Acknowledgments: The author would like to thank Chuck Kleinhans, Susan Seizer, and Naoki Yamamoto for their valuable feedback on this article. An earlier version was presented at the Undoing Health: States of Body and Mind Conference at Indiana University, where it also benefited from questions and comments from the audience.  

1. Like this quotation, all of the following quotations without citations come directly from Immersion, directed by Harun Farocki, 2009, two-channel video installation/digital file, 20 minutes. [return to text]

2. Bertolt Brecht, “Against Georg Lukács” (first published in 1967), Aesthetics and Politics, essay translated by Stuart Hood (1977; London: Verso, 1980), 68-85, 82.

3. “Albert ‘Skip’ Rizzo,” USC Institute for Creative Technologies, 2016,

4. Corey Mead, War Play: Video Games and the Future of Armed Conflict (New York; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013), 136.

5. Ibid., 137.

6. Ibid., 138.

7. Skip Rizzo quoted in Mead, 138.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid., 139.

10. Jarrell Pair, “‘Virtual Vietnam’ PTSD Therapy System (1997-1998),” Jarrell Pair, n.d., http://www.jarrellpair.com/virtual-vietnam-ptsd-therapy-system/.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.

13. Larry Gordon, “Virtual Iraq could help Iraq veterans,” Baltimore Sun, Feb. 11, 2007, http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2007-02-11/news/0702110038_1_virtual-reality-iraq-post-traumatic-stress-disorder/

14. Greg M. Reger, Kevin M. Holloway, Colette Candy, Barbara O. Rothbaum, JoAnn Difede, Albert A. Rizzo, and Gregory A. Gahm, “Effectiveness of Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for Active Duty Soldiers in a Military Mental Health Clinic,” Journal of Traumatic Stress 24.1 (2011): 93-96. Notably, the three people who appear onscreen most prominently in Immersion (Skip Rizzo, Kevin Holloway, and Barbara Rothbaum) were all involved in this study.

15. For discussions of other clinical studies, see Albert Rizzo, Arno Hartholt, Mario Grimani, Andrew Leeds, and Matt Liewer, “Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for Combat-Related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder,” Computer 47.7 (2014): 31-37.

16. Robert L. Hanafin, “Virtual Iraq/Afghanistan and how it is helping some Troops and Vets with PTSD,” Veterans Today, July 29, 2010, http://www.veteranstoday.com/2010/07/29/virtual-iraqafghanistan

17. “Bravemind: Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy,” Institute of Creative Technologies, 2016, http://ict.usc.edu/prototypes/pts/

18. Joram ten Brink and Joshua Oppenheimer, “Introduction,” Killer Images: Documentary Film, Memory and the Performance of Violence, edited by Joram ten Brink and Joshua Oppenheimer (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), 1-11, 5.

19. Harun Farocki, “Making the World Superfluous: An Interview with Harun Farocki,” interview with Thomas Elsaesser, in Harun Farocki: Working on the Sight-Lines, edited by Thomas Elsaesser (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2004), 11-40, 16.

20. Thomas Elsaesser, “Harun Farocki: Filmmaker, Artist, Media Theorist” in Harun Farocki: Working on the Sight-Lines, 177-189, 180.

21. Nora Alter, “The Political Im/perceptible: Farocki’s Images of the World and the Inscription of War” in Harun Farocki: Working on the Sight-Lines, 211-234, 212-3.

22. “Harun Farocki: Images of War (at a Distance), June 29, 2011-January 2, 2012,” Museum of Modern Art, 2011, http://moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/1179

23. “Harun Farocki: Featured Works,” Greene Naftali, n.d., http://www.greenenaftaligallery.com/artists/harun-farocki - 9

24. For further discussion of Farocki’s cinematic corpus, see the November 2014 special issue of e-flux, http://www.e-flux.com/issues/59-november-2014/

25. Sue Halpern, “Virtual Iraq,” The New Yorker, 2008, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/05/19/virtual-iraq
[return to page 2]

26. Mead, 134.

27. Marisa Brandt, “War, Trauma, and Technologies of the Self: The Making of Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy,” University of California, San Diego dissertation, 2013, 13, unpublished digital file and Mead, 135.

28. Brandt, 13, 39 and Mead, 135.

29. Laura U. Marks, The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses (Raleigh, NC: Duke University Press, 2000), 130.

30. Robert N. McLay, At War With PTSD: Battling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012), 167.

31. Halpern.

32. Vivian Sobchack, The Address of the Eye: A Phenomenology of Film Experience (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992), 11.

33. Roger Hallas, “Sound, Image and the Corporeal Implication of Witnessing in Derek Jarman’s Blue” in The Image and the Witness, edited by Frances Guerin and Roger Hallas (London: Wallflower Press, 2009), 37-51, 39.

34. Epidemiology Program Post-Deployment Health Group - Department of Veteran Affairs, “Report on VA Facility Specific Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), and Operation New Dawn (OND) Veterans Coded with Potential PTSD – Revised,” 2012, 8,
http://www.publichealth.va.gov/ docs/epidemiology/

35. Janet Kemp and Robert Bossarte, “Suicide Data Report – 2012,” U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Mental Health Services, 2012, http://www.va.gov/opa/docs/Suicide-Data-Report-2012-final.pdf/

36. Richard A. Oppel, Jr. and Abby Goodnough, “Doctor Shortage Is Cited in Delays at VA Hospitals,” New York Times, May 29, 2014,

37. Halpern.

38. Harun Farocki, “Anaesthetising the Image: Immersion,” interview with Kodwo Eshun, Killer Images: Documentary Film, Memory and the Performance of Violence, 67-79, 71.

39. Angela M. Carter, “Re/Imagining PTSD: Toward a Cripistemology of Trauma,” Indiana University, Undoing Health: States of Body and Mind Conference presentation, Mar. 28, 2014.

40. Ibid.

41. These studies include Orla T. Muldoon and Ciara Downes, “Social identification and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in post-conflict Northern Ireland,” British Journal of Psychiatry 191 (2007): 146-149 and Stephani L. Hatch and Bruce P. Dohrenwend, “Distribution of traumatic and other stressful life events by race/ethnicity, gender, SES and age,” American Journal of Community Psychology 40.3-4 (2007): 313-332.

42. A Sun With No Shadow, directed by Harun Farocki, 2009, two-channel video installation/digital file, 20 minutes.

43. Jean Baudrillard, Simulation and Simulacra, translated by Sheila Faria Glaser (1981; Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1994), 12-13.

44. Ibid., 79.

45. Baudrillard, The Gulf War Did Not Take Place, 30.

46. One such vocal critic is Christopher Norris in Uncritical Theory: Postmodernism, Intellectuals, and the Gulf War (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1992).

47. Baudrillard, The Gulf War Did Not Take Place,36.

48. Alexander Alberro, “Farocki: A Frame for the No Longer Visible: Thomas Elsaesser in Conversation with Alexander Alberro,” interview with Thomas Elsaesser, e-flux 59, Nov. 2014,

49. John Grierson, “First Principles of Documentary” (1932) in Grierson on Documentary, edited by Forsythe Hardy (London: Faber & Faber, 1966), 145-156, 147. [return to page 3]

50. Bill Nichols, Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1991), 160, 162.

51. Jill Godmilow, “Kill the Documentary as We Know it,” Journal of Film and Video 54.2-3 (2002): 3-10, 7.

52. Harun Farocki and Trevor Paglen, “Visibility Machines: A Conversation with Harun Farocki and Trevor Paglen,” National Gallery of Art, Nov. 4, 2014, http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/audio-video/audio/ faroki-paglen.html.

53. Ibid.

54. Ibid.

55. Calvin Fagan, “Documenting Virtual War,” InMedia 4, 2013, http://inmedia.revues.org/733/

56. Christopher Pavsek, “Harun Farocki’s Images of the World,” Rouge 12, 2008, http://www.rouge.com.au/12/farocki.html

57. Ken Johnson, “Unfiltered Images, Turning Perceptions Upside Down,” New York Times, Aug. 26, 2011,

58. Brecht, 72.

59. Ibid., 68.

60. Ibid., 82.

61. Ibid.

62. Ibid., 83.

63. Farocki refers to Immersion as Brechtian in both “Visibility Machines: A Conversation with Harun Farocki and Trevor Paglen” and “Anaesthetising the Image: Immersion,” 72.

64. Farocki and Paglen.

65. For Zimbardo’s take on the Stanford prison experiment, see Philip Zimbardo, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil (New York: Random House, 2007).

66. Gregory L. White and Philip Zimbardo, “The Chilling Effects of Surveillance: Deindividuation and Reactance,” Office of Naval Research, 1975.

67. James Risen, “American Psychological Association Bolstered C.I.A. Torture Program, Report Says,” New York Times, Apr. 30, 2015,

68. “USC Institute of Creative Technologies” home page, Institute of Creative Technologies, n.d., http://ict.usc.edu/

69. W.J. Hennigan, “Computer simulation is a growing reality for instruction,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 2, 2010,

70. “USC Institute for Creative Technologies Receives $135 Million Contract Extension From U.S. Army,” Institute of Creative Technologies press release, Sept. 1, 2011, http://ict.usc.edu/news/press-releases/usc-institute-for-creative-technologies-receives-135-million-contract-extension-from-u-s-army/

71. Ibid.

72. Halpern.

73. James Der Derian, Virtuous War: Mapping the Military-Industrial-Media-Entertainment Network (New York and London: Routledge, 2009).

74. Tim Lenoir, “All but War is Simulation,” Configurations 8 (2002): 289-335.

75. Ibid., 315.

76. Brian Kennedy, “Uncle Sam Wants You (to Play This Game), New York Times, July 11, 2002, http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/11/technology/uncle-sam-wants-you-to-play-this-game.html

77. Mead, 74-75.

78. Ibid., 75.

79. David Edery and Ethan Mollick, Changing the Game: How Video Games are Transforming the Future of Business (Upper Saddle River, NJ: FT Press, 2009), 141.

80. Mead, 75.

81. America’s Army is one of the most well-documented instances of contemporary military-produced media. For additional perspectives on the subject, see the ethnographic work of anthropologist Robertson Allen or the industrial perspective of Randy Nichols, “Target Acquired: America’s Army and the Video Games Industry” in the highly useful collection Joystick Soldiers: The Politics of Play in Military Video Games, edited by Nina B. Huntemann and Matthew Thomas Payne (New York and London: Routledge, 2010), 39-52. For an analysis of artist Joseph DeLappe’s digital protest and tactical reappropriation of America’s Army, Dead-in-Iraq, see Dean Chan’s “Dead-in-Iraq: The Spatial Politics of Digital Game Art Activism and the In-Game Protest” also in Joystick Soldiers, 272-286.

82. Jon Hurdle, “U.S. Army recruiting at the mall with videogames,” Reuters, Jan. 9, 2009, http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/01/10/us-usa-army-recruiting-idUSTRE50819H20090110

83. For one incisive exposé on the epidemic of military sexual assault and the institutional efforts to cover it up, see Kirby Dick’s 2012 documentary The Invisible War

84. Casey Wardynski quoted in Mead, 82.

85. Ibid.

86. William Mayville quoted in Mollie Miller, “Fort Riley opens Army’s 1st Warrior Zone,” Army.mil, Sept. 8, 2011,

87. Dwyn Taylor, “Military Architecture Goes Modern,” The Military Engineer, n.d, http://themilitaryengineer.com/index.php/item/184-military-architecture-goes-modern

88. Tim Hipps, “Warrior Zone: Innovative recreation opportunities for Soldiers,” Army.mil, May 31, 2011,

89. For more on the Warrior Zone, in relation to a history of theatrical exhibition for Army personnel, see Ross Melnick, “From Liberty Theaters to Warrior Zones: Military, Technological, and Industrial Change in U.S. Army Motion Picture Exhibition” in Cinema’s Military Industrial Complex, edited by Haidee Wasson and Lee Grieveson (Forthcoming, 2016).

90. Photo by Jerry Wilson, “FIRES Celebrates Warrior Zone Opening with Call of Duty,” 2nd Calvary Assn News Center, Jan. 23, 2012,

91. Albert Rizzo and Jarrell Pair, “A Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy Application for Iraq War Veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: From Training to Toy to Treatment,” American Psychological Association, 2005,
http://www.apa.org/divisions/div46/Amp Summer 05/RizzoArticle.pdf

92. Halpern.  

93. Brecht, 82.