An Interview with Simon Penny: Techno-Utopianism, Embodied Interaction and the Aesthetics of Behavior


  • Jihoon Felix Kim
  • Kristen Galvin


In your writing you have criticized immersive Vr technologies for their dream of detachment from human flesh and their rhetoric of command and control. Do you think your critical assessment is relevant to today’s media artworks and communication technologies based on Vr?

The 1990s was the formative decade for interactive art and digital culture, and throughout I critiqued both the technology and the rhetoric around the technology. Many theorists were expounding Utopian ideas of convergence, social harmony, world peace, spiritual redemption or collective intelligence. This worried me because while the technology was ostensibly new, the rhetoric was just another chapter in 200 years of techno-utopianism. Theodore Roszak quotes a poem about the steam train from the 1830s, “steel and her handmaid steam will make utopia only half a dream” and will “”¦bring peace on every line.” If you change key words to “Internet” and “Computer” it sounds like the rhetoric of the 1990s.(”¦)