Towards a phenomenology of novelty:
perceiving and engaging with Virtual Reality
In my PhD project, I investigate the perception of novel situations presented in virtual reality artworks. In these extraordinary environments, one engages with a foreign and unexpected world which offers new opportunities for relationship-building. This thesis explores the constitution of such relations – that is, of the mesh between the experiencer’s perception and the virtual world, where subjective attention and intentions encounter materialised rules and (afforded) interactions.
The greater goal is to initiate a phenomenology of the perceptual engagement with novel situations. In order to study such environments, I use ‘experiential art’: artworks which either implicitly or directly offer the opportunity to engage with the unexpected or strange. At its core, this is a phenomenological project embedded in a 4E cognition research context: I analyse participants’ first-hand accounts of their initial moments within these artworks and explore ways to relate these descriptions of experiential content to third-person measurements such as eye tracking and pupillometry. Drawing upon methodologies from the phenomenology of perception, aesthetics and game studies and upholding an exploratory approach, a provisional focus lies on interrogating relational temporal structures and emerging patterns of presence, attention and interaction.