Communication in VR: Imagined & Experienced Reality

Creating a VR product involves taking real-world experiences and mapping them to subjective realities. The process of creating a complete and accurate virtual reality experience involves writing, designing, drawing, and representing images within a digital world that people can experiment and interact.

Communication, as a science, is central in VR. I recently read an old (1993) but interesting article by Gardiner that discussed virtual reality as a challenge to communication studies.

Communication in VR
Photo by Elena Koycheva

Two Realities

Gardiner’s study posits that there are two types of realities, the one we experience and the imagined reality.

The reality we experience is controlled by nature whereas people control the imaginary reality.

The imagined reality (virtual reality) is crucial as it helps people understand the real world. However, there is an underlying challenge because people that control imaginary reality try to replace the real world experiences.

For instance, we can use virtual reality technology to explore areas that we have never been before, but that should not be considered as the real-world experience.

Hypermedia plays a vital role in achieving virtual reality experiences. Hypermedia mediates between the subjective world and real-world to bring forth virtual reality experiences.

Subjective world emanates from both the perceptual map and conceptual map. A perceptual map is as a result of experiences that an individual has about an environment whereas the conceptual experiences are due to the knowledge gained through learning.

Such information is necessary for creating virtual reality environments that suit VR designers’ agenda. For instance, check how the developers can create a virtual reality experience that achieves empathy.

Virtual Reality and Communication

The study also indicated that changes in technology lead to changes in communication.

However, the function of communication remains uninterrupted while the structure of communication changes. The author had four concepts that indicate how virtual reality technology is challenging to the communication course.

The first concept is technosphere that is created by a person. A person overlaps three spheres that are technosphere, ecosphere, and sociosphere. In virtual reality aspect, designing an imagined reality is affected by how people interact or view the three spheres. People that use the technology might find it liberating while those that don’t use this technology might see it as oppressive.

The second concept is continuous discontinuity. In this category, the author discusses between two types of people, technophobes and technophiles. Technophiles argue that everything has changed whereas technophobes say that nothing has changed. To provide a balance between the technophobes and technophiles, the author uses the continuity-discontinuity analogy. In this case, the author states that media development is continuous with respect to function but discontinuous in regard to the structure. Similarly, communication is continuous in respect to function but discontinuous in respect to structure. Therefore, only structural changes are experienced as people transition from one technology to the other.

The third concept is the media blur. In this concept, rationality is used to define the completeness and accuracy of the virtual reality. The author also notes that bad communication significantly affects the completeness and accuracy of virtual reality. This statement shows that the way writers communicate their ideas in virtual environments influences the level of experience gained by an individual.

The final concept discussed by Gardiner is writing space. In virtual reality, writing space enables media to map isomorphically onto the objective world and subjective map.


Communication is an essential element in designing imagined realities. The observations we make from interacting with sociosphere, the conceptual, and perceptual knowledge help in the process of mapping objective world to the subjective map. Therefore, presenting the information we have in a better manner helps to achieve a rational virtual reality experience.

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