Emersive VR: An Expanded Immersive VR Practice
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Emersive VR: An Expanded Immersive VR Practice

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In the current mainstream Virtual Reality (VR) practice and design, creating an immersive isolated virtual environment is the canon. Audiences are usually situated in a singular and complete form of space in VR to receive the fully immersive experience. Nevertheless, in this paper, I propose a different way of thinking about the practice and design of VR. Rather than seeing VR as a singular and isolated space in relation to other spaces, I am considering a potentiality to have a more expansive and reflexive VR practice and design. I call this Emersive VR in contrast to Immersive VR. Emersion is a concept borrowing from body ecology, which is a field based on the philosophy of awakening and consciousness. Emersion in body ecology is different from immersion in that people can still sustain self-consciousness without being subsumed by the other. In the notion of Emersive VR, audiences are not located in a singular and complete virtual space but in a differential space between physical and virtual. The spatial difference is folded through the VR experience perceived by the audiences. I highlight two different approaches to construct an Emersive VR experience in this paper: multisensory VR experience and reflexive VR storytelling. In both of them, audiences are not isolated in a singular virtual world but in a differential space with multiple embodiments. I use my VR project, Fair Sai Re Pi VR, as a case study in discussing Emersive VR. Fair Sai Re Pi VR is a multisensory VR experience fictionalizing a fire therapy sold by a pyramid scheme company in China. The audience’s body is between physical “therapeutic space” and virtual space, and fictional story and reality. This VR project attempts to question the relationship between Chinese Traditional Medicine and Modernity via the Emersive VR design. Emersive VR is a reconfiguration of immersive VR. It is to expand the idea of immersive VR and sketch a more dynamic future of VR as a critical media.

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