Sounds too true to be good: diegetic infidelity – the case for sound in virtual reality

Angela McArthur, Rebecca Stewart, Mark Sandler
2017 Journal of Media Practice  
Cinematic virtual reality (VR) elicits new possibilities for the treatment of sound in space. Distinct from screen-based practices of filmmaking, diegetic sound-image relations in immersive environments present unique, potent affordances, in which content is at once imaginary, and real. However, a reductive modelling of environmental realism, in the name of 'presence' predominates. Yet cross-modal perception is a noisy, flickering representation of worlds. Treating our perceptual apparatus as
more » ... able, objective transducers, ignores the inter-subjective potential at the heart of immersive work, and situates users as passive spectators. This condescends to audiences and discounts the historic symbiosis of sound-image signification, which comes to constitute notions of verisimilitude. We understand the tropes; we willingly suspend disbelief. This article examines spatial sound rendering in virtual environments, probing at diegetic realism. It calls for an experimental, aesthetic approach, suggesting several speculative strategies, drawing from theories of embodied cognition and acousmatic practice (amongst others) which necessarily deal with space and time as contingencies of the immersive. VR affords a development of the dialectic between sound and image which distinctively involves our spatial attention. The lines between referent and signified blur; the mediation between representations invoked by practitioners, and those experienced by audiences, suggest new opportunities for co-authorship. ARTICLE HISTORY
doi:10.1080/14682753.2017.1305840 fatcat:3t4er4ss6ffnnmtmmefelyeoea