Know Thyself as a Virtual Reality

Know Thyself as a Virtual Reality is an interdisciplinary project that focuses on the ethics and aesthetics of the use of medical data and virtual reality. In order to explore this field, we have assembled a skilled and diverse team from across the University of Alberta as well as from other Canadian and international universities, bringing together expertise in medical imaging, health law, software development, biomedical engineering, virtual narratives, sound, the history of medicine, and artistic creation. This collaborative team will explore, create, disseminate and share ideas about cutting edge technologies that produce bodies in virtual and augmented reality. These bodies offer striking opportunities for producing new medical knowledge, but also render bodies transparent, accessible and manipulable in potentially exploitative ways, particularly during an era of increasing surveillance. Our project addresses these and other issues, allowing scholars and students to experiment with the technologies, learn from each other, and engage a broader public. This unique fusion of medical diagnostics and fine arts will ultimately help us to better know ourselves and our bodies in the digital age. 

The project unfolds in a series of meetings, workshops, and creative endeavors to produce multiple outcomes. A symposium in Summer 2021 will bring researchers together to cross-pollinate research across the disciplines of computer science, digital humanities (ethics of AI, and race/gender bias in computer visualization), fine arts (focused on artistic use of medical imaging), nursing (focused on computer literacy and the impact of digitized health records), radiology (full body, 3D/4D MR and ultrasound) and rehabilitation medicine. Two research creation projects will be created by the interdisciplinary team to fully explore and exemplify the important ethical and aesthetic issues at stake in the field of body scan imaging. These VR projects will be accessible on a web platform that will also be created as part of the overall project, required to preserve and disseminate the new technologies to a wide audience. The overall process will result in reflective essays written by various members of the team, and posted to the web platform noted above as well as aggregated for a special journal issue. Another substantial outcome will be the production of a carefully considered set of ethical guidelines for the use of medical scan data in XR, something much needed with the scientific as well as artistic realms.