The Possibilities of Illness Narratives in Virtual Reality for Bodies at the Margins

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

Through decades of scholarly analysis and application, the practice of illness narratives has been established as an effective therapeutic intervention for dealing with illness-related emotional well-being (Couser; Frank; Irvine and Charon). Scholars of illness narratives argue that the medium works to bring agency back to the body following the neoliberal relinquishing of one’s life story in the patient-physician encounter. Contemporary scholarly work is mapping the growth of illness narrative forms from the traditional book to emerging digital-born narratives; however, there is limited research on the medium’s intersection with virtual reality (VR) technologies. Working with Marie-Laure Ryan’s theoretical framework of possible worlds theory, this paper explores the transformative potential of VR illness narratives for pathologized identities found when VR resists the call to fall into one of two categories: pure transhumanism where VR reality is emancipated from actual reality or an artificial experience that has no lasting effect on the self.

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Astrid Ensslin