User involvement, participatory design and other good stuff through VR, AR and I don’t know… some other good stuff…

We’ve heard tons of bad stuff in the news recently to the extent that we are now on the verge of questioning the existential need for, and/or losing our faith in, the demonising nature of media; we really long to hear some good stuff, we want to believe news doesn’t need to be bad to be news… sometimes good news is news too and more than ever before we yearn to see some good news about some good stuff… and Hey-ho here we go with AR/VR/MR as the bearer of those good news about what good stuff they can do in or to our real lives; Deus ex machina in you we trust (at least some of us and at least to some extents)… this has heartened some to become experts, researchers, etc. in the field almost overnight without having enough time to play a game in full in VR (even a TV Game [see my previous posts entitled “This journey all started 6 years ago, and it was all Simon’s fault!]) or read some history of AR/VR or something we, the geeks of the both worlds (nop, I am not talking about this world vs. the Afterworld; I am rather talking about the actual world vs. virtual world) know as decent academic research!

This summer was phenomenal, a real experience in teleportation, being half way through the other end of the world without needing to leave the comfort of our living room (well… of course if we were allowed to have the luxury of not having to do that by our very own luv [read with Sheffieldish accent] or our kids who were dying to unglue us from our lovely teleportation device [you read our laptops + Zoom/MS Teams/WebEx/etc. you name it] and repurpose us to the real-world dad’s-taxi for their football match on a Wednesday afternoon with their ‘pals’ (I don’t even know where 6 year-olds learn their language these days!!!). So to cut the long story short I had the luxury of attending several conferences virtually without the hustle and bustle of getting in the queue for boarding on an Airbus A380; what seems to now be a part of distant past, almost history if you like and the history we do not need to wait for our grandkids (to come to existence in actual or virtual world) to tell to, but we can instead discuss amongst ourselves (no, not the queue for boarding it is, no! The A380, it is!).

Quite naturally (and sometimes unnaturally) in each and every conference I attend, I eyeball for papers on some specific topics; by now I’m sure you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that one of them is AR/VR! So I did this in every conference I attended and spied with my little eye quite a few of them hanging around (like the apple hanging low for Eve to harvest so that her and Adam could be kicked out of the Beforeworld!) and for all my sins I committed myself to attend as many of them as possible even though the most difficult part was to find them, then to switch from one parallel session to another at a klick of a button or two. I found quite fascinating stuff in some of them… some of things left me stranded like a shipwrecked in a desert island wondering if I could find my way back or even worse as to why on earth I showed the bravery to even think about attending what I just attended let alone the actual crime of attending it!

I spied with my little eye lots of wrongful conduct, miscomprehension, fervour and alacrity not so much positive or constructive side of it but all for good reasons; to bring us some jollity; some good news about all good stuff AR/VR can do to us or to our lives to the extent that I was so very much convinced to retire myself from the actual world and apply for permanent residency (or even seek refuge) in the virtual world. The level of foolish recklessness, simplification and naivety was so sky-high that even my neighbour’s 3-year old twins would have had difficulties believing them! In one particular so called “research” a specific user group were claimed to have been the target of the research where their participation in design was supposed to have been improved through VR… well… to this point we’d agree with me that nothing’s wrong… the problem starts where the research (not the researcher as I do not believe those could have committed such a crime; it must have been the research leading itself and it must have been on autopilot mode and rambling around in “The” (VR)2 World!) claimed that for obvious reasons no one from that specific user group were asked to participate in the research (obviously for obvious reasons, you know?!) but instead other stakeholders working with that specific user group, were asked to participate and quite fascinatingly they all concluded that VR will improve user participation in the design of the facilities and spaces for that specific user group… tele-portation, tele-pathy, tele-radio-isotopy, tele-phony, tele-graphy, tele-radiography, tele-cartography, tele-vision, tele-phone, tele-gram, tele…, tele.., tele…, @%+$*&~£’_!,<(“#”)>

Yes, yes, yes… you got it right… this was me left after the presentation, trying real hard to find out using what tele… the “research” has been able to conclude such b[retracted in the interest of ethical and mindful practice in writing] from what was presented as the research in that presentation! But good thing was that I still had that virtual scapegoat to cling into… ironically enough though my scapegoat had the good demon this time round (not like the original/real one which scaped the sacrifice and carried with itself all the sins of the entire world)… this research was all done with good intentions to bring us some good news… and all about good stuff this thing… what was it called? Oh yes, Virtual Reality can do to/for us… all for good reasons! So it did not really matter if the researchers had not even the faintest clue what they were talking about, not about VR, not about research, not about design and not even about participation… fine (in Western Spaghetti Style) or fin (in film noir style).       

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