The Self-Revelation and Cognition of VR-Facilitated Virtual Worlds: Towards a Phenomenology of Virtual Habitation

Three Axes of a VR-Facilitated Virtual World

AVANT: Trends in Interdisciplinary Studies 11, no. 2 (2020)

ABSTRACT: In this text it is argued that immersion in virtual reality (VR) with the aid of contemporary VR equipment may offer access to novel types of virtual worlds that differ qualitatively from the “real” world and from other types of fictional worlds. The text begins by (a) distinguishing between VR systems, virtual environments, and virtual worlds; (b) showing how the virtual worlds facilitated by VR systems resemble and differ from the “virtual worlds” created in one’s mind when, for example, reading a novel or watching a film; and (c) identifying necessary and optional elements of a VR-facilitated virtual world. Employing a phenomenological approach that draws on the thought of Ingarden and Norberg-Schulz, it is shown that a visitor to a VR-facilitated virtual world can (and frequently does) shift his or her conscious attention along three different “axes”. First, one’s attention can move “horizontally” between the media that disclose the virtual world through different senses. Second, one’s attention can shift “vertically” between the virtual world’s different ontological strata, including its layers of myriad atomic stimuli; distinguishable elements that possess spatiotemporal extension; assemblages of elements that have a context and relations but lack individual meaning; glimpses that build up a lattice of meaning and contribute to one’s knowledge of the world; and the virtual world envisioned as a coherent mentally concretized whole. Third, one’s attention can shift “interspatially” between the many different overlapping constituent spaces of the virtual world, including its perceptual, concrete, natural, built, identifiable, technological, emotional, social, economic, political, cultural, ecological, and possibility spaces. This triaxial phenomenological framework can shed new light on the rich and diverse ways in which VR-facilitated virtual worlds manifest themselves as emergent wholes constituted within human consciousness; also, it suggests approaches by which visitors might more proactively mentally explore and come to inhabit such virtual worlds.

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Phenomenology of the Gameworld: A Philosophical Toolbox for Video Game Developers

Phenomenology of the Gameworld (front cover)

ISBN 978-1-944373-74-0 • Defragmenter Media, 2019 • 362 pages

Good video games transport us to incredible new worlds. We don’t just enter such unforgettable “gameworlds” when we play first-person RPGs with high-resolution graphics; even relatively simple 2D puzzle or strategy games with retro visuals can immerse players in worlds that are beautiful, terrifying, mysterious, or moving, that are brutally realistic or delightfully whimsical.

The process by which a particular gameworld emerges is a symbiosis between developer and player: the game system presents a carefully architected stream of polygons and pixels, which somehow leads the player’s mind to construct and explore an intricate world full of places, people, relationships, dilemmas, and quests that transcend what’s actually appearing onscreen.

This book is meant for developers who want to create games that will evoke richer and more memorable gameworlds in the minds of their players. Drawing on insights from ontology and philosophical aesthetics, it provides you with conceptual frameworks and concrete tools that will enhance your ability to design games whose iconic gameworlds encourage the types of gameplay experiences you want to offer your players.

Once you’ve undertaken this philosophical and artistic journey, you’ll never look at your games – or their gameworlds – in quite the same way again.

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Beyond Buildings: A Systems-Theoretical Phenomenological Aesthetics of ‘Impossible’ Architectural Structures for Computer Games

Beyond Buildings (figure)

In Proceedings of the European Society for Aesthetics: Volume 11, edited by Connell Vaughan and Iris Vidmar Jovanović • European Society for Aesthetics, 2019

ABSTRACT: This work draws on Ingarden’s systems theory to develop a phenomenological aesthetic account of the kinds of reason-defying buildings that cannot exist as physical structures in the real world but which are frequently encountered within the virtual gameworlds of computer games. Such “impossible” buildings might, for example, take the form of colossal biological entities or violate established principles of physics or geometry. First, the evolution of Ingarden’s systems theory is traced, and an account of his mature systems theory is presented: pivotal is his concept of the “relatively isolated system” whose contents are partially engaged with and partially sheltered from the external environment via the system’s complex array of semipermeable boundaries. By applying Ingarden’s thought in a novel way, a systems-theoretical phenomenological architectural aesthetics is then formulated that conceptualizes the “building” as a set of overlapping physical, informational, and psychosocial boundaries that generate interior spaces that possess rich structures and dynamics and mediate their occupants’ relationships with the world. Using this conceptual framework, it is shown how the systems-theoretical properties of real-world buildings and virtual gameworld buildings can (and often do) radically differ. Three types of “impossible” gameworld buildings are analyzed: (1) the floating castle that is a recurring element of fantasy games; (2) the shapeshifting haunted mansion that appears not infrequently in horror games; and (3) the high-tech facility that functions as the gigantic “body” of an AI, which is common in science-fiction-themed games. This aesthetic framework may be of value to game developers seeking to employ techniques of “hyperdeconstruction,” “hyperfolding,” or architectural posthumanization to design more memorable and meaningful gameworlds.

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Twarde światło i architektura kosmiczna: Analiza fenomenologiczno-estetyczna filmu Tron jako wzorca paradygmatu ‘Siatki Cyberprzestrzennej’

Twarde światło i architektura kosmiczna: Analiza fenomenologiczno-estetyczna filmu Tron jako wzorca paradygmatu ‘Siatki Cyberprzestrzennej’ (M. Gladden, 2019)

In Rejestry Kultury (Perspektywy Ponowoczesności, vol. 9), edited by Ksenia Olkusz, pp. 481-501 • Wrocław: Facta Ficta Research Centre, 2019

ABSTRACT: W niniejszym rozdziale przedstawiona zostanie fenomenologiczno-estetyczna analiza sposobu, w jaki użycie namacalnego, „ucieleśnionego” światła jako budulca architektonicznego w filmie Disneya Tron z 1982 roku przyczyniło się do założenia paradygmatu konstrukcji i wizualizacji immersyjnych światów elektronicznych. Paradygmat ten (Siatka Cyberprzestrzenna) pozostaje aktualny w dzisiejszej erze rosnącej popularności technologii rzeczywistości wirtualnej. Analiza obejmuje dwie części. Po pierwsze, rozważane będzie użycie „twardego światła” jako elementu architektonicznego w świecie elektronicznym, przedstawionym w filmie Tron. Druga część analizy obejmie sposób, w jaki użycie twardego światła w Tronie przyczyniło się do stworzenia jednego z podstawowych paradygmatów albo metafor konstruowania cyberprzestrzeni i wizualizacji środowisk wirtualnych, to jest, paradygmatu Siatki Cyberprzestrzennej.

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A Phenomenological “Aesthetics of Isolation” as Environmental Aesthetics for an Era of Ubiquitous Art

The Polish Journal of Aesthetics 49 (2018), pp. 11-25; MNiSW 2016 List B: 12 points

ABSTRACT: Here the concept of the human being as a “relatively isolated system” developed in Ingarden’s later phenomenology is adapted into an “aesthetics of isolation” that complements conventional environmental aesthetics. Such an aesthetics of isolation is especially relevant, given the growing “aesthetic overload” brought about by ubiquitous computing and new forms of art and aesthetic experience such as those involving virtual reality, interactive online performance art, and artificial creativity.

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