Murray Smith’s Film, Art, and the Third Culture makes a significant contribution to cognitive film theory and philosophical aesthetics, expanding the conceptual tools of film analysis to include perspectives from neuroscience and evolutionary psychology. Smith probes assumptions about how cinema affects spectators by examining aspects of experience and neurophysiological responses that are unavailable to conscious, systematic reflection. This article interrogates Smith’s account of emotion, empathy, and imagination in cinematic representation and film spectatorship, placing his work in dialogue with other recent interventions in the fields of cinema studies and embodied cognition. Smith’s contribution to understanding the role of emotion in screen studies is vital, and when read in conjunction with recent publications by Carl Plantinga and Mark Johnson on ethical engagement and the moral imagination, this new work constitutes a notable advance in film theory.
Between Movies and Mind, Affective Neuroscience, and the Philosophy of Film
Malin Wahlberg, Documentary Time: Film and Phenomenology; Jennifer Barker, The Tactile Eye: Touch and the Cinematic Experience; Julian Hanich, Cinematic Emotion in Horror Films and Thrillers: The Aesthetic Paradox of Pleasurable Fear
Malin Wahlberg, Documentary Time: Film and Phenomenology (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2008), xvii + 170 pp., $22.50 (paperback).
Jennifer Barker, The Tactile Eye: Touch and the Cinematic Experience (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), xii + 196 pp., $24.95 (paperback).
Julian Hanich, Cinematic Emotion in Horror Films and Thrillers: The Aesthetic Paradox of Pleasurable Fear (New York and London: Routledge, 2010), xi + 301 pp., $118 (cloth).
Embodiment Technologies in Science/Fiction
The screen is the material and imaginative interface where biology meets technology. It is the nexus between science and fiction, where technological and ethical concerns surrounding synthespians, representations of replicants, and manifestations of synthetic biology come into play. This analysis of digital imaging and cinematic imagining of virtual actors and synthetic humans in films such as Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, 2017) examines the ethical implications of digital embodiment technologies and cybernetics. I argue that it is necessary to bring together science and the arts to advance understandings of embodiment and technology. In doing so, I explore commonalities between ethical concerns about technobiological bodies in cultural and scientific discourse and developments such as the creation of virtual humans and “deepfake” digital doubles in screen media.
In conversation with Carl Plantinga’s persuasive account of emotion and the ethics of engagement in Screen Stories, this article considers how audiences engage with film and television in an emotive, evaluative manner that is mediated by technology. Because sensory experience and immersive technologies set screen media apart from forms of storytelling such as literature and because technological developments affect the formal strategies of screen media, I argue that the distinctiveness of and differences between film and television warrant attention. I focus on the ethical implications of sustained engagement with immersive narratives and technologies in contemporary television and algorithmic culture.