PhD-Project: Anti | Immersion. Eine kritisch-diskursive Annäherung an die ‚all-inclusiveness“ medialer Erfahrungsbegriffe (AT) [translation: Anti | Immersion. A critical-discursive approach to the 'all-inclusiveness' of medial concepts of experience.]
Supervision: Prof. Dr. Lisa Gotto (University of Vienna, Austria), Prof. Dr. Julian Hanich (University of Groningen, Netherlands)
Considering the contemporary enthusiasm for the so-called “immersive” possibilities of media experience, in which the immediate contact between medium and user seems almost indispensable, the potential of an opposing process has been pushed into the background: the factor of distancing, disruption, distraction – or even: the (theoretical and political relevant) possibility of refusing these experiences. Under the title ‚Anti | Immersion‘, this work proposes a new approach to the almost omnipotentially-loaded concept of immersion, which attaches the politically motivated question of the simultaneous creation of distance to the proximity-generating process of immersion.
I assume that both the notion of anti-immersion and that of immersion do always co-act as internalized and highly polarizing beliefs about media effects on users: They polarize in terms of the simultaneous possibilities that media offer and in terms of the fears that circulate about the efficacy of media per se; and they polarize as it is always both notions of anti-immersion and immersion that coexist in our thinking and talking about media effects (but have never been scientifically taken serious). The project therefore proposes a method of analysis that always seeks out "immersion" in its specific discursive situatednesses, asking, e.g.,: who actually talks about the fact that a media experience "is" immersive, why, when, where, and in relation to what or whom? Does a medium not always appear immersive only dependent on the dispositions of the users or the media dispositif, and especially: because it depends on which concepts of ‘aesthetics’ we use? Speaking about immersion, then, is always grounded within basic ideas about how media should (or should not) work. The fact that both anti-immersion and immersion function as diagnostic terms for relationships between users and media (and between users themselves) is revealed in my project by drawing on very different viewer experiences in very different media situations.
The projects conducts three case studies: One case study re-examines early published film experiences of users of early German film/cinema (1907-1912) and shows, for example, how strongly even the used words were developed via immersion experiences (and depicted immersion experiences), from which some still contribute to legislation in dealing with media today (as ‘suggestibility’), as well as the texts contain implicit racism, ageism, sexism and classism. Another case study analyzes what it can mean to refuse "the medium" or "the media experience", especially when a reassurance of one's own identity in the face of the medium emerges from the refusal. A third case study traces beliefs about media effects in so-called "social media immersions" in feminist Belarusian video activism on TikTok, where immersion and anti-immersion are appropriated not only as mechanisms of algorithms, but also as aesthetic forms of design and user-engagement processes or public formation processes.
My study thus moves the ontological discussions of "cinematic" or "media" experiences as "art experiences" in the direction of taking serious the long-standing coexistence of aesthetic experiences with everyday life experiences - while at the same time acknowledging the specific framedness (frame) that media entail in terms of how they appear to us as "real" and "not real" at the same time. For the critique of previous conceptualizations of immersion, this means, on the one hand, to question supposedly self-explanatory notions of speaking about media experiences. But it also means – and this is where the central gain of the work lies – to take individual and always situated media experiences seriously as politically informed. This opposes the often proclaimed idea of immersion as universal, instead showing how immersion as concept and term has co-created spaces of discrimination, law, and power ever since people have started to think about the impact of media.