Theory and Suggested Readings
These are the texts that I consider important for my own art practice, whether in video, installation, or in Virtual and Augmented Reality, and which I often recommend in my teaching.
Some of them are articles I have written based on explorations in my own works; others are formative texts for me from many different fields. What they have in common is an interest in dramatic structure in time and a concern with spatial experience, and how these can be used to create emotional impact and engagement while conveying cultural, historic or political content.
My search for creating dramatic structure in abstract videos in the late 1980s led me to look at how music can provoke emotional responses in us without concrete references to "real" objects, characters, story narratives etc. This work stood me in good stead when I started working with interactive virtual reality, in which the narrative is of necessity user-driven and lacks the linear beginning-climax-ending format of classical drama theory.
I have left out reviews and essays that are on my work but might not directly describe issues related to this body of theory. They can all be found in my CV under Publications and Reviews.
Videos of selected interviews and talks
General but very important background readings:
- Wertheim, Margaret. Pearly Gates of Cyberspace: A History of Space from Dante to the Internet, 1999.
Written shortly after the explosion of the Web in the mid 1990s, Margaret Wertheim's still extraordinarily relevant book places the concept of Cyberspace/the Web/virtual reality in the West's cultural history context of Dante's conception of the Christian universe, and describes how Cyberspace and the Metaverse fulfill the metaphysical longing for an infinite realm of the imagination.
Thiel, Tamiko. "A General Theory of Dramatic Structure for Interactive 3D Environments."
Unpublished lecture slides, 2011.
This lecture references several of the books below, and puts them in context of my search for a way to create dramatic structure in abstract or non-linear narratives.
- Laurel, Brenda. Computers as Theater, 1993. (Excerpt)
A classic, the first book to describe interaction with computers using language of drama theory.
- Meyer, Leonard B. Emotion and Meaning in Music, 1956. (Excerpt)
A most marvelous account of how music provokes emotional responses with abstract content.
- Thiel, Philip. People: Paths and Purposes, 1996. (Excerpt)
My father's Magnum Opus, the basis for much of my thinking on dramatic structure in VR. Excerpt covers anatomy of space, and concepts for sequential spaces.
- Hayden, Dolores. "The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History," MIT Press, 1995.
"... perspectives on gender, race, and ethnicity to broaden the practice of public history and public art ... and reorient the writing of urban history to spatial struggles."
- Lippard, Lucy. "The Lure of the Local: senses of place in a multicentered society," New Press, NY, 1997.
THE classic on site-specific public and land art.
Digital art, virtual and augmented reality survey books:
- Naimark, Michael. "VR/AR Fundamentals I - VI," 2018.
A series of 6 lectures that are deep, to the point and still accessible to non-engineers, developed as visiting faculty at NYU Shanghai in 2018. Michael Naimark is a producer, inventor, artist and scholar in the fields of VR and new media art. As an actual art and tech practitioner, his writings are much more accurate and predictive of the future than the cultural theorists who don't have to back up their wild imaginings with actual working new media experiences. READ THIS.
- Manovich, Lev. The Language of New Media, 2001.
A general text that puts "new" and digital media in historic context.
- Paul, Christiane. Digital Art, Thames and Hudson World of Art. London. Third edition, 2015.
A good survey of all forms of digital art, including VR and AR.
- Lieser, Wolf. The World of Digital Art, Ullman/Tandem Verlag, Koenigswinter, Germany, 2010.
See also Art Pocket Digital Art, both available in multiple languages.
A good survey of all forms of digital art, including VR (but too early for AR).
- Lanfranco Aceti, Richard Rinehart, Ozden Sahin, Editors. Not Here Not There, Parts 1 & Part 2.
Leonardo Electronic Almanac, Volume 19, 2013. The first comprehensive survey of AR art.
- Morey,Sean and Tinnell, John, Ed. Augmented Reality: Innovative Perspectives across Art, Industry, and Academia, Parlor Press, Anderson, SC, USA, 2017.
NOTE: While the book is very good, much of the material is from before 2012 and will seem a bit dated for its 2017 publication date.
Augmented Reality - theory:
- Wright, Rewa. “From the Bleeding Edge of the Network: Augmented Reality and the 'software assemblage,'" academia.edu.
An eye-opening essay relating AR to Deleuze and Guattari's concepts of assemblage.
- Thiel, Tamiko and Pappenheimer, Will. "Assemblage and Décollage in Virtual Public Space," NMC|Media-N Journal of the New Media Caucus, CAA Conference Edition, Summer 2016.
Our response to Rewa Wright's essays on our work!
- Thiel, Tamiko. "Cyber-Animism and Augmented Dreams," Leonardo Electronic Almanac (LEA), 2011.
My vision for augmented reality as embodied Magic Realism.
Thiel, Tamiko. "Critical Interventions into Canonical Spaces,” (download my final draft as pdf) Chapter 2 of the book Augmented Reality Art, ed. Vladimir Geroimenko. Springer Verlag, Heidelberg, Germany.
A description of the AR interventions I led into the 2011 Venice Biennial and Istanbul Biennial.
Virtual Reality - theory:
- Thiel, Tamiko. "Beyond Manzanar: Constructing Meaning in Interactive
Virtual Reality," COSIGN 2001 Conference Proceedings, Amsterdam, Holland, 2001.
My first essay on how I conceive of dramatic structure in an interactive virtual world (in reference to Beyond Manzanar, 2000, with Zara Houshmand).
- Thiel, Tamiko. "Where Stones Can Speak: Dramatic Encounters in Interactive 3D Virtual Reality," chapter in the book Third Person: Authoring and Exploring Vast Narratives, ed. Pat Harrigan & Noah Wadrup-Fruin, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, USA.
Issues of dramatic structure developed a bit further, referencing Beyond Manzanar and the much more hyper-linked structure of The Travels of Mariko Horo.
- Smith, Matthew Wilson. The Total Work of Art: From Bayreuth to Cyberspace, Routledge, New York,
2007. pp 180-186.(see
pdf excerpt on Beyond Manzanar)
Stanford Theater Studies Professor Matthew Smith's book puts virtual reality in the context of Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk, and the concept of immersive theatrical experience.
- See also under General Readings above: Wertheim, Margaret. "Pearly Gates of Cyberspace."