This dissertation explores the potential applications for virtual reality (VR) stories in support of social justice causes, examining whether digital games historically been successfully leveraged for social justice purposes, and determining which components of VR technology can most encourage narrative transportation of participants in VR stories. The first chapter examines theories of simulation, virtual reality, narrative, and interactivity, as well as concepts of immersion from various disciplines and settles on narrative transportation, a theory from cognitive psychology, as the most useful in measuring the effect of VR stories on participants. The second chapter examines ethnographic practices, activist games, and modes of reclaiming digital spaces as a way to encourage digital social justice and ensure traditionally marginalized communities have meaningful access to technology—or, the tools to use it, create with it, and critique it. The third chapter presents the result of a play study conducted to measure participants' transportation in a recent VR narrative and finds VR interactive narratives to be more transportive and engaging than their two-dimensional counterparts. The fourth chapter interrogates some of the fears of VR technology, namely that it will be used to further current societal injustices and as a potentially powerful propaganda tool. The final chapter presents five recommendations for designers seeking to experiment in virtual reality narratives. The ultimate aim of this work is to encourage scholars, designers, and participants to make ethical decisions in the creation and use of virtual societies.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Texts and Technology
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Raffel, Sara, "Narrative Transportation and Virtual Reality: Exploring the Immersive Qualities of Social Justice in the Digital World" (2018). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2004-2019. 5800.