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Phenomenology and phenomenography in virtual worlds: An example from archaeology

Falconer, Liz; Scott, Curie


Liz Falconer

Curie Scott


Liz Falconer


This chapter discusses a project to construct a simulation of Avebury Henge, a Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age monument in the SW of the U.K., in a 3D, virtual world environment, and to use phenomenological and phenomenographic methods for its evaluation. We explore notions of place and digital being in virtual worlds, and the potential of these methods in understanding virtual worlds and their applicability to evaluations of virtual archaeology. The phenomenological approach to archaeology tends to stress the importance of the archaeologists’ senses, working through their physical presence in a landscape to enable an appreciation of the materiality, or physicality, of an environment. In this study, phenomenology was applied to the experience of a virtual environment where sight and hearing senses are restricted, and the senses of smell and touch are deprived altogether. So, the immersion of all the body’s senses in a landscape, to the exclusion of all other experiences, cannot be achieved. We argue that the phenomenological narrative describing one author’s experiences in Virtual Avebury (VA) has demonstrated that experiencing a landscape from an archaeological point of view can be achieved in a virtual environment, but that the nature of the experience is different to that in the physical world. The ability to experiment with designing landscapes, to change environmental aspects in simulations of places that could not otherwise be experienced, and to meet with others in those places to discuss, explore and experience them together, has the potential to offer a new practice of phenomenology in archaeology, and in virtual worlds research. The phenomenographic method used to explore the range of experiences of members of a small evaluation group found that six categories of experience emerged. These were sense of place in VA, recall of VA at Avebury, sense of place in Avebury, effects of sounds and soundscapes and a sense of Avebury’s original purpose. Based upon these findings, we make recommendations for wider research in phenomenological methods of enquiry in virtual worlds.


Falconer, L., & Scott, C. (2018). Phenomenology and phenomenography in virtual worlds: An example from archaeology. In L. Falconer, & M. C. Gil Ortega (Eds.), Virtual Worlds: Concepts, Applications and Future Directions, 1-38. Nova Science Publishers

Publication Date Jan 1, 2018
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Pages 1-38
Book Title Virtual Worlds: Concepts, Applications and Future Directions
ISBN 9781536130997
Keywords virtual worlds, phenomenology, phenomenography, archaeology
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : Reprinted from: Virtual Worlds: Concepts, Applications and Future Directions, Phenomenology and phenomenography in virtual worlds: An example from archaeology, pp.1-38, copyright (2018) and authors with permission from Nova Science Publishers, Inc.


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