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Dr. Jacki Ford Morie


University of East London




Virtual Reality

Thesis Title

Meaning and Emplacement in Expressive Immersive Virtual Environments


This thesis focuses on Virtual Reality, specifically on fully immersive VR environments made as Art. I explicate how immersive virtual environments (VEs) differ uniquely in form and function from other digital media or ‘cybermedia.’ I explain the intrinsic qualities of ‘being’ in immersive VEs, and how this impacts the experience of the embodied person in the experience. I discuss the inherent spatial qualities of immersive virtual environments and their effect on the embodied person. Finally, I ask if it is possible to identify and demonstrate a primary set of procedures for a new methodology artists could use to create meaningful immersive environments for participants in art gallery settings.
I look at my own work—the virtual environments Virtopia, DarkCon, and Memory Stairs—as well of that of other artists, to support these concepts. My qualitative analysis required an extensive initial survey of the field, as many works are not well documented. My findings are summarized in Appendix B: Chart of Artistic VEs. This survey also revealed that women designed the majority of these works. Feminist theory provides some insights to this phenomenon, as does modern neuroscience.
I maintain the fundamental constitution of VEs is not always a story, but often the more basic idea of the experience, which we later aggregate into our life narrative. I look to a rich legacy of ritual theory to support the use of Virtual Environments to facilitate meaningful and embodied personal experiences.
This thesis locates its primary arguments in Art and Virtual Reality. Cognate disciplines supporting my work include Cognitive Science, Neuroscience, and Perceptual Science (covering many senses), Psychology, Spatial Theory, and Phenomenology—especially Embodiment. Feminist critics contribute to my understanding of those who create these works, and why, and lastly Ritual Studies support my views concerning the potential meaningful nature of VE content.



I am always interested in projects that do good and advance VR/AR as new media in their own rights. I have 20+ years expertise in immersive VR environment creation & production, with a focus on evoking emotional responses and meaningful experiences in such environments. Developed techniques to facilitate this. Invented a scent delivery collar to provide smells in VR environments & an Infrasonic floor to produce emotional effects.
Experience in online worlds, & in connecting them to sensors for realtime feedback. Actively researching the vectors of how our virtual avatar representations affect our physical reality.

Taught innovative game design classes at UCLA 2007-09. Co-Founder of the game research group Ludica (, & member of IDGA, and WIGI. Frequent speaker on VR, AR and VWs. Expert in the health, training and social applications of new media and online worlds. Currently teaching Senior Projects class at Otis College of Art and Design.

Responsible for designing the first combined technical and artistic year long training program for incoming computer animators at Walt Disney Feature Animation. On New Technologies group for the Disney Studios. 1994-1997. Developed similar training for the visual effect industry at VIFX and Blue Sky as well as for the Oscar award winning Rhythm & Hues. 1997-2000.

Interdisciplinary background including: Pre-MED; advanced degrees in art & computer science; ongoing intense interests in health, medicine and neuroscience. Virtual environment creation & production (fully immersive, artistic, meaningful and game-like). Game theory and expertise. Directing team-based projects to bring out the creativity of each individual. Teaching design and creativity in technology areas. Artistic concept development. Hundreds of book chapters & research paper publications - a 20 year history.

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