Media technologies have a reciprocal relationship to the production of knowledge, especially through the ways they break away from realism. Given the role of new media in the generation of epistemological claims, I ask in this paper, how can VR break away from realism to take part in the production of knowledge? What is the epistemological framework that results from this disruption in realism? Responses to such questions about the epistemic rapture caused by emerging media have often been a result of experimentations aimed at exhausting the linguistic opportunities of the medium. This paper thus adopts a specific type of applied scholarship—one that is known in the field of distance education as pedagogy-based research. Aside from its wide accessibility (and affordability), what has made experimentation with VR attractive to architects is the underdeveloped language of the medium. Much like the advent of any new media, explorations in VR has for long remained under the hegemony of existing and competing representational media and artistic paradigms. This paper provides a theoretical framework in the discussion of VR through pedagogical experimentation. To do so, VR has been applied here, not as a representational tool, rendering a yet-to-be-constructed architecture, bur rather as a site—a pixelated environment with its own properties and forces. VR spatial design is thus an end product that involves a process of site analysis. VR-sites in this sense become the interrupter of the physical. As such, VR-sites pushes for a critical reexamining of reality. This reexamination of reality in VR sites is with the intention of making an epistemological claim against deception and illusion as well as an attempt in exhausting some linguistic capacities of VR.
Vahid Vahdat, PhD is an assistant professor of architecture and interior design at the School of Design and Construction, Washington State University. His primary field of research is spatial mediation, with an emphasis on virtual reality and film. He is the author of “Occidentalist Perceptions of European Architecture in Nineteenth Century Persian Travel Diaries—Travels in Farangi Space.” The book has been commended by reviewers for its “compelling and convincing interpretations […] grounded in archival and architectural evidence.” Dr. Vahdat has held academic positions in the US and abroad, including at the University of Houston and Texas A&M University. He joined the SDC faculty at Washington State University in 2019, where he serves as the director of the school’s Trimble Technology Lab.