Ingenic and Exgenic Media

Towards an ultimate display

Virtual reality is not a particularly new technology, and certainly is not a new idea. In 1935 Stanley Weinbaum wrote the short story “Pygmalion’s Spectacles”. It is the earliest known short story to describe a scientific gadget that when worn on the face would transported the viewer to another place. Weibaum’s imagined headset was capable of conveying “story, sight, sound, smell, taste — all”.

Sutherland’s Sword of Damocles.

Aiming for the octopus

The central metaphor of the 21st century is the internet, the network. The internet metaphor has propagated though our language like a virus. Spam, branch, stream, are all words which previously were simple nouns and are now verbs in the context of the internet. Cloud, mining, crash, leak, bit, freeze, web, and bug were everyday terms turned computer-speak — mechanomorphized. Vice versa, language from internet-speak has made its way into everyday language: algorithm, bandwidth, and data.

The act of embodiment reveals something special — a naked mind. A naked mind is apparently unmediated.
  • Creating ingenically means content is generating in the same medium it will be consumed in.
  • Tiktok videos made on TikTok
  • Improv theater
  • Installation art
  • Movies on airplanes
  • Online shopping

The effects of ingenic media

Ingenic and exgenic are two different frameworks which are biased towards two different sets of effects. Ingenic results in the effects of flow, self-elimination, and an re-alienation. Exgenic results in an effect of the import/export ethos. It’s important to understand the properties (i.e. biases) of these frameworks in order to understand how one can use it for augmentation rather than automation.


In the 1970s the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi described a particular state of mind he called “flow”. In the book Flow he defines the term: “I developed a theory of optimal experience based on the concept of flow — a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter.”

  1. Knowing how to do it
  2. Freedom from distractions
  3. Clear and immediate feedback
  4. High perceived challenges and high perceived skills

Self Elimination

The consequence of flow is that it is myopic. While flowing you enter the reality distortion field of the activity. Distanced objectivity is lost when you are in the thick of it.

Yogis perform in a mall in Toronto, Canada during COVID-19 quarantine.


In 2019 Jak Wilmot livestreamed himself living a week in VR. He ate with the headset on and didn’t take it off to sleep or to go to the restroom. When he showered he kept his eyes closed. He watched old black-and-white movies, played Skyrim, hung out with other people in VRChat, traversed the Savana, and drove a virtual bus for eight hours from Tucson to Vegas. He lived ingenically, to say the least.

The effects of exgenic media

In the ocean of exgenic media, moments of ingenic media are the white caps formed along the edges of waves being blown the other way. Ingenic is rare today but the wind is picking up. Today it’s important to trace the effects of exgenic culture, as rooted in the culture of the internet, so as to see how it contrasts with the future effects of ingenic media.

A media singularity

Marshall McLuhan sees an end point to the amount we can extend our bodies. He describes it as a “final phase of the extension of man [sic] — the technological simulation of consciousness”. Here he suggests that taken to infinity, there will be a convergence of technology in a “final phase”. That phase is one last extension of the deepest sense in a body, the most integral and mythical of what makes a person a person: the unknown thing of consciousness. What would a technology that extends our consciousness look like?



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