Embodiment and the Boundaries Between Us in Virtual Reality - A critical analysis of inclusivity in social virtual reality environments

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Embodiment and the Boundaries Between Us in Virtual Reality - A critical analysis of inclusivity in social virtual reality environments

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Publication 1-year master student thesis
Title Embodiment and the Boundaries Between Us in Virtual Reality - A critical analysis of inclusivity in social virtual reality environments
Author Maharaj, Claudia Maneka
Date 2017
English abstract
Virtual Reality (VR) is considered the next major communication tool and its potential has been described as “a ubiquitous force and as pervasive and transformative as the internet was in the 90s or the smartphone was in the 2000s” (Somasegar, 2016). Social spaces in VR (SocialVR) are at the forefront of developing new possibilities in communication that could offer greater connection and understanding between people around the world. The aim of my research is to identify the dominant discourses in SocialVR spaces, which also involve solutions for inclusivity, to reveal embedded power-relations that are currently defining bodily boundaries and identity. The research questions I pose are: 1. What discourses are currently defining embodiment across different SocialVR spaces? 2. How are these embodied experiences configuring notions of self? My research stance, as a woman of colour, was a fundamental feature in this study and I have used my perspective as a basis to gain a wider insight into the phenomena of SocialVR. In obtaining my empirical data, I combined the methodologies of Multimodal Critical Discourse Analysis and Analytic Autoethnography. This enabled me to examine the dominant company discourses of different SocialVR spaces and assess my personally embodied experience in relation to them. The fusing of human experience with technology is implicit in virtual embodiment. Therefore, a robust theoretical lens is needed to examine the dynamics between identity and technological renderings of embodiment in SocialVR. The theory of agential realism acknowledges the vital role that techno-scientific practices play in the workings of power, and how it informs the constitution of boundaries between people. As an analytical tool, agential realism provides a fitting a framework to address how bodily boundaries and one’s sense of self come to matter in SocialVR. My findings lead to a surprising insight into the resilience of socio-historic power- relations in spite of strongly opposing intentions, and it points to the importance of understanding the historical constitution of technology and application methods, if change is going to be meaningfully enacted. The success of a SocialVR environment as an inclusive space is based on clearly structured contexts of socialising. By placing certain performance limits on what is possible in a space, the creators are able to focus on constructing meaningful experiences that can be reflected in both the type of avatar embodiment they offer, and the corresponding embodied experience.
Publisher Malmö högskola/Kultur och samhälle
Pages 85
Language eng (iso)
Subject Virtual Reality
Social structures
Inclusivity
Diversity
Gender
Race
Ethnicity
Culture
Phenomenology
Agential Realism
Design
Technology
Discourse
Embodiment
Bodies
Social environments
Handle http://hdl.handle.net/2043/23611 Permalink to this page
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