Phenomenological Reduction (Bracketing or Epoché) in the Literature Review

While forming my PhD literature review, I’m currently aiming to structure it more rigorously as Randolph (2009) has suggested: by using a phenomenological approach also to examine the phenomena in my literature review. Here’s a couple of quick thoughts about this process, and about the current stage of trying to set aside my personal theoretical views and natural attitude through phenomenological reduction, or ‘epoché’.

I am already starting to see the benefits for doing the lit review like this. Perhaps some would say their way of choosing sources for their lit review is somehow implicitly “objective”, and they do not need such ‘heuristics’. With the support from Randolph (2009) I have to kinda doubt it. We always have an inclination towards something, that’s what makes us humans. I feel it is going beyond this attitude of “letting things pass as we don’t initially feel them to fit” that makes us better researchers.

Now, I am trying to achieve a representative picture of how virtual environments and HCI is perceived to convey a context. I have started to see how my background as an interaction designer and a gamer really affects what I consider as good research. I sigh every time when I read about ‘serious games’ studies where the participants are mainly allowed to interact through clickers or better yet, answering to instructors questions about the game. In my eyes, this violates everything video games are about. Still, I need to hold this view, as there are many things one can learn about such articles, to which I will not dive more here.

Also, my worldview seems to lie in the axis of interpretivist-pragmatist, which in English means I cannot stand either the overly postmodern theory building nor the overly positivistic “one-variable-at-a-time” laboratory studies. Still, both of them, if quality articles, can convey yet another dimension of the phenomenon I am aiming to describe.

These aforementioned aspects are just a couple of things I need to make visible in my study, let them go (or better yet,  interact with them in my study, see Finlay (2014)), and let the “Otherness” of some studies to be treated with an equal value in order to better understand concepts such as presence, immersion and virtual embodiment.

For the process of the reduction, I have found Lisa Finlay’s articles especially helpful. Finally there is a person who can clearly and succinctly write how to engage in a process that is crucial in order to maintain a phenomenological research attitude – and I consider doing this would be useful to other researchers too.

More to read:

Finlay, L. (2014). Engaging Phenomenological Analysis. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 11(2), 121–141. doi:10.1080/14780887.2013.807899

Finlay, L. (2008). A Dance Between the Reduction and Reflexivity: Explicating the “Phenomenological Psychological Attitude.” Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 39, 1–32. doi:10.1163/156916208X311601

Randolph, J. J. (2009). A Guide to Writing the Dissertation Literature Review. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 14(13), 1–13.


Facepalms and Lulz: Blind spots in immersive virtual environment research reports in safety training contexts

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Lately I’ve been gathering a literature review in the use of immersive virtual environments (or IVEs) in safety training contexts – this might include construction, mining, military, healthcare etc. A couple of quick observations below, in a non-academic and tightly socially acceptable way – although one could go beyond that.

  1. Terms such as virtual reality, immersive virtual environments, virtual worlds, simulations, serious games, immersion, and presence (a non-exhaustive list) are used however one feels like – nope, no need to justify them. You might have a virtual environment with which you don’t even allow the user to interact, a regular monitor as the output, and you call it a ‘virtual reality’ and a ‘serious game’. A double whammy! Hmm, I really need to bend my head in so many ways to agree with this that I am actually getting an idea: a journal article!
  2. It seems people still have the misconception that virtual environments are about representation. Interaction seems to be something like the evil twin that everyone wants to hide, or pretend it does not exist. Don’t these people play video games, like really?
  3. No one is interested in the actual user experience – oh yeah, that too exists! If you ask “did you like it” and they say “yeah, it was good” I don’t think it should cut as genuine research. At least I don’t have any idea what to do with such comments. But…
  4. …everyone is interested in fidelity, life-likeness or realism (within the little world of object number 2 on this list). How using different input/output devices, level of interaction with the environment, basically the whole shebang of human-computer interaction and user experience is tossed aside in the name of understanding better graphics! I am sure old MUD players would at least now facepalm, if not already before. Immersion has been there for ages, and assigning it all to better graphics is just denying the existence of everything else.

Just a couple of thoughts.