Erving Goffman's work on interaction in everyday life focuses on joint spatio-temporal and face-to-face situations and denies the constitution of social situations via mediatized interaction. In contrast, we argue that shared immersive media such as Social Virtual Reality enable intense, delocalized forms of co-present interactions that constitute closeness and intimacy. By discussing Goffman in the context of current works that open up his perspective for mediatization, we present an understanding of social situations that focuses on intensity and synchronized embodiment—physical, digital, and corporeal. On the Social VR platform VRChat, synchronized bodies allow for intimate corporeal practices, such as cuddling, dancing, or cybersex. Virtual Reality technology facilitates delocalized forms of affective-bodily interaction, thereby contributing to the social negotiation of mediatized closeness and intimacy—despite physical distance. Our findings are based on a digital ethnographic analysis of lifeworlds and practices of enthusiast VRChat-users, combined with qualitative semi-structured interviews.
Picture: ChrisQuitsReality. 2020. “Full Body Trolling in VRChat! (Part 2)”