Shape Shifter – workshop
31 July 2016

The White Building
Sun 31 Jul, 10am - 6pm
£15, please book here

‘I dreamed I was a butterfly, flitting around in the sky; then I awoke. Now I wonder: Am I a man who dreamed of being a butterfly, or am I a butterfly dreaming that I am a man?’ - Zhuangzi

A one day workshop exploring the potential of embodiment and metamorphosis within virtual reality.

Inspired by SDNA’s ‘Creature’ project and virtual human research by BespokeVR, the day will consist of a series of co-inquiries where participants will use virtual reality as a tool to investigate the potential of embodiment by inhabiting human and non-human avatars.

Is it possible to embody and ‘own’ an imagined avatar through a mediated access point? How is technological progress changing our ability to connect and empathise with other beings? These are two of the questions we will exploring.

Throughout history, humans have imagined fantastical creatures such as kraken, dragons, satyrs and mermaids. Virtual reality allows us to teleport into the bodies of these creatures and control their behaviour. Under the right conditions, the mind will recalibrate its body schema to create the illusion that it actually ‘owns’ its new body. Jaron Lanier coined the wonderful phrase ‘humuncular flexibility’ to describe this mental shapeshifting that allows us to acclimatise to a new body.

We invite participants to explore the implications of humuncular flexibility through a series of co-enquiries that encompass:

  • Designing a fantastical creature
  • Inhabiting a human and a non-human avatar
  • Body-ownership-transfer experiments

We hope participants will pause and reflect upon the ethics of metamorphosis in virtual reality, before they return to the collective sprint towards our post-human futures.

Creature designs
Video and audio recording to document the workshop

Research questions
- What techniques can we use to create the illusion of embodiment within a virtual body?
- What drives humans to imagine and create fantastical creatures?
- Are there hereditary artefacts buried in our DNA that motivate our desire to shapeshift?

Co-inquiry sessions for: creature design and body transfer in VR followed by an open discussion about the history and implications of shape drawing.