002 – fusion – The Limits of Virtuality

September, 2013

The Limits of Virtuality and Troublesome Knowledge

A threshold concept can be considered as akin to a portal, opening up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something. It represents a transformed way of understanding, or interpreting, or viewing something without which the learner cannot progress. As a consequence of comprehending a threshold concept there may thus be a transformed internal view of subject matter, subject landscape, or even world view. This transformation may be sudden or it may be protracted over a considerable period of time, with the transition to understanding proving troublesome. Such a transformed view or landscape may represent how people ‘think’ in a particular discipline (or more generally).

(J. Meyer and R. Land (2003) Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge (1) – Linkages to ways of thinking and practising. Occasional Report, ETL Project 4 May 2003.)

The notion of ‘threshold concept’ is a good way of getting to what the editors of fusion describe as critical fusion and connects some core ideas of this journal—liminality, hybridisation(s) and trouble (in general). This issue of fusion sought contributions that explored matters at the limits of digital representation, or issues of cross-media representation, or the virtual practice of representation in research. The editors asked how far can we go in trying to compete with fusions across the virtual and/or real? What, in practice, does the representation of one communicative mode in another, virtual, mode mean (in some way)? And what are we doing when we say we are doing hybridity? The six contributions in this issue have each fashioned an answer to these issues and questions in their articles.

In All Things Are Curves: notes on the intersecting lives of Jean Baudrillard and Paul Virilio the lives of these friends and philosophical heavyweights are surveyed listing extensive recent and often contradictory information, scholarship and revelations by and about the two authors. As such, what Steve Redhead reveals is that the relationship between these two makes a valuable contribution to the notion of fission (that they disagree) as a form of fusion (that they agree about what they disagree about).

New medical procedures are explored in the article Angiogenetic Body Adornment. Essentially a commentary on developments in tissue engineering over the last 20 years, Norman Cherry examines how these evolving medical technologies have been hybridised and applied to different uses beyond traditional medical bounds—in particular body modification and adornment—and he speculates on the social, cultural, political and ethical implications of these developments.

In their article The Media Trade in Virtual Design the authors, Giovanni Innella and Paul Rodgers, investigate the effect on the activity called design from having changed from the production of objects dependent on media to exist, to an activity dependent on media production to exist. While not exactly cross media representation, the argument here is that digital media has transferred the representation of design from an object to the media itself.

In “No bos olib” – On the gynocentrism and sparkly separatism of the Barbie movies Emma A. Jane presents a case for hybridising some enduring histories and theories by virtue of different values visible in Barbie’s virtual presence in her many animated films. While conversant with the field and respectful of a significant body of prior critique, the article confidently contests some of the received wisdom (and possibly clichés) with a playful analysis wrapped in domestic incidents, fusing scholarship with anecdote, thereby diffusing some of the contentious critique. This article presents an important case for how the emergence of a new and different communication mode might signal a need to review how we have read previous communication modes. The methodology mixes a critique of conventional close-reading with some at-home ethnography to create a convincing case for using different communication modes to revise the meaning behind a product—often classified as a stereotype. This is an example of a style that blurs boundaries using a hybrid research method to create a very viable argument in a discipline that is strongly contested/defended.

Tying together a complex set of ideas from often disparate sources, Blood, Urine, Ochre and Sap: living with the saving power explores the sparking of the brain’s cortex and our growing dependency on a new, almost prosthetic, device casing us in a new outer layer—the screen. Bruce Fell suggests that what we see and how we understand is synthesised by the screen into sentimental (mis)representations of the world-as-found. He argues that there is a long history to this process. The article traverses a vast period of time and fuses an array of disciplinary perspectives. It provides an encouraging model for communication studies locating perception and comprehension in evolutionary terms and renewing the dimensions of the overused demand for synthesis in research.

In Practice within a practice within a practice: digital inclusions in theatre performance and the shifting frame of mise en abyme, Kay Nankervis reveals herself as an intrusive and recursive presence enabled by digital media. A player within her own play, she shows how the integration of digital products into theatre production has significant, dramatic effect. She argues that this changes and extends theatre as an art form in which the boundaries between fiction and reality are becoming increasingly blurred.

Issue 2 of fusion includes our first reviews in a non-peer-reviewed section with Scot Cotterell’s review of the exhibitionMix Tape 1980s: Appropriation, Subculture, Critical Style at the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia, 2013. Plus a review of Hidden Innovation: Policy, Industry and the Creative Sector written by Stuart Cunningham and reviewed by Tracey Callinan. With the addition of this section it is also a good opportunity to invite proposals for reviews of books, cultural artefacts, exhibitions, etc from readers.

The editors,

Craig Bremner & Rohan Nicol & Brian Winston

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