This talk tracks the emergence of virtual reality during the “VR boom” of the early 1990s, exploring how the cultural understanding of VR transformed as it crossed the Pacific and was taken up in Japan. Japan's embrace of VR shifted it away from both its early military contexts and American-style techno-utopianism, reimagining the technology instead as a more personal medium for accessing imaginary worlds. Through an exploration of this alternative VR trajectory, this presentation provides a missing but vital context for understanding the global VR revival of recent years.
About the Presenter
Paul Roquet is Associate Professor of Media Studies and Japan Studies at MIT. He studies the use of media as personal technologies of perceptual and emotional self-regulation. Ambient Media: Japanese Atmospheres of Self (Minnesota, 2016) explores how music, video, art, film, and literature came to be used as tools of individual atmospheric mood control, theorizing what it means to treat media as a sensory resource for self-care. His forthcoming book, The Immersive Enclosure: Virtual Reality in Japan (Columbia, 2022) critically rethinks the cultural politics of consumer VR as a project to perceptually center individuals within a privatized virtual space. All of Roquet’s work engages closely with Japanese materials and social contexts, drawing on the country’s history with media technologies to offer new perspectives for a global media studies.
About the Harvard Discovery Series
Formerly known as The Digital Futures Discovery Series, the Harvard Discovery Series is a collaboration between Cabot Science Library and the Harvard University Digital Scholarship Group (DSSG). This event series brings scholars on the frontiers of digital knowledge-making to a Harvard audience in an intimate and interactive setting.