Date of Award

Fall 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Director

Julia Romberger

Committee Member

Marc Ouellette

Committee Member

Saikou Diallo

Committee Member

Cheryl Ball


Multisensory elements are increasingly being added to virtual reality (VR) environments, allowing for higher levels of immersion for users as well as expanded creative media opportunities for multisensory VR artists. Recognizing multisensory VR as a networked ecology between the designer, the system, and the user, this dissertation addresses a distinct absence of resources on design principles and artistic professional practices specifically for composing multisensory VR environments. In investigating processes of invention, choices, tools, and methods on the parts of the artists, this dissertation fills scholarly gaps across disciplines that tend to focus on systems and tools or the user’s experiences by exploring how immersion is conceptualized and composed through media composition for users from the perspectives of multisensory VR artists.

Using a mixed methods approach that collected data from surveys and interviews with multisensory VR artists, this research investigates media processes in relation to media dimensions from the perspective and narratives of the artists themselves through a framework of mediology. I identify and categories of professional situated knowledges by thematic analysis of distinct compositional considerations, decisions and methods involved in multisensory VR composition. The ways artists approach such dimensions as media use, economic constraints, aesthetic persuasion, available tools, digital literacy, and the user’s experience reveal the techno-rhetorical skills they incorporate into their compositions towards fashioning user immersion. These factors—broadly examined as technological, economic, social, aesthetic, archival, subjective and epistemological—heavily motivate and mediate the creative process and the experience with final products.

By exploring and interpreting the methods, decisions and tactics of multisensory VR artists, the findings of this study offer crucial findings and recommendations that benefit both technical communications and media studies scholars as well as simulation practitioners and learners. The results of this research demonstrate that multisensory VR artists engage dimensions of virtual and material media in their design practices and decisions primarily by centering persuasive techno-rhetorical appeals, digital literacies, and collaborative co-constructive methods. They do so by drawing on considerations and processes that foreground accessibility, inclusive design practices, and a complex networked interpretation of agency. Findings expand mediology’s dimensional lens to new media and technical arenas, inform communities of practice toward more accessible and meaningful immersive experiences, and broaden investigations of artists’ positionality as well as the impact of their considerations and design decisions. Conclusions assert that multisensory VR is a rhetorically composed digitally designed experience but also a mode of technical and professional communication that requires as much attention on the compositionists as is placed on the system composition and the users of these systems.


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