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VR and dance-somatic practices as tools for embodied perception and living well in our environment

StatusActive
Period25/02/1919/07/19

Description

An environment impacts directly on the health and wellbeing of the people who move within it, and also the way in which they move and interact. Environments are perceived through the senses and, whilst humans are multimodal animals, more often than not vision is by far the most dominant of the senses and underlies much of human perceptual experience - in that the other senses are governed by what is seen. To assist people with visual impairment, the current accessibility / disability approach is to build environments which increase the visual conspicuity of areas of danger (e.g. steps or edges), encouraging people with VIs to use what vision they have left rather than rely on potentially more useful non-visual cues to orientate in and navigate spaces. This increased conspicuity can lead to negative side effects (e.g. migraine, epilepsy) for many people without visual impairment (Wilkins et al., 2018) , and it is in stark contrast to design thinking for other senses in which noise reduction is at the forefront of design. We are interested in how we might evoke a new way of thinking in design by re-examining the theoretical design framework surrounding visual inclusiveness. For this, we look into the use of Virtual Reality (VR) as a tool to understand more about 1) the human perceptual systems and their bias toward vision; 2) the inherent nature of the relationship between perceptual systems and environment for wellbeing; and 3) ways in which we can re-centre the design for spaces away from visual conspicuity frameworks for sensing, movement and interaction. As a first step, we plan a case study in which a visually impaired dancer, Holly Thomas, registered as legally blind, uses VR under different experimental conditions. Indeed, in a pilot study, Holly already interacted with a strongly reduced but highly dynamic and interactive visual structure (Figuring) in VR, and discussions of her experiences have led to this proposal.

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