Immersive computer generated environments are becoming the focus of much attention and speculation. The range of form and content although quite broad and interesting is still rather clunky. From cartoon like VRML avatars to Quick Time VR photography to naturalistic metaphors such as the one produced by Char Davies there's a lot of focus around form. It seems that what a viewer/interfacer gains from engaging in an immersive environment is not even considered. There are exceptions of course. These tend to be in the realm of flight simulation and medical applications. Of course Hollywood and the Disney entertainment monster see immersion as the next step to theme parks and blockbuster movies.

Immersion in an environment has been around for a long time. It seems to be a natural function of human art, architecture and symbolic development. 30,000 years ago the cave painters created immersive environments. Imagine crawling one hundred feet into the ground to get to one of the chambers where the caverns opened up to a large expanse of painted glyphs. The artists who painted the glyphs knew what they were doing was important. It had to be preserved, encapsulated. This was a jump in consciousness to symbol making and representation. There is speculation as to the meaning and use of the caverns, something on the order of a religious chamber or a ritual environment. Maybe, but what is evident is what is most simple. This was an area removed from the daily occupations of life. It was made to be preserved, and one was immersed in an experiential/ symbolic environment. I personally feel that all of the sociological and religious speculation surrounding early cave paintings obscures these simple facts.

From our Western capitalist 20th century perspective we always search for a practical use, a commodity of some sort. In terms of immersion we invariably resort to entertainment, or games or training lessons. But what if the caves were teaching centers or places where humans learned to think abstractly through symbols? Do we need to muddy this concept by alluding to a religious ritual?