Toward the Tactile Vision: Probing the Phenomenology of Video-Ludic Environment

Auteur / Author: 
Paolo GRANATA (Université de Bologne, Italie)
Mardi 23 Août 2011 - 15:15


By explicitly hinting at Merleau-Ponty’s sentence of 1964 “La vision est palpation par le regard” (Le visible et l’invisible), in this paper I try to understand if it is possible to develop a discourse on the situation of contemporary visual culture that echoes the one proposed by the French philosopher. The following arguments try to prove that it is indeed possible by referring to the latest generation of videogames that marks the triumph of the tactile nature of the image (the tactile vision), representing an evolution of the screen-centred culture.

In 1893, the Austrian art historian Alois Riegl (Stilfragen.Grundlegungen zu einer Geschichte der Ornamentik) theorized the birth of an empathetic and relational dimension expressed by the definition of haptic vision or space — from the Greek word hapto, “touching”, as opposed to the traditional optical vision —, wherein the vision is allowed an additional tactile power and therefore operates on a contact surface that is highly interactive, exploratory, immersive and synaesthetic. In 1969 Marshall McLuhan explained “We are back in acoustic space” (Counterblast), for whom the acoustic realm had a particularly tactile, corporeal value capable of directly touching the skin and even reach the nerve-endings. The same argumentative line has been chosen by the two French philosophers Deleuze and Guattari in 1980 (Mille plateaux. Capitalisme et schizophrénie), who insisted on the distinction between close-touching-vision and disembodied-distance-vision.

Well, in this paper I probe the evolution from the idea of visual landscape to that of sound-tactile-corporeal environment. In particular, videogame as expressive form of contemporary imagery reflects the eye’s prehensile function building a multi-sensorial environment. The tactile vision in fact absorbs, integrates and overcomes the ludic dimension of videogames, offering a hybrid surface that needs to be completed, touched, interacted with, that seduces us at the sensorial rather than cognitive level.

Finally, I will show how the sensorial component — visual, sound, tactile — of the often underestimated field of videogames is connected to the super-sensory, or cognitive, realm of ideas, thought, culture tout court, within the delicate and continuing process of constitution of contemporary man’s Weltanschauung.