Accepted Paper:

The materiality of Virtual Reality (VR): ethnographic insights into 3D digital drawing in Northern England   


Jessica Symons (University of Manchester)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper, I explore how Virtual Reality (VR) tools shape the interpretation of ideas into material form, drawing on ethnographic encounters in Northern England. I argue that VR has the potential to re-engage people with their creative selves, lost through careless art teaching.

Paper long abstract:

In the UK, most people decide if they are 'good at art' during school art classes. They base this opinion on their ability to render a convincing 2D drawing of a 3D object. By adulthood, many are so distant from drawing and making that requests to sketch out an idea or create a costume for a parade are often met with immediate resistance - shaking their heads, saying 'Oh no, I'm not creative'.

When drawing a 3D object as a 2D representation on paper, there is a translation to be made - an interpretation of the object through sketched lines and shapes. However drawing with light in Virtual Reality (VR) reduces this translation layer. It creates an opportunity to generate a direct copy of a 3D object, using software such as Google Tiltbrush, rather than a 2D interpretation of an object. At the same time, artists who are 'good' at interpreting 3D objects into 2D drawings can struggle with accurate renditions in 3D digital making.

In this paper, I draw on ethnographic encounters to explore the interpretation of ideas into material form, focusing closely on the technics of production and what guides the producer. I share a hypothesis that the design process in VR is sufficiently different from existing drawing techniques that new competencies are emerging.

This theory was tested in practice through fieldwork in Cheshire and Greater Manchester when I took a VR kit on tour.

Panel P027
Materialising the Imagination: How People Make Ideas Manifest