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Research: Designing for the Hybrid Body

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Designing for the Hybrid Body: Presence, Representation, and Self in Virtual Reality

Master's Thesis

 

Paper Abstract

The notion of embodiment is key to analyze how personal experience technologies, like virtual reality, shape our understanding of ourselves and others. In this research, qualitative methods are used to contextualize issues surrounding embodiment and online disinhibition to create a base of understanding for how users are using virtual reality in recreational settings. Beginning with a qualitative analysis of social behavior in existing virtual reality experiences, this thesis uses those findings as a basis for limited experiments that test design hypotheses on embodiment and user behavior. I focus on inter-user interactions in VRChat, a multiplayer, virtual reality game with a focus on social interactions and user-created content, and their relationship to design decisions made by the developers. These observations then form a precedent for future prototypes , which look to ways in which abstracted representations and alternative or augmented movement mapping can affect user experience. The research culminates in a taxonomy of self-representation and behavior in virtual reality, aiming to widen the understanding of embodiment and its link to online disinhibition.