Intimacy Beyond the Physical: What do Paul Sermon’s intimate virtual environments reveal about participatory interaction and shared emotional experiences?
This research study examines participatory interaction and emotional experiences in virtual environments through analysis of three of Paul Sermon’s artworks. The participatory interaction in the virtual environments of Telematic Dreaming (1992), GloNet Front Room (2010) and A Body of Water (1999) are analysed through a review of documentary video footage and still images. To aid the analysis, supporting literature and personal statements of participants are used to draw conclusions around emotional exchanges in the virtual space. The focus of this study lies on analysis of the virtual space as a facilitator for intimate meetings between virtual bodies and on examination of the relationship between the physical and virtual space. This study concludes that as the virtual space is experienced through the gaze, it explores a distilled version of human interaction grounded in body language. Therefore, the interaction is centred around improvisation and co-creation, leading to intimacy through a mutual exchange of trust and vulnerability. The virtual space lends itself to intimate meetings between participants, as the participants do not have to be physically vulnerable when interacting. Interaction in the virtual space is informed by the power structures that exist in the physical space, as participants bring their experiences from the physical space with them into the virtual space. However, the virtual space has the potential to operate outside of those power structures when communication is centred less around identity, and more around collaboration.