28 August 2020

Completing your PhD during a Pandemic

Sojung Bahng reflects on her PhD journey in SensiLab

My name is Sojung Bahng, and I am currently completing my PhD under the supervision of Jon McCormack and Vince Dziekan at SensiLab. My practice-based research focuses on investigating reflexivity in Virtual Reality (VR) storytelling. I investigated which design factors and storytelling techniques prompt self and social reflection within a VR story. 

Floating Walk VR

I am from South Korea and came to Australia in 2016 to start my PhD studies. I have a background in film and TV production as well as in art and technology. I learnt about Jon’s work during my Master’s program and was inspired by his artworks and research, so I came to Australia to work with him.

SensiLab is amazingly creative and multidisciplinary, with great facilities and infrastructure that allowed me to explore the technical and cinematic aspects of my research in practice. I collaborated with SensiLab members who supported my PhD project via their various capabilities and skills, such as 3D modelling, interaction programming, web development and physics. Thanks to this support, I completed three cinematic VR projects that address social issues related to alienation, isolation and disconnection. In each project, I explored the different technical modes of VR technologies, such as 360-degree video (Floating Walk), mobile interactive VR (Anonymous) and navigable interactive VR that uses biofeedback sensors (Sleeping Eyes). Each work has been exhibited internationally and has received recognition at a number of prestigious international film festivals and venues.

Trailer for Anonymous
Trailer for Sleeping Eyes

As an early-career researcher, I could also gain confidence and passion regarding theory and practice in an academic setting. I am the first practice-based research student in the Faculty of Information Technology. When I started my PhD, practice-based research was very new and unfamiliar to me. It was challenging to connect my creative practice and academic research in a PhD project. However, my supervisors, Jon and Vince, patiently helped me express my potential, encouraging me to explore creative projects while helping me to direct my focus and formalise the concepts of my research. Their supervision and guidance allowed me to investigate my artistic depth and to clarify the connection between practice and theory. During my PhD research, in addition to creating the three VR artworks, I published five conference papers across several disciplines, including HCI, interactive storytelling and new media art.

Practice-based research normally includes a public exhibition of the studio research, but this was unfortunately not possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, SensiLab helped me create a virtual space for exhibiting interactive VR experiences during the pandemic. I worked with a web developer to mix traditional and non-traditional gallery spaces that elicit viewers’ phenomenological experience. These creative implementations and experimentation would be impossible without SensiLab.

Sojung Bahng's PhD Virtual Exhibition

Sojung Bahng is completing a practice-based PhD on reflexivity in VR in SensiLab.

Sojung’s PhD online exhibition is available for viewing here.