Virtual Reality and Communication

Markowitz, D., & Bailenson, J.N. (2019). Virtual Reality and Communication. Oxford Handbook of Virtuality.


Virtual Reality (VR) is a communication medium that makes virtual experiences feel real and appear unmediated. Since the 1960s, VR has been used by the military and medicine for training and simulations, but VR has also become fertile ground to evaluate social and psychological dynamics in academic settings. For example, journalists use VR to situate their readers within stories, educators use virtual technologies for experiential learning, and psychiatrists leverage VR to mitigate the negative effects of psychological traumas. What can an experience in VR reveal about people and communication processes? This article provides a multidimensional view of VR by dissecting its historical, technical, and psychological underpinnings that reveal unique characteristics about human behavior. We close with a commentary on the future of VR as tensions between academia and industry emerge.