Frameless fictions: embodiment, affect, and unruly encounters in VR and virtual environments

Williams, Victoria Rose (2021). Frameless fictions: embodiment, affect, and unruly encounters in VR and virtual environments. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

Text - Accepted Version
Available under License All rights reserved.

Download (49MB) | Preview


This thesis considers the embodied and affective potentials of Virtual Reality (VR) and virtual environments in contemporary technoculture. Focusing on VR’s ‘re-emergence’ in the consumer market (2016-present), the thesis addresses and examines some of the more ambivalent and unruly encounters that this technology makes possible. In so doing, it defines taxonomies of the kinds of unruly experiences users might have of digital media more broadly, including compromised agency, boundaries of access, displacement, proximate glitches, and embodied horror—experiences which are incredibly varied despite the increasing appeal to a homogeneous ‘immersion’ in their marketing, and the cultural and even academic discourses which surround them.

There remains an incapacity to frame experiences of VR in a way not yet prescribed through familiar experience, embodied grammars, or sufficient grammars of discourse. Offering a reconfiguration of the popularisation of ‘framelessness’ in the VR space as being synonymous with the transparency of hardware interfaces, Frameless Fictions instead speaks back to the concept of frames and enframing in philosophy and phenomenological enquiry (e.g. Heidegger 1954), which describe the human tendency to cognitively frame things for an ordering of use within the bounds of (inherently reductive) human understanding. VR’s popular ‘frames’ maintain focus on transcendence, transparency, limitlessness, and user empowerment. This work argues that we might learn more about VR’s unique capacities if we consider its potentials for looking beyond, and unsettling, human subjectivity.

The work evaluates and interprets a number of multimedia texts, including fictional representations (novels, films, advertising materials, VR applications, and videogames) to argue for a critical approach to virtual environments which considers how framelessness emerges through specific affective experiences. To this end, the work explores VR through a number of different lenses, including body-horror, the flesh, glitch and error, the unhuman, the weird, and proximal horror.

This thesis’ focus on embodied affect attempts to forge the production of some of the grammars relating to disorientating, unanticipated, and ontologically complex experiences of virtual environments which pose generative challenges to human agency and access.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and Creative Studies, Department of English Literature
Funders: Other
Other Funders: University of Birmingham, College of Arts and Law
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
T Technology > T Technology (General)


Request a Correction Request a Correction
View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year