Design of clinically oriented virtual environments: A communicational approach

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Understanding how to use immersive virtual reality (VR) to support clinical practice presents a substantial challenge for the designers and users of this emerging technology. Taking this challenge, this article describes VR as a new medium: a communication medium in the case of multi- user VR and communication interface in the case of single-user VR. The core characteristics of VR as communication tool are (1) the perceptual illusion of nonmediation and (2) the sense of community. The first characteristic of a satisfying virtual environment is the disappearance of mediation, a level of experience where both the VR system and the physical environment disappear from the user's phenomenal awareness. The second characteristic is the sense of community that is developed by interaction. Through interaction that is made possible by multi-user VR, individuals find or form groups to share interests. So, information exchange becomes the carrier for expressing a self-concept and eliciting emotional support. Within this view, experiencing presence and telepresence depend less on the faithfulness of the reproduction of 'physical' aspects of 'external reality' - which is also a social production and not a primitive or 'natural' fact - and more on the capacity of simulation to produce a context in which social actors may communicate and cooperate. The consequences of this approach for the design and the development of clinically oriented VR systems are presented with the methodological and technical implications for the study of advanced human- computer interaction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-357
Number of pages7
JournalCyberpsychology and Behavior
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Communication


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