Providing a solid media-philosophical groundwork, Beyond Mimesis contributes to the theory of mimesis and alterity in performance philosophy while serving to stimulate and inspire future inquiries where studies in media and art intersect with philosophy. It collects a wide range of philosophical and artistic thinkers' work to develop an exacting framework with clear movement beyond mimesis in aesthetic experiences in uncanny valleys. Together, the chapters ask if intersubjective acts of relating that are defined by alterity, responsivity or witness and trust can be transferred to artificial beings without remainder.
The proposed framework uses a particularly fruitful theoretical model for this inquiry known as the “uncanny valley”—a fictitious schema developed in 1970 by Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori. According to Mori, artificial beings or animated dolls become more eerie to us the more “humanlike” they appear. The model’s utility requires distinguishing between visual media and real life, but in general, it suggests that there is a fundamental incommensurability between people and artificial beings that cannot be ignored. This necessitates that all-too realistic representations as well as fictional encounters with artificial beings do not transgress certain limits. According to Mori, it is an ethical imperative of their design that they evidence a certain degree of dissimilarity with people. This notion seems especially applicable to artistic projects in which animated dolls or robots make explicit their “doll-ness” or “robot-ness” and thus inscribe a moment of reflexivity into the relations they establish.
With contributions by Elena Dorfman, Jörg Sternagel, Dieter Mersch, Allison de Fren, Nadja Ben Khelifa, James Tobias, Grant Palmer, Stephan Günzel, Nicole Kuʻuleinapuananiolikoʻawapuhimelemeleolani Furtado, Misha Choudhry and a conversation between Carolin Bebek, Simon Makhali, and Anna Suchard.
Jörg Sternagel is a scholar in media studies with a focus on media philosophy at the Universities of Konstanz and Passau.
James Tobias is associate professor in the Department of English at the University of California, Riverside.
Dieter Mersch is Professor Emeritus for philosophical aesthetics at Zürcher Hochschule der Künste.
1. Making Photography after Still Lovers, Elena Dorfman
2. Pathos of the Actor, Jörg Sternagel
3. Mathematical Imagery and the Aesthetic of Radical Amimetic, Dieter Mersch
4. Dances With Dolls: The Uncanny as Pas de Deux, Allison de Fren
5. Race, Nation, and the Uncanny as Mythical "Character of Expression", Nadja Ben Khelifa
6. Pornotroping the Machine: Medial Agency, Following-Gesture, and the Cultic Artifice of ‘Technological Nature’, James Tobias
7. Stay at Home: Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Casual Gaming, and Catachrestic Media Practices during the COVID-19 Pandemic, Grant Palmer
8. In the Uncanny Valley of Augmented Reality, Stephan Günzel
9. Carving Identities in Cyberspace: Indigenous Virtual Reality, Nicole Kuʻuleinapuananiolikoʻawapuhimelemeleolani Furtado
10. Translating Structures of Surveillance into Technologies of Care: Counter-cognitive Assemblages, Misha Choudhry
11. Artificial vs. Artistic Intelligence–A Trialogue on the (Re-)Storation of Behaviour and its Deviations, Caroline Bebek, Simon Makhali, Anna Suchard
About the Authors
As we are increasingly confronted with artificial agents that seem human-like, the uncanny valley question becomes more urgent. Should machines show their machine-ness, thus avoiding the problems with anthropomorphization, or should they cross borders? Focusing on dolls and robots that appear human-like and engaging with empirical psychology, Beyond Mimesis explores a number of interesting questions in this area. As a substantial contribution to the field of performance philosophy, the book guides us to modes of becoming and experimentation that are not only interesting for aesthetics but also for thinking about technology. It pushes us into a terrain in which paths are not given, a space for philosophers and dancers–and, why not, robots.
This volume’s exploration of the uncanny valley underscores the asymmetry that underlies relations among humans and robots. Robots may look like humans, but they are ontologically different. The relational affair among humans and sex dolls, for example, might look like sex relationships between humans and humans, but it isn’t. To respect this alterity is an ethical demand that this book is calling for. “Care must be taken not to erase this difference,” seems to be its Ariadne’s thread. This is precisely the reason I welcome Beyond Mimesis as a much-needed book in the context of performance philosophy and artistic research.
Beyond Mimesis explores the charged, incandescent space in which fundamental questions of intersubjectivity, humanism, and theatre in its wider sense cross on the site that we call ‘artificial beings’. Working through a dazzling array of readings that combine media and film theory with performance and philosophy, this collection of essays offers a significant interdisciplinary account of what separates us, or not, from robots, machines and their technologies. The book confronts us with the invading question of what it means to share life with what may increasingly become fellow machine-like creatures.
Taking Masahiro Mori’s notion of the uncanny as its point of departure, this book brings together the works of various philosophical and artistic thinkers to explore the aesthetics of the artificially human and the uncanny in highly original and thought-provoking ways. Expanding beyond traditional Western paradigms, the book challenges established notions of mimesis and the subjective associated with aesthetic experience and throws new light on the limitations and biases inherent in our understanding of artificial beings and artificial minds. While the writers do not shy away from delving deep into a field of tension and ambivalence, they also show how performative modes of action in digital society can be transformative rather than dispossessive. Grounded in a strong ethical commitment, the essays raise important questions about how our experiences with human-like technologies may impact our ability to relate to each other through openness, responsiveness, and trust. Beyond Mimesis is bold, sensitive and timely, and will inspire rich explorations at the intersections of media, art, and philosophy in the years to come.