With the development of immersive technologies, like virtual reality, there is a growing interest in using these technologies to elicit experiences, which might be hard to access otherwise, such as self-transcendent experiences. Artist and designers strive to create profound experiences, that can be reminiscent of profound self-transcendent experiences, having qualities of ego-dissolution and the feeling of global interconnectedness.
Self-transcendence has been reported to be experienced after years of mediation, when experiencing the vastness of the universe, or when taking psychedelic drugs. Beyond profound instantiations of self-transcendence, common self-transcendent emotions include awe, flow, compassion, decentring, and unity. In this project, we explore what type of self-transcendent emotions and experience VR technologies might be able to afford, and what are the design elements that support, elicit, or inhibit aspects of these experiences. In order to unpack this potential, we experience existing VR experiences claiming to elicit self-transcendent-like phenomena, and engage in in-depth analysis of our experiences and the design elements constituting the VR design.
We combine the autoethnographic methodology allowing us to describe our fine-grain phenomenological experiences as they are situated in our autobiographical context. Then we engage in close-reading to uncover the design aspects that has given rise to our experiences. This is an ongoing project, but so far we have looked at theBlu, Remembering, SoundSelf, Sphere, Ayahuasca Cosmik Journey, and Isness.
This is a highly collaborative democratic project. I have initiated this project at the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic, originally taking project management role and taking the lead on developing the methodology. Later on, the leading role was passed on to my colleagues Noah and John.
Miller, N., Desnoyers-Stewart, J., Stepanova, E. R., Kitson, A., Bizzochhi, J. & Riecke B., E. Sipping the Virtual Elixir: An autoethnographic close reading of Ayahuasca Kosmik Journey a self-transcendent virtual experience. Virtual Creativity (2023)