Surveying the contemporary nonfiction work being developed within the framework of VR, an opposition emerges between the promise of VR as escape from materiality and a promise of corporeal engagement. In this article, I consider how this opposition between embodiment and disembodiment manifests in some recent projects. By grounding my analysis through reference to the imaginary of the pioneers of 2nd wave VR, I explore how VR nonfiction reflects divergent currents, engaging “technologies of seeing” with a lineage going back to the Renaissance while introducing novel “technologies of corporeality” and ask what is at stake for documentary epistemology in these developments.
This new field where VR and non-fiction intersect demands analysis and theorisation, yet it presents a variety of challenges for documentary scholars. As an emergent medium in a process of rapid development, with producers experimenting with diverse platforms, divergent affordances and vocabularies, VR invites multiple avenues of enquiry. Scholarship on VR nonfiction is only just beginning, although critical work prompted by second wave VR in contexts including art history, cultural studies and feminist studies, provides a significant resource. At the same time, the forms of experiential engagement involved in VR challenge analytical tools of visual culture. Acknowledging this wider context, this article seeks to provide an initial mapping of the landscape of nonfiction VR through the ways these works engage the body. In addressing this arena of work, I also signal the need for the development of more agile critical frameworks for the analysis and critique of these technologically mediated encounters, ones that are equally responsive to textual effects and immersive engagement.
Rose, M. (2018). Technologies of seeing and technologies of corporeality: Currents in nonfiction virtual reality