Thesis title: Ways of making ‘Unreality’: A practice-led exploration of the tacit dimension when designing credible virtual reality places.

In the field of virtual reality (VR) studies the study of immersion and the more quantifiable component of presence – known as place illusion – is often the focus of research. The assumption of these studies is that the primarily technical components of higher immersion, higher fidelity VR systems will generate a greater sense of user presence, and is the preferable way to increase presence. The more personal, subjective components of VR presence such as perceived plausibility are frequently sidelined or greatly simplified.

My practice-led research contends that it is through the study of the tacit and explicit processes of the virtual reality worldbuilder artist and in their creation of VR content that artists and designers can question assumptions about plausibility and place illusions in the broader VR field. My current practice prototypes explore the relationship between the processes and outputs of virtual content production, combining methods adopted from industry practice with the unique visual and emotional aesthetic of the Australian landscape which is largely neglected in the discourse of mainstream real-time 3D CGI. By leveraging the methods of reflective practice in this crossover between artist practice-led research and the professional discourses of VR studies my research will develop greater understanding of how plausibility operates and influence the perceived plausibility of virtual places through examples. The research aims to contribute up-to-date and relevant reflections on VR world design, a field experiencing increasing demand in this period of ecological flux, rapid climate change and the blending the physical and virtual realities. 

John Bailey is a PhD Art, Design and Media student.