When I close my eyes, and picture what reflection looks like, I imagine time and quiet solitude, much as Ellen Rose (2013) describes in her book on reflection. I picture myself sitting by a window on a summer afternoon, gazing outside.
I would not last long beside my window. I would move into my garden, to listen to the wind and birds, smell the lavender, feel the cool grass, and the warmth of my cat against my shin. Under the shade of the ‘Hobbiton’ tree in our backyard – like the tree under which Bilbo Baggins’ long-expected party takes place – I might recall how it was this tree that sold us on this house seven years ago, after seeing the bald lots of so many new-build homes. Listening to the nearby seed-cleaning mill, I might think about how much farmland surrounding my town has been lost to residential development, whether the seed-cleaning mill will soon be displaced, and what all of this means for food production and timber consumption. I might recall the clear-cutting I’ve observed driving through Swan Hills, Alberta. Is that timber used in Canada, or is it exported? Is it the same in New Zealand, where the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) movies were filmed? In these adaptations of Tolkien’s work, director Peter Jackson infused a critique of New Zealand’s deforestation (Jackson, Osborne, & Walsh, 2003). What do we lose in exchange for (perceived) progress? I might wonder if the Hobbiton tree had to be CGI’d into the LOTR movies. I have my tree, in my backyard, and it’s the real thing. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of photos preserve my tree, along with the context of each moment. Would a virtual reality (VR) rendering better preserve, or change, these for me? What if I created/programmed the VR myself?
In contrast to Rose’s (2013) description of sight separating observer from what’s observed and thereby creating a space wherein reflection may occur, my reflective experiences are typically immersive. All four of my senses are catalysts for reflection, opening pathways to meander and explore. For me, reflection would be diminished without the sense of hearing, in particular, complementing the sense of sight.
In an EDDE 801 forum post, I shared my idea of “hyper-symbolism”, imagining how 3D/4D VR could change the role of symbols in human-object-knowledge relationships. Rose (2013) describes how advances in spoken and written language translated knowledge into abstract symbols, enabling people to imagine, reflect and communicate, disconnected from concrete experience (p. 47). With advances in VR technology, I speculate knowledge is being repositioned to reside within high-fidelity proxies of objects, still abstracted, but providing richer data to inform experience and reflection. Would a VR garden provide more paths for me to explore, versus the garden imagined in my mind? Would the enriched data experienced in a VR garden foster an extended and semantically deeper reflection?