Submitted to the Deparment of Media Studies at SOAS University
for the MA degree of Global Digital Cultures.


There has been a long interest in using digital imaging technologies to see, illustrate and imagine the body and understand how it is experienced by the human subject. Many artists have foun inspiration in the practices of visualising the body through medical technology as a tool for an intimate exploitation of the body’s interior landscape. The incorporation of images produced by these technologies, such as X-rays and endoscopes, into artworks raises the question of the role the medical gaze plays in our culture and challenges the ways in which it constructs and deconstructs our relationship to our body and its representations.

This research looks at the way in which artistic practices challenge the assumption that digital technologies are purely instrumental. This is done through analysing Mona Hatoum’s artistic installation Corps Étrange and considering how the artist challenges the colonisation of the body’s interior by the medical gaze. I argue that the artist questions the gaze through allowing the viewer not to see it but to experience it and feel it. Drawing on theories of embodiment and the history of imaging technologies, the paper suggests that an interaction between a body and an immersive medium remains meaningless until it is accessed through one’s physiological sensory organs. It suggests that the human body is a critical component of the operational logic of technology. Therefore, the role of the body as an assemblage of flesh, practices, material objects and spatial location open to constant reconfiguration is vividly played out.

There is an increase in the number and variety of advanced forms of immersive virtual technology that can create the illusion for the participant that she is not only experiencing an event in a digitally constructed environment, but also have the sensation of being physically there. Examples include Oculus, CAVE and VIRTSIM. In response, a number of artists and academics became interested in the potential of immersive virtual reality technology (IVR) of engulfing users in experiences that engage their senses and thoughts while influencing their perceptions and actions. In this paper, I try to identity the main principles of immersive virtual experiences that have the ability to make users feel immaterial and embodied at once through analysing Char Davis’ virtual art installation Osmose.

Osmose, is an example of an immersive virtual environment that provides the participant with an experience unbound by her earthy references or cultural boundaries. The paper attempts to understand the effective principles of immersive virtual experiences through two main angles. The first demonstrates some examples that show that there has been a long interest in experimenting with visual mediums to engage the observer with the medium. The second describes Osmose and its main features. Emphasis is placed on the digital project’s interface, visual representation and the interaction mechanism.


This paper attempts to explore the role of media and architecture in positioning Dubai as a global city while catalysing social, economic and cultural change. It draws on the work of Guy Debord and his concept of the “society of the spectacle” to examine; a) the city’s consumer culture presented in the development of shopping malls and shopping festivals; b) the developing and staging of the Dubai Expo 2020: a global media event aimed at harnessing the power of connection for collective progress; c) the government’s effort in transforming the city from a fishing village into a metropolis.

The paper discusses a number of key themes. The first briefly demonstrates how Dubai’s urban development and image construction emerged. This section highlights that Dubai’s image-making was centralised on its landscape and architecture in the aim of attracting global flows and gaining global recognition. Consequently, Dubai’s rapid urbanisation and identity building efforts attracted criticism by scholars, such as Ali (2010) and Davis (2007) who perceive the city as an overnight sensation rather than an urban reality, and Botz-Bornstein (2012) who describes Dubai’s identity as “not yet there”. Some of the consequences of the high reliance on iconic architecture and visual stimulation for constructing the urban landscape of the city of Dubai is preventing people from differentiating the real from the imagined. One can say that this creates an anaesthetic effect that tricks the mind and the body.  The second, reads Dubai Expo 2020 as a performance and argues that the aesthetics, design and naming of the different pavilions is an attempt to dispel the stereotype of Dubai’s “newness” and “lack of significant history”. I argue that the phantasmagoric collective experience that will fuse the expo’s spectacle at night, through the photovoltaic structure overlaying the site, is seen as an effort of making spectators experience Dubai’s future fantasies. 

*Full papers are available upon request.