We got together online last Thursday with colleagues at IcebergIQ for a holiday party. Natalia Stroika and Indigo Esmonde joined us, too, as MCs and game designers. Natalia and Indigo guided us out of Zoom to another platform, Gather, where we played games. After the games, we stayed in Gather platform and shared, i.e., synchronized, a meal in the spirit of holidays. Since I had dinner plans later, I had snack — yogurt, mixed with banana slices and granola.
A few words on Gather. In Gather, each person has an avatar which can move freely and interact with other people or objects when they are in close proximity. You cannot hear or see people who are distant from you in the virtual space. That means space is implemented more fully (more extensively!) in Gather, which made me realize the lack of space in Zoom. Yes, there are video panels in Zoom and the panels are arranged in space, but you cannot move in Zoom. You cannot create distance, and so you cannot create proximity. In other words, you cannot act or play with/in space. The lack of space in Zoom–which might be perceived as a strength, because you can reach everyone in the meeting at once–focuses attention exclusively on speech and images. By contrast, in Gather there is space for movement. If the group is divided into parts, gathered in different locations, you can choose to join one group and later join a second group. By enabling you do more things in space, Gather allows you more ways of organizing your time, as well.
What makes virtual reality feel more real isn’t always extra features and capabilities, but extra limitations. In a social gathering that takes place in the physical reality, I cannot be in all locations at the same time–that is a limit. Experiencing a similar limit in a virtual environment helps to experience the environment as more similar to real life.
After the holiday party, I went out for dinner with two friends and we spent the rest of the evening together. When I am with these friends, I remember why I returned to Toronto. My heart remembers. It is not a matter of being closer to something, but being in a different place where I experience the visceral sensation of being with friends (I feel similarly after our Sunday morning sessions with another group, even though that is an online event with participants from different countries).
When we walked out of the restaurant on Thursday evening, the space felt open and the world felt full of possibility. I noticed travelers coming out of Union station with big pieces of luggage, I noticed a seemingly unending line of taxi drivers and two people giving away chocolate and wishing passersby a happy holiday. Breathing feels easier in a friendly space. Walking is easier. You don’t just move, you play with space. Expand. Focus. Expand again. Turn. Connect. Etc. Etc.
Later in the night, since I couldn’t fall asleep, I continued reading Sebastian Gardner’s book on Critique of Pure Reason. Chapter 4 (“The Sensible Conditions of Objects”) summarizes Kant’s various arguments for why space is not itself a thing we experience, but something that enables experience of objects. In Kantian terms, space is a form of intuition. It is our way of having access to the presence of an object. Similar statements apply to time. To use a very loose analogy, we could say the relationship between things and space is similar to the relationship between thoughts and (the space of) concepts. The form of a thought is determined by the concepts we use to reach the thought, as the form of an object is found within space. When we think about a concept (by using another concept?), or when we perceive space, we are not thinking about a thing (and, if we are, we are not thinking about what we believe we are thinking about). I wonder how Kant thought about architecture and design.
I am much more interested in the consequences of Kant’s treatment of space and time than the arguments that support it. We’ve been exploring some of those consequences in relation to Jung. I can also see the impact of studying Kant on understanding Husserl and Heidegger. To explore the framework, and its consequences, more it is necessary to spend time with it, to allow it to form the space of thought. A Kant reading group wouldn’t be a bad idea, although it would demand more from the participants, than the typical reading group. For my part, a Kant reading group will have to replace (take the place of) an existing reading group.