Cross-Disciplinary 'Immersion' Framework


Describing media as ‘immer­sive’ is ambigu­ous.  From debil­i­tat­ing addic­tion to ther­a­peu­tic relief, media engage­ment holds a clear dual­ity in its effect on humanity…

Without an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of “immer­sion”, why do we allow this con­cept to be so read­ily invoked in dis­cus­sions of books, visual art, video games, vir­tual real­ity sys­tems and more?

While “immer­sion” into tra­di­tional media con­cerns the con­tem­pla­tive dis­tance of a spec­ta­tor to another world depicted in a writ­ten novel or work of art, con­tem­po­rary tech­nol­o­gists can speak in terms of a vir­tual dis­tance which has a per­cep­tual ele­ment. If engaged in the social inter­ac­tions and per­cep­tual attrib­utes of a novel’s image-less, tex­tual world, is the reader “immersed”? Alternatively, if par­tic­i­pants enter a highly func­tional VR system, with a head-mounted dis­play, spa­tial­ized audio and haptic feed­back, but do not believe the illu­sion, are they “immersed”?

The ambi­gu­ity sur­round­ing “immer­sion” is a sig­nif­i­cant obsta­cle to research­ing media which lie across lit­er­a­ture, art and tech­nol­ogy. The present dialec­tic moves from phe­nom­e­no­log­i­cal bound­aries between self, world and other worlds to the­o­ret­i­cal sim­i­lar­i­ties between “immer­sion” as dis­cussed by tra­di­tional and inter­ac­tive media the­o­rists. A uni­fy­ing char­ac­ter­i­za­tion is estab­lished and dis­cussed in the con­text of an ongo­ing project which explores bound­aries of what is con­sid­ered “immer­sive”: the Sonic Cradle, a cham­ber com­bin­ing biofeed­back, sen­sory depri­va­tion, music and meditation.

Watch a pre­sen­ta­tion of the cross-disciplinary ‘immer­sion’ frame­work below:

YouTube Preview Image


» Learn more about ‘Sonic Cradle’, a human-computer inter­face which was inspired by the framework

Media Gallery



Kitson, A. J. (2021). Designing for Self-transcendent Experiences in Virtual Reality [PhD Thesis, Simon Fraser University]. (Download)
Norton, W. J., Sauer, J., & Gerhard, D. (2020). A quan­tifi­able frame­work for describ­ing immer­sion. PRESENCE: Virtual and Augmented Reality, 29, 191–200.
Vidyarthi, J., & Riecke, B. E. (2014). Interactively Mediating Experiences of Mindfulness Meditation. International Journal Of Human-Computer Studies, 72(8–9), 674–688. (Download)
Vidyarthi, J., & Riecke, B. E. (2013). Mediated Meditation: Cultivating Mindfulness with Sonic Cradle. Proceedings of the 2013 Annual Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems ALT.CHI, 2305–2314.
Vidyarthi, J. (2012). Sonic Cradle: Evoking Mindfulness through ‘Immersive’ Interaction Design [MSc Thesis, Simon Fraser University]. (Download)
Vidyarthi, J., Riecke, B. E., & Gromala, D. (2012). Sonic Cradle: design­ing for an immer­sive expe­ri­ence of med­i­ta­tion by con­nect­ing res­pi­ra­tion to music. Proceedings of the Designing Interactive Systems (ACM DIS) Conference, 408–417. (Download)
Vidyarthi, J., Gromala, D., & Riecke, B. E. (2011). Are you Immersed? Characterizing Immersion across Literature, Art and Interactive Media [Talk]. Society of Literature, Science and Art (SLSA) Conference 2011, Kitchener, Canada.