Matthew McGinity

Research Associate
Institut für Informatik
University of Würzburg

Matthew McGinity works in the field of immersive media at the University of Würzburg. Prior to his current position, he worked at the ZKM, the European Space Agency and the iCinema Centre of Interactive Cinema Research at UNSW, Sydney. Since 2008 he has been a member of the Marseille-based artist collective LFKs, collaborating on a number of large-scale immersive artworks across the fields of theatre, cinema and virtual reality, music and live performance. His current research interests concern the perceptual foundations of immersive media and the aesthetics of immersion.

Virtual Reality, Phenomenal Realness And Fictional Worlds

One of the essential promises of virtual reality is the possibility of experiencing fictional worlds as if they were real and present. Such life-like experience is to be won through life-like perception: if we perceive things in the same manner we would were they real and present, then experience of them as real and present, in at least some respects, should follow. But can any possible world be experienced as real, or must it have certain properties? Are there certain features of the world – and our being in the world – that are more important to a perceived realness than others? One way to approach this question is through the lens of “phenomenal realness” – the quality of “realness” that seems to accompany some percepts and not others. Perceived realness, it seems, is multi-faceted, in that something can be perceived as real in some manner, while simultaneously appearing virtual in others, so to understand the various things that might appear real, we must understand the various ways a thing might appear real. In my talk, I will discuss possible perceptual and cognitive mechanisms that might underlie this phenomenal realness, the relationship between perceptual adaptation and realness, and the vital role of phenomenal “unrealness” in media. To illustrate my arguments, I’ll draw on some former immersive artworks and describe some recent VR experiments in multi-sensory perception.