.g. has the impression of seeing a second own body in extrapersonal space.
AP - in their view- consist in “out-of-body experience, autoscopic hallucination, and
heautoscopy”.
“The main forms of doubles are the visual own-body reduplications: autoscopic
hallucination (AH), heautoscopy (HAS), and out-of-body experience (OBE) as well
This diagram (adopted from: Blanke & Metzinger 2008, 10) shows the dynamics of the
attentional self-location [SL] or point of view in autoscopic experience: Three cases of
direction of the attentional point of view in natural cinematic experience without a screen,
either from the hallucinated body towards the somatic body in Out-of-body experience
(virtual observer perspective) or from the somatic body towards the hallucinated virtual
body (somatic 1P perspective) in Autoscopic hallucination or both ways in Heautoscopy
(switching between somatic 1P perspective and virtual observer perspective). The
somatic and the virtual body in these three cases of observer perspectives always face each
other on the contrary to a “felt presence” from behind (existential feeling perspective of
autoscopy), another form of autoscopic experience
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as the rarer forms including polyopic heautoscopy and inner heautoscopy. These
are referred to here as visual doubles. Other own body reduplications include
feeling of a presence (sensorimotor doubles), hearing of a presence (auditory
doubles), and negative heautoscopy (negative doubles).” (Blanke2 et al 2008, 451)
For Brugger et al (2006) Heautoscopy is the encounter with one’s double (the
reduplication of a single body and self and thus a breakdown of integrative
processes that let me identify with my body or my self), in the sense of a multimodal
illusory reduplication of one’s own body and self. The phenomenon of polyopic
heautoscopy (a multiplication of body and self) according to Brugger et al (2006)
“points to the multiple mappings of the body, whose disintegration may give rise
to the illusory experience of multiple selves.“
Autoscopic phenomena deal with viewpoint changes, illusionary self-
identification, altered or abnormal self-location(s) and changes in the first- person
perspective (cf. Blanke 2012). They can be ideopathic, self induced or induced by
non-invasive technological aid (Blanke & Metzinger 2009) using for instance video
(Lenggenhager et al 2007), virtual reality (Ehrsson 2007) or robotic devices (Ionta
2011), inducing changes in the self-location, self-identification or first person
perspective in healthy subjects; Moreover, recent research has not only described
phenomenologically these strange doubeling, mirrowing or shadowing
phenomena of a “disrupted” self (Mishara 2010) but has shown as well that invasive
manipulation of the brain can even induce a “illusory shadow person” (Arzy et al
2006) by artificial brain stimulation.
Phenomenologically OBEs can be characterized by three elements:
(1) The impression that the self is localized outside one’s body. This can mean a
feeling of disembodiment or the impression of a virtual body phenomon- e.g. a
doubeling phenomenon of the body or an extrasomatic attentional self-location. A
person experiencing an OBE in this sense would be absorbed by the experience of
an (supplementary) allocentric self, besides the somatic self;
(2) The experience of seeing the world from an extracorporeal and elevated or even
lowered first-person perspective, and thus changing and doubling the proper point
of view: what we would generally describe as a dynamics of points of view and
perspectives and their perspective switches. This dynamics in autoscopic and
heteroscopic perspective-taking is of course not at all exclusive to OBEs by asking:
“Could there be spatial situations in which people spontaneously adopt another’s
perspective rather than their own, even when not communicating to other person?”
(Tversky and Hard 2009)
(3) Experience in OBEs are mostly accompanied with the non-unitary notion of the
self as doubeling or splitting of one’s own body image: the impression of seeing one’s
own body from alternated allocentered perspectives in relation to the somatic body.
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OBEs in healthy persons are often related to sleep-paralysis, REM sleep (see Zippel
2014, this volume), lucid dreaming, trance and traumatic experience. Thus OBEs
challenge and alter our “everyday” or expected experience of the spatial and
temporal unity of self and body and the “identity” of global self and body in its
multimodal constitution between senses, attentional self-location, action and
imagination.
Autoscopic experiences in our view question:
1) the coherence of the body as one and only and exclusively mine: the “naturally”
assumed somatic self-“identification” (i.e. the degree(!) to which humans identify
with their own bodies: “What I experience as my body” (Blanke and Metzinger
2009)”
2) the stability and “permanence” (Merleau Ponty) of my self-experience (visual or
proprioceptive feeling or vestibular) in relation to my body and to self-location (i.e.,
the volume in space: “Where I experience to be”)
3) the relation between my experiential point of view of my self and the point of
view of the somatic body: first-person perspective ( i.e. , the directedness of
conscious experience: “From which vantage point I experience the world”)
Autoscopic experiences can help elucidate body ownership3. According to Tsakiris
(2011) body ownership “gives somatosensory signals a special phenomenal quality,
and it is fundamental to self-consciousness: the relation between my body and “me”
differs from both the relation between my body and other people’s bodies and the
relation between external objects and me” (Tsakiri 2011, 181).
We argue that on the one hand we can partly describe autoscopic experiences such
as OBE or heautoscopy as cinematic experiences of a body without a screen. On the
other hand we can observe that the viewer’s film experience in a movie theater
resembles an extended sense of “out-of body” experience that diverges in the sense of
being more of an extended “inside-of-the-other-(body)-experience” What
differences do we feel when the subjective perspective puts us in the situation of
emphatizing with the murderer, someone of another sex etc.? Could we actuallz put
this switch of perspective to test with neuroscientific methods?
What we want to draw attention on by describing film experience as an out-of-body
experience is something detectable as well in an experiment by Slater et al (2009),
which shows strong evidence for the plasticity of the body image. Hereby male
participants in a virtual reality situation even perceived the avatar of a young girl
as their own body (Slater et al 2009). This brings us up to the point that these drifts
of perceptions, imaginations and affects of the perspective spatially and
psychologically are important to be studied by sitations of cinematic experience
including 2D cinema, 3D virtual reality and avatar studies that will help us to
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understand the drifting attribution of a certain body image to me or to another
person or character depending on the perspective we are taking on or shifting away
from. In the analysis of film experience including virtual reality and avatar studies,
nonetheless we have to stay conscious about the fact that such experiences imply
completely different positions of the viewer and this is crucial as we talk of
dynamics of perspective taking, besides attentional self-locations (SL). The very
goal of our proposal is to problematize some relevant aspects of our behavior
during film watching, when we are challenged to move ourselves to a virtual
environment populated by virtual agents with whom we can interact through the
peculiar behavior of the camera.
Why OBEs could be interesting to be treated as cinematic experience in itself and
why OBEs can be called "cinematic experience without a screen"? We need to ask
further: why we not only have a) a sense of self-agency, the “prereflective
experience that I am the one who is causing or generating a movement or action or
thought” (Gallagher 2012) b) a sense of “self-ownership” the pre-reflexive
experience that I am the one who experiences, but also the c) Perspective switches,
the possibility to consciously or mostly prereflectivly switch perspectives in relation
to the body-location and different extension levels of embodiment and its relation
to others: my body, the other body on the screen and the film as body, the general
body of the cinematic experience (that can have interbodily components) and then
come back to our core body self after the screen is dark again and the lights are
switched on.
How can we temporarily identify and lose ourselves/ our feeling of embodiment in
an absorbing or immersive experience and then come back to a self-localisation of
our own core body? These questions bring us to the topic of perspective taking.
2.2 Perspective –Taking
For Thomas Fuchs (2012, 2013) every encounter is based on the capacity to switch
between your own embodied perspective and the perspective of the other and at
the same time to distinguish both perspectives that is to assert yourself in front of
the other. Hereby Fuchs (2013) quotes an interesting point of Blankenburg that we
will take up here: That is, one has to able to integrate the egocentric and the
allocentric perspective without loosing one´s own bodily center permanently.
“Or as Blankenburg 1965 says this to the point: Every taking over of perspective
implies already a potential self-loss that however is suspended in its status
nascendi.” (Fuchs 2012b).
According to Fuchs schizophrenia is best analysed as the alienation of its own body
or as a "disembodiment" (Stanghellini 2004, Fox 2005, Fuchs and Schlimme 2009).
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This refers to the concepts embodied subjectivity (Embodiment), as currently used
in the cognitive sciences (Varela et al. 1991, Gallagher 2005, Thompson 2007, Fuchs
2012c). Disturbances of embodiment may be classied according to Fuchs &
Schlimme in two fundamental categories:“(1) as primarily affecting the subject
body or prereective embodied sense of self; such is the case, for example, in
schizophrenia or depression, or (2) as being more related to the bodyimage or
explicit body awareness. These include, for example, body dysmorphic disorder,
hypochondriasis, somatoform disorders or eating disorders such as anorexia
nervosa” Fuchs & Schlimme 2009, 571, and we could add the second type is
important in cinematic experience.
Schizophrenia thus includes, according to Fuchs & Schlimme the weakening of the
basic sense of self. This means a disruption of implicit bodily functioning and a
disconnection from the intercorporality with others: “As a result of this
disembodiment, the prereective, practical immersion of the self in the world is
lost” (Fuchs & Schlimme 2009). We could call this the natural media immersion of the
bodily self in the world in difference to artificial technologically induced immersion
as by cinematic experience or virtual reality environments. For Fuchs there is a
foundational role of second person interactions for the development of social
perspectives (Fuchs 2012). He argues that embodied second person interactions are
not only an enabling, but also the constitutive condition for the development of an
explicit first and third person perspective. This elevates the possibility of OBE´s and
different kinds of perspectives and perspective taking to fundamental importance
not only in social cognition but as well in the proper idea of a cinematic self and its
technologically mediated existence, one of it foundational part is the switch of
perspective.
Perspective taking is a developed “natural” technology of a lived human body. Perspective
taking can mean the embedded ability to follow the eye gaze of the other and get
empathically entangled and experience the other´s complex perspective ( visual,
empathic-affective, motoric etc.) and in a metaperspective describe the presentation
of a scene, object, event or atmosphere from different situated vantage points in the
world. This ability of perspective and orientation isdeeplz related to the possibility
of switch of perspective and involving the attention to another self or ourself from
another point of view, but does persepctive always imply the feeling of being
grounded in a somatic body?
A) Perspective taking involves the perspective from x such as a situated subjective
either extended spatio- (somato) corporal self location or a virtual or imagined
selflocation as in autoscopic experiences and B) the perspective/ angle towards y,
for instance the objectifying one’s own view of the object, and anticipating that
moving to another situated vantage point. C) These changes of vantage points can
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result in specific changes in presentation of an event, object, scene or atmosphere,
such as a feeling towards someone, one´s own body-image, or self-concept. D) The
differentiation and self/other coordination of viewpoints is an important feature of
multiple perspective-takings as well as E) the constancy/stability/permanancy of
perspectives towards a scene/atmosphere/object event or world during taking on a
perspective and accordingly the point of view of the self. We can as well distinguish
perspective-taking in the following modalities:
a) Spontaneous, involuntary or effordless Perspective-Taking (without volition or
intention of taking on the perspective of oneself, the you or the other), and that is
what Fuchs (2012b) calls implicit 1PP, 2PP or 3PP and we can also call transparent
perspectives for the one taking on the corresponding perspective. For example
spontaneously feeling oneself in someone else´s shoes, but also effordless
attentional switches between the 2nd, 1st and 3rd PP.
b) Non-spontaneous, voluntary, effordfull, self-conscious or explicit (Fuchs 2012b)
perspective taking (1PP, 2PP and 3PP) goes far beyond the feeling of empathy; it
involves for example active effordful figuring out what others feel, perceive and
think. The effordful acquisition of a perspective – as in an actors work on a role) is
based on on many of the brains executive functions. It may require inhibitory
control over our thought and feelings to consider the perspectives of others, and
thus in a metacognitive reflection to consider the possibility of someone else besides
our own thinking, cognitive flexibility to be able to see and interpret a situation in
different ways can be seen.
OBE and other forms of autoscopic experiences are first of all unorthodox forms of
spectatorship and they entail different forms of immersion which have to be
researched on and considered within a dialectic between alienation (of self from
own body, loss of somatic self) and appropriation (of avatar body among other
possibilities), according for instance to Ganesh and colleague’s works on the
human brain and the virtual (2011).
Hereby we can refer to cinematic experiences as immersive stretegies in modulating
and enhancing the possibility of taking on involuntarily and later also reflectively
the perspective of a certain “fictional” point of view of the other.
2.3 OBE, the self and cinematic experience
So far we have been wondering whether it would be possible to compare OBEs to a
sort of cinematic experience without a screen and to detect something similar to
OBEs in traditional cinematic experience, by mainly focusing on the dialectic
between different forms of perspective taking. As we have demonstrated so far,
OBEs could be thought of as a weird form of spectatorship, which implies a
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dissociation of the viewer from her own doubled (visible and somatic) body and the
observation of it from an imaginary location in the extracorporeal space. Alienation
and self-loss are constitutive elements of an experience that we would describe as
an illusory, phantasmagoric and fictious experience. The body is bilocated and we
see our own body from another dimension and position, and although this position
is an illusory one, we experience our illusory second body as our own body and our
real body as an image of it. This is the reason why OBE represents a very particular
type of immersion of the self: the OBEer is immersed in an imaginary space,
perceived within an illusory sensory-motor perspective, responding to very
particular stimuli, which holds as well for cinematic experience in general.
If a non-OBEer should try to imagine an OBE, he or she would inevitably end up to
refer to his or her experiences as spectator, he or she would imagine of occupying
an impossible position, usually above the real body, and they should imagine an
absurd point-of-view moving freely inside their room, and perhaps flying out of the
window, and finally coming back to rejoin the real body. In short, they would
imagine a cinematic experience: the camera is able to place us in unfamiliar
positions, it can provide us an absurd point-of-view, it can wander across our room,
and – as every moviegoer knows – it can make us fly with the means of the film’s
body. Moreover, film editing is able to regulate our attention, to elicit our emotion,
to link very different places and environments in perfect continuity and
transparency, and then – at the end of the movie to allow us to re-enter our somatic
body, we had forgotten about.
At the very beginning of cinema, when film theory was more a physiological matter
than a cultural one, we find several writings in which film experience is described
as an alteration of the human self, or as a loss of self-location and self-identification.
We could recall here many writings from the first years of film history, to emphasize
the sensorial novelty displayed by the movies and to demonstrate how impressive
the new experience was from an affective point of view. Let us quote just two
exemplar passages written in 1896 and 1919 by Maksim Gorki and Urban Gad
respectively. Gorki offers a disturbing description of film experience:
“Cette vie grise et silencieuse finit par vous troubler et vous oppresser, vous avez
l’impression qu’elle contient comme un avertissement, dont la signification vous
échappe, mais qui est lugubre, et étreint votre cœur d’angoisse. Vous oubliez peu à
peu vous êtes, d’étranges images surgissent dans votre tête, votre conscience
semble s’obscurcir, se perturber…” (Gorki 1896).
Gad’s description of film experience is quite surprising and provides elements that
make the comparison with the OBE’s spectatorship even easier: “Les hommes dans
leur grande masse naïve doivent se retrouver dans le film comme dans un miroir –
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un miroir, il est vrai, suspendu en hauteur et qui contraint à lever les yeux.” (Gad
1919).
The alteration of the viewer’s self seems to be implied in these first descriptions of
cinematic experience. On the one hand, Gorki talks of the distress of such an
oppressive experience, emphasizing the alteration and perturbation of the viewer’s
consciousness, while on the other Gad describes the screen as a mirror placed above
the viewer and capable to double her position and to put herself in a totally new
dimension.
At the beginning of 20th century it is a common and widely shared idea that film
experience should have been conceived as an altered state of consciousness,
something between daydreams and a mysterious form of hypnosis. There is a very
telling short story, published in 1907 by the popular Italian writer Edmondo De
Amicis, through which we can perfectly grasp such a feeling about cinema. It is the
story of a middle class Italian man, alone in his house since his wife and daughters
went to theater. He sits on an armchair and thinks of his life. Gradually he starts
having a weird sensation, like one who leaves his own body and floats through the
room, and then along hills, mountains and valleys. Suddenly he thinks of a
newsagent and he sees him quite clearly, and what is more interesting and scaring
he feels the newsagent as a secondary self, having the impression that the
newsagent’s face has overlapped his own. If we should find a term to describe,
nowadays, the experience narrated by De Amicis, maybe we would choose OBE.
Nonetheless, in 1907, De Amicis chose another term: cinema. The title of the story
is “Cinematografo cerebrale” (“cerebral cinema”), in which film experience and the
brain are connected to emphasize the alteration of human cognition at the movies.
Although someone might sell off these judgments as naives and too strongly
connected to a not yet well developed idea of film experience, it is a matter of fact
that the relationship between the movie and the human mind is at the heart of what
is considered to be one of the most insightful book of early film theory: Hugo
Münsterberg’s 1916 The Photoplay: A Psychological Study (2002). This distinguished
Harvard psychologist – who moved from Germany to Massachussets at the end of
XIX century on the invitation of William James – noticed that cinema could not be
understood without referring to the effect it has on our brain-body system. Cinema,
in other words, externalizes our affective-cognitive processes, feelings, emotions,
and even motor behavior, by means of stylistic techniques and innovative narrative
solutions: a flashback would be a kind of externalization/representation of memory,
while a close-up would be the same for attention. Münsterberg’s book, as we can
read it nowadays, would represent the most clear reflection of a common and
shared feelings about modernity as a form of intensification of the nervous
stimulation, resulting from the swift and uninterrupted change of outer and inner
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stimuli, to borrow Georg Simmel’s description of the new metropolis at the very
beginning of XX century. According to scholars like Ben Singer (1995), or more
recently Christof Türcke (2002), film culture would be part of a new form of
modernism based on the hyperstimulus and on a new form of affective interaction,
and it would precisely grounded on a “neurological conception of modernity”, as
Singer calls it, including the distraction from one´s own somatic body. In other words,
there is a new form of self-technique capable of shaping up our imaginary by
affecting our mind and body and by challenging the viewer’s spatio-temporal
cognition in a totally new and impressive manner. Recalling the idea by Daney
about the dialectic between two spaces and two kinds of vision – basically the same
form of dialectic suggested by Feldmann and by two film phenomenologists like
Sobchack and Voss –, we could observe how it is the film style which pursues and
at the same time regulate this spatial negotiation, and how our multilayered and
multimodal film cognition depends on the success of such a negotiation.
To better understand such a story, we should get back to the long neglected season
of film-physiology, that is a period – from the beginning of 20th century to the 1920s
during which many physician start working on film in order to evaluate the
impact of the new medium on the human brain (Guerra 2013) and cognitive make-
up such as the “attentional self” (Gerner upcoming). Both in Europe and in US we
have important studies on this way, like those of the French physician Edouard
Toulouse, who, for instance, was convinced that the impression of reality largely
depended on the viewer’s motor simulation of the events depicted on the screen
some passages in Toulouse’s works seem to anticipate the research on embodied
simulation promoted after the discovery of mirror neurons (Toulouse 2010; Gallese
and Guerra 2012) and its empathy in relation to a film character or a virtual object
(Fuchs 2014).
Among physicans, we could mention the case of the Italian neuropsychiatrist
Giuseppe D’Abundo, who wrote a paper in 1911 entitled “Sopra alcuni particolari
effetti delle projezioni cinematografiche sui nevrotici” (Concerning the effect of film
viewing on neurotic individuals). His idea was that a movie can determine states of
psychic instability in patients like neurotics, hysterics, or paranoids. According to
him, the responsible of this state is not the film plot, but “the rapid and vibratory
movement of the cinematic action” (D’Abundo 1911: 434), which is able to transport
the viewer in another dimension, giving him the impression to be at the same time
here and there. He concludes saying that film projections should be considered
dangerous for many categories of subjects.
To us it is important to rethink such an experimental background, since we know
how crucial it has been for film theories like those proposed by Sergej Eisenstein
(we know today how close to Aleksandr Lurija he was) in the 1920s and 1930s
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think of his idea of film editing as a form of “ek-stasis” – or by Walter Benjamin in
the 1930s. An affective and sensory approach to film experience was also implied
in Antonin Artaud’s few writings on film, where he said that cinema “acts directly
on the grey matter of the brain” (Artaud 1972, 166). It is not by accident if, in the
1950s, the new school of French filmology will restart from here, trying to shape up
a field of research on film where psychology and anthropology would converge.
In 1956, the German philosopher Erich Feldmann wrote a brilliant article on the
“Revue Internationale de Filmologie”, in which he claimed that film experience
basically depends on the viewer’s ability to move from a real environment – that
she occupies in the dark movie theater – to an imaginary dimension – that provided
by the world depicted on the screen –, feeling herself localized outside her body.
Feldmann stresses that such an experience, during film watching, is elicited without
what he calls “modifications psycho-physiologiques”. These are his words: “Le film
réclame du spectateur ce qui semble à première vue impossible : se transporter, sans
l’aide d’excitants, de stupéfiants, ni de modifications psycho-physiologiques
engendrées par la seule projection lumineuse, dans une situation irréelle, tout en
demeurant dans la situation réelle de la salle un être éveillé qui croit à la réalité du
film qui l’absorbe.” (Feldmann 1956, 84). After few lines, he adds that “l’individu
voit surgir dans le cadre de sa vie une combinaison de conditions qui modifient son
attitude habituelle et qui demandent une accomodation.” Feldmann seems to
suggest that this “accomodation” would need a kind of ability that the viewer
should have in order to enjoy the movie. His assumption implies not only a change
of perspective and a doubling of the viewer’s presence-to-a-world, but also an
alteration of the viewer’s consciousness, as if she would need a cinematic
consciousness provided by film techniques to enter the fictitious world of film.
Without entering a debate on what we mean when we talk of cinematic
consciousness (see Morin 2005, who was strongly influenced and inspired by
French filmologists, Pepperell and Punt 2006, McGinn 2005), we could borrow Serge
Daney’s theory (1993) of film viewing and describe it as a form of alternation
between a “vision bloquée” (meaning body centered, situated), and a “vision
liberée” (meaning disembodied, experienced in an extrapersonal space).
We could as well recall some of the theories according to which cinema implies an
alteration of the self based on a doubled spectator capable of living simultaneously
in two different environments- inside a world which is unreal or all too hyperreal.
Such positions are still widely shared if we think of how contemporary film
phenomenology basically oscillates between the idea that the reciprocity between
the viewer and the screen would originate a strange subject to be denominated
“cinesthetic subject” (Sobchack 1992), and the idea that the viewer’s body,
resonating with the events on screen, would loan a three-dimensional body to the
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screen, making the viewer nothing less than a “surrogate body” for the screen (Voss
2011), an idea amplified by the independence view of a doubled self, or artificial
extention of “secondary persons”(Bainbridge 2014).
Also, more recent theories of cinematic subjectivity (Chateau 2011) seem to wonder
how and whether the movie can be endowed with subjectivity, at least a simulated
ot enacted form of intersubjectivity assured by the degree of immersion and self-
loss of the viewer into the movie and its “extended empathy”4 (Fuchs 2014) and
immersion towards the characters represented on the screen (without their real
bodies being present).
For instance seeing Pedro Costa´s film “Juventude em Marcha” for the first time in
the movie theatre in Lisbon and noting a switch/twist or crack in the way of
perceiving while empathetically taking on perspective and feeling inside the shoes
of the main character Ventura getting disoriented in a fragil world of his cultural
survival. The anti-hero Ventura that already lost the one he loved and is disoriented
in the cleanness of social housing that have windows and doors that close but don´t
let the common life or the community occur, shows what could be formulated with
Peter Handke as the loss of the open image, or as we could call it the whitening out
of the image as a bleeching out a stain and belonging to a life world: The loss of an
image of the world ("Der Bildverlust" Handke 2002) is as well a self loss of existential
feeling of belonging to a fundamental self-world-image at the time of its loss. In the
movie Colossal Youth [original: Juventude em Marcha] (2006) of Pedro Costa
something of a life (Ventura) and culture (capverdian) is milled. This empathetic
world-image that is installed in the viewer is proposed to open up the viewer´s self
in the sense of an “existential feeling of being” (Ratcliffe 2008). Ventura becomes
you and me, we are affected by him and become part of the film´s body: we become
the one that lost a friend a woman, a life a home a culture, or simply a human
belonging to this world. The film of Pedro Costa describes a bleaching of the image
that simultaneously opens and makes the viewer empathetically belong to film’s
body, a property of pain, a memory, a march against the loss of an image and a
body that holds, resists, that is valid. The film starts with the emptying of the
interieur of a house by defenestration, a concrete (and political) act of ejectment of
an old furniture (an interior- or a former self is defenestrated, through a window frame
that never had a window in the first place, a place without the protection against
the cold, but as well a place of social possibility of permanent openings for instance
if there is need to call someone for help from the street or for company and the one
who is called answering right away. In the film Ventura is obliged to accept social
housing, all white walls and double windows, which is shown as the opposite as to
the inicial fenestration of old furniture. The loss of viscerally felt entanglement with
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the living by institutionalized, whitened and cleaned atmospheres that are aseptic
and disorienting living spaces in which the doors close on their own and the
window are double and soundproof, that no life sign can be detected by a call of a
friend from the street: what this movie shows is a double autoscopic self-closure, a
losing myself immersively in the character Ventura and the body of Collosal Youth,
and the expression of a cultural self-loss in the narrative of the movie: a double
cinematic OBE experience.
Let us therefore explore the concept of “Cinematic experience as a temporally limited
immersive self-loss in the other”. What could be the reason why players prefer to see
their own avatar character entirely from an overview perspective from above (OBE
perspective) and not from within a direct and absorbing 1st PP? How can we relate
this back to the cinematic experience as a proto-OBE? For this we have to have a
look at immersive experience.
3. Immersive experience
It seems phenomenologically more correct to not simply equal OBEs with Avatar
experience- as technologic self- extension of self concept in which a distance
towards the technical virtual double can be reinstalled at any given moment.
However, we have to ask the following question in relation to immersive
experience: Can we be distracted from our somatic body and immersed into a fictional or
cinematic body- the body I feel and am affected by as long as the cinematic experience lasts?
Let’s start to tackle this question by looking back on a phenomenological account of
the basic bodily self: The basic bodily self before having a referable 1st PP or any
kind of self-knowledge or self-concept in relation to contents or objects is
characterized by a (pre-predicative) bodily affective self feeling, of an immediate
pre-reflective self-presence. The question is if this self-feeling is already attributed
to my somatic body and if this is always a conscious, or in the sense of Thomas
Fuchs, explicit 1PP?
The self in this first ipseity or immanent account of radical self-affection, can also
be described as an existential feeling of being (Ratcliffe 2008) –a self, an worldly
awareness of being that is not already an object, an emotion or a mere disposition
of something or itself. I feel through bodily appearing and by being affected, but this
constant floating feeling of being makes me myself. This does not – however- mean that
“I” feel exceptionally from a pure 1st PP and always consciously a “what”, that is
“my body”. This in turn means my body through which I feel and am by what I am
somatically and physicologically affected with is already part of something else
than me- an internal other- and thus is experienced in different ways, that is in
Altered Self-Experiencs. Ratcliffe5 defines existential feeling therefore as a relational
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bodily awareness in which the body is a seen as a kind of a natural medium of this
existential feeling “through which” something is experienced.
Therefore Irene Mittelberg (2013), when referring to bodily movements as gestures
calls these already natural media of an “exbodied mind”. How strong the bond
towards this natural medium the bodily self- is can be the degree of natural
immersedness inside our bodies. This feeling of being affected for Fuchs is inherent
in all conscious processes and thus is able to be differentiated into a a) primarily
bodily self b) an ecological self and c) a social self. All of these are seen under the concept
of ipsiety or the experience of self-affection. How can we see now the immersivenes
inside our body being altered by cinematic experience and its different technically
produced modes by film style and editing and the atmosphere of the cinema
theatre?
For a short while we start by the feeling of absorption by the cinematic dark room,
leaving the conscious nexus with our somatic body by being affected by entering
this cinema world. In this darkness your senses go to the light, your body is fixed
on a seat, your bodily self is still, stillness as if being in a temporary tank of sensory
deprevation, in which your gaze is channeled by image sound and rhythm as film
editing and film style: your gaze onto the screen, and reducing the complexity about
the self awareness “about” your own body by the immersion with other bodies.
From the start of cinematic experience people wanted to see bodies like ours moving
in space, people, animals running leaving the factory, the first kiss in film -“that´s
how people leave the factory, that’s how people kiss”, “that’s how people walk”,
and that´s how people escape from the train coming towards us”, the scientific
instinct of seeing, and feeling and running with the others on the screen as a
necessity to see ourselves (as explored in the thought provoking Elias Canetti’s
theatre play “The comedy of vanity” (Canetti 1981) in which the only reason for a
revolution is the sensory deprivation of seeing ourselves in other people, thus the people
loosing themselves by not seeing themselves in the others, in their own double image
of a self-other; we still want to see ourselves autoscopically in arts in the movies in a
TV showbut also to immerse our body within the other– as we have a technique of
social perspective taking and joint intentionality (Tomasello 2014): or let´s better
say: we constitutionally need to see ourselves in order for me to be able to form,
maintain or alter myself. We could call this the natural media immersion of the bodily
self in the other. This natural immersiveness of the body can be technologically
enhanced and become an artificial technologically induced immersion by external
media, both natural and artificial imersiveness are part of cinematic experiences
that alter the experience of self.
For Fuchs (2012, 2012b) there is a foundational role of second person interactions
for the development of these immersions in the other that he calls social
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perspectives. He argues that embodied second person interactions are not only an
enabling, but also the constitutive condition for the development of an explicit first
and third person perspective. Maybe cinematic experience can give us back a basic
–almost childlike- belief in the world as if for the first time looking at the other;
cinematic experience then would be another form of reembodied self experience
with the other that is me on the screen: that is what Deleuze talks about in his
cinema books.
When we see a bad movie, we “drop out” of the state of immersion, or bounce back
to our seat and feel the uncomfortable position our body is squeezesd in, we start
moving on our seat, or we look at details that are unimportant – in bad theatre we
start noticing the lighting equipement- we let our attention stray in the image
instead of being immersed and transported, entertained or even transformed.
Instead of loosing our self we loose track of the narrative the plot, the character the
situation, the film´s body, and we start thinking about something else, ruminating.
The cinematic guidance of a psychogenic flight stops or crashes we are on land of
our own reality instead of being in the air and out and away with the film.
The cinematic phenomenon of immersion into a new cinematic body has similarity
to the technically induced »body swap illusion« (Petkova/Ehrson 2008), in which
manipulation of the visual perspective and correlated multisensory information
(passive tactile information) from another person’s body is sufficient to create the
illusion of inhabiting a non-somatic body by means of a continous match between
visual and somatosensory information about the state or location of the new
humanoid body and the adoption of a 1PP moving the person´s perceived center of
awareness from the somatic body to another artificial body.
We can describe immersion as a voluntarily induced bodily or embodied somatic
self-loss experience in the other – on the contrary to involuntary or pathologic self
absorption. This is exactly what aesthetic cinematic experience, in the large sense,
seems about: “a new method to move a person’s perceived centre of awareness from
one body to another”. We become part of the body of the movie, we are carried
along by hands of narrative and the face of empathy and rhythm of editing style
and all the characters affects, performatively presenting us with our actually
unfolded complexity, in which by taking on the perspective of the other. We
discover new knowledge about us and the world by the unfolding of the characters
on the screen that become my other self, the story relates to my life, myself and
other s around me: in a cinematic experience the you – I-here relation: the somatic
body, the body of the characters and the film s body, as well as the narrative, mingle
into a complex technically induced and experiementally felt cinematic self and with
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the next illusionary continuity shot we don t cut out parts of our body or our
position in space or change our point of view etc., but we might drift or switch into
the film, by shortening the loops between the filmic double of my body and the
body that is the cinematic experience of the film. As Becchio et al put it:
“perspective-taking entails an altercentric remapping of space, i.e. remapping of
objects and locations coded with reference to the other person’s body“ (Becchio et
al 2011).
But: can we become a cinematic self who’s self-location can be temporarily be shifted out of
its body? The notion of a cinematic -self and its possible mode OBE looking back on
us, is still to be discovered: the screen becoming my virtual body, then looking back
onto myself, might be described as a “proto” heautoscopy in cinematic experience.
The magic latern lights up on the skin of my body- still a metaphoric way of
speaking- but, maybe in the future, this might change and become reality.
Experiences as the bodyswapping art/gender project of “The Machine of Being
another” hints into this direction by the direct swap of female/male bodies and the
looking back onto my body from the viewpoint outside of myself. To avoid nausea
the gender pairs are asked to choreograph their movements while looking onto
themselves from another outside body of the other.
screenshots (p/w) from: http://www.themachinetobeanother.org/?p=1062
Getting lost, drawn into or involved in a plot, a narrative, a character a feature of a
body or even a full body, our filmic-somatic loop becomes alive. Does being dragged
into a movie or being absorbed by a virtual cinematic experience mean that I loose myself?
The lights would never turn back on again exactly the same way as time passes in
Through the use of Oculus Rift headsets, and first-person cameras, the Gender Swap
experiment creates a visual-perceptive enhancement that partner A can see what is being
recorded by the visor worn by partner B, and vice versa. A technically mediated cinematic
Out-of-Body Experience created by Barcelona-based artists BeAnotherLab, in which both
are asked to coordinate their body movements.
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the screening room, or in my visual field. What if this temporary self-loss experience
in an extreme situation would never stop? Blankenburg describes the self-loss in
the other in the case of schizophrenia, and that we are always in general already in
a state of self-loss by being with the other- and we can add by being in the movie
with each other- however: we can suspend this self-loss in the other by going out of
the movie or taking off the VR googles, a fact that schizophrenia patients in their
condition can’t, they are stuck to their episodic hallucination for the time being. We
usually can suspend this self-loss in its status nascendi and reassure that my somatic
body is mine and your somatic body is yours. What if our imaginative flight does
not land in the same place again? A question has to be answered: Is our bodily self
the same/ identical after having had a cinematic experience?
Two other fundamental questions arise at the very beginning of this work in
progress:
1) How can we provide empirical data in order to test the plausibility of these proposals with
respect to theories of the self and film phenomenology, and technically enhanced cinematic
experience and virtual immersion?
2) Would this approach be the right one in order to disentangle the complex articulation of
the embodied, disembodied, and re-embodied relation to cinema and, more generally, visual
media in an immersed cinematic self?
1 Research of Alexander Gerner is supported by a FCT Post-Doc grant: SFRH/BPD/90360/2012
2 According to Blanke et al (2008) we can distinguish several forms of autoscopic phenomena
or illusiory doubles of a bodily self, visual, auditory the sensomotor. He also includes
negative heautoscopy, the impossibility to see onself when looked up directly in the mirrow
(see: Menninger-Lerchenthal, 1935) also called negative doubles, but we will not include
these phenomena in this paper.
3 Bolognini et al (2011) report the third long-lasting case of autoscopy in a patient with right
occipital lesion in their study “Spatial perspective and Coordinate Systems in autoscopy. A
Case Report of a “Fantome de Profil” in Occipital Brain Damage”. Instead of the commonly
reported frontal mirror view (fantome spéculaire), the patient saw her head and upper trunk
laterally in side view (fantome de profil). The autoscopic image changes in relation to
movement of the body. While the body is still just the perfile of the face and the upper trunck
are visible, in arm movements also the arm gets visible and in full movement (walking) all
correspective body parts get visible in the autoscopic image. This is important for the fact
that autoscopy may come in degree and thus we should as well consider immersive degrees
of embodiment in one´s own or another body.
4 Empathy towards the “virtual other in Fuchs account is seen as capturednotions of (1)
phantomization as a media-based simulation of direct reality which undermines the as-if-
consciousness, and (2) disembodied communication which shifts the modes of empathy towards the
fictional pole at the risk of merely projecting one’s own feelings onto the other.”(Fuchs 2014)
Endnotes
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5 “I argue that most, if not all, bodily feelings are relational- they are seldom, if ever, directed
exclusively at the body. Indeed, there are “bodily feelings” that do not involve the body as
an object of experience at all. Instead the body manifests itself as that through which
something else is experienced.”(Ratcliffe 2012, 38)
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In this paper I take attention as a constitutive ground of the self. I crit- ically survey the claim of Metzinger that a subjective self, defined as the centre of awareness, is the possibility of being able to manipulate the focus of attention, thereby stabilizing subjective experience. Thus I propose an attentional self in which I will put Metzinger’s thesis of the “control of the focus of attention” and the resulting notion of the “atten- tional self ” critically into perspective by approximating the concept of the self by means of conceptual personae of the “impossible” attention- al self in Paul Valery’s dyadic conceptual personae “Monsieur Teste”/ “Émilie Teste” and the “heautoscopic” attentional self in Italo Calvino’s “Mister Palomar”.
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In an age of growing virtual communication the question arises what role the human capacity of empathy plays in virtual relations. May empathy be detached from the immediate, embodied contact with others and be transferred to such relations? In order to answer this question, the paper distinguishes between (1) primary, intercorporeal empathy and (2) extended empathy which is based on the imaginative representation of the other, and (3) fictional empathy which is directed to imagined or completely fictitious persons. The latter is characterized by an 'as-if-consciousness' that maintains the difference between fiction and reality despite the empathy that one feels for the fictitious person. Based on these analyses, the paper further investigates the impact of the growing virtualization in postmodern culture. This is captured by the notions of (1) phantomization as a media-based simulation of direct reality which undermines the as-if-consciousness, and (2) disembodied communication which shifts the modes of empathy towards the fictional pole at the risk of merely projecting one's own feelings onto the other. In sum, human empathy is not bound to immediate intercorporeal contact, but becomes a crucial medium of virtual relations as well, albeit at the risk of projecting fictional emotions.
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Previous research provides evidence for a dissociable embodied route to spatial perspective-taking that is under strategic control. The present experiment investigated further the influence of strategy on spatial perspective-taking by assessing whether participants may also elect to employ a separable "disembodied" route loading on inhibitory control mechanisms. Participants (N = 92) undertook both the "own body transformation" (OBT) perspective-taking task, requiring speeded spatial judgments made from the perspective of an observed figure, and a control task measuring ability to inhibit spatially compatible responses in the absence of a figure. Perspective-taking performance was found to be related to performance on the response inhibition control task, in that participants who tended to take longer to adopt a new perspective also tended to show a greater elevation in response times when inhibiting spatially compatible responses. This relationship was restricted to those participants reporting that they adopted the perspective of another by reversing left and right whenever confronted with a front-view figure; it was absent in those participants who reported perspective-taking by mentally transforming their spatial orientation to align with that of the figure. Combined with previously published results, these findings complete a double dissociation between embodied and disembodied routes to spatial perspective-taking, implying that spatial perspective-taking is subject to modulation by strategy, and suggesting that embodied routes to perspective-taking may place minimal demands on domain general executive functions.
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In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content: Introduction At a critical juncture in the history of film theory, about twenty years ago, the two main concerns of film theory were positioning and processing. Feminist film theory and semio-psychoanalytic approaches were interested in how the film positioned the spectator and defined her subjectivity. Meanwhile, arguing against the idea of a passively constructed spectator, cognitivist film theory conceived of the spectator in terms of information processing: the film offered a matrix of information, a series of cues, which the spectator processed in an exercise of mostly pleasurable problem solving. For all the turbulent sexual desire reflected on in feminist and psychoanalytic film theory, and for all the joy and peace of mind that emanates from duly processed chunks of information, both approaches were, in a way, intensely cerebral, wary or sometimes even distrustful of the corporeal aspects of the film experience in the case of feminist film theory, and mostly oblivious to any possibility of an embodied version of information processing in the case of cognitive film theory. Since then, however, and mostly because of the impact of philosophy on film theory, the body has re-entered the frame and become a key focus of film theory. To cite two particularly influential examples, the work of Vivian Sobchack and Raymond Bellour may illustrate this point. Drawing on the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and arguing explicitly against the body-skepticism of feminist and psychoanalytic film theory, Sobchack argued in her 1992 book The Address of the Eye, and again in Carnal Thoughts from 2004, not only that we should think of the spectator as an embodied being but that the film itself has a body—that is, that there is a corporeal dimension to the aesthetics of the film that transcends, even though it interacts with, the individual body of the spectator.1 Meanwhile, starting from within the scope of psychoanalytic film theory and inspired by Gilles Deleuze and his thinking of the film in terms of image and affect, and more particularly in terms of how affect traverses and transforms the subject, Bellour has developed seminal elements of a theory of the cinematic body, or rather of the film-as-body, over the past twenty years. “Le film est un corps de mémoire” (the film is a body of memory) is the opening line of one of Bellour’s most recent books, a brief study of “Menschen am Sonntag.” In just a few words this line sums up an argument about body, memory, and spectatorship which Bellour develops more fully in the more than six hundred pages of his 2009 book Le corps du cinema, focusing in particular on the film experience as a state of quasi-hypnosis and on aesthetic emotions on a presemantic, somatic level. As different as their approaches and philosophical references may be—Sobchack, for instance, argues from within a phenomenological framework and develops her theoretical argument at a level of media theory, whereas Bellour, much like André Bazin before him, comes to theory from the engagement with specific works—both Sobchack and Bellour converge on the idea of the film’s body, or the film-as-body, which goes beyond any psychologically grounded attention to the tactile and other somatic aspects of film viewing as an individual and individually attributable experience. We chose to present the following essay by Christiane Voss to the readership of Cinema Journal not least because her work marks a notable contribution to the field of thinking about the corporeal dimensions of film delineated by the work of such authors as Sobchack and Bellour. Writing in German and coming from a philosophical background—her previous work was on the philosophy of emotions, with a particular focus on contributions from analytic philosophy—Voss picks up a thread from Sobchack’s argument about the corporeal dimensions of the film experience and combines it with a philosophical argument about illusion as a key element of aesthetic experience. Reviving a Kantian approach to illusion which posits it as a complex mode of cognition rather than a defect of human understanding with possibly deleterious consequences, Voss argues that cinema is an “illusion-forming medium” and that cinematic illusion emerges from the spectator...
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Cinema is a sensuous object, but in our presence it becomes also a sensing, sensual, sense-making subject. Thus argues Vivian Sobchack as she challenges basic assumptions of current film theory that reduce film to an object of vision and the spectator to a victim of a deterministic cinematic apparatus. Maintaining that these premises ignore the material and cultural-historical situations of both the spectator and the film, the author proposes that the cinematic experience depends on two "viewers" viewing: the spectator and the film, each existing as both subject and object of vision. Drawing on existential and semiotic phenomenology, and particularly on the work of Merleau-Ponty, Sobchack shows how the film experience provides empirical insight into the reversible, dialectical and signifying nature of that embodied vision we each live daily as both "mine" and "another's". In this attempt to account for cinematic intelligibility and signification, the author explores the possibility of human choice and expressive freedom within the bounds of history and culture.