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Doctoral thesis defense on June 13th - Kyle Jonathan Davidson

On June 13 at 16.15 Kyle Jonathan Davidson will defend his doctoral thesis “Semiotic Modelling of Identity and Communication in Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality” for obtaining the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (in Semiotics and Culture Studies).



Professor Kalevi Kull, University of Tartu

Lecturer Anti Randviir, University of Tartu



Professor Kay O’Halloran, University of Liverpool (UK)

Professor Merja Lina M. Bauters, Tallinn University



This thesis aims to semiotically model hyperreality in contemporary digitized society and beyond into the burgeoning Web 3.0 era of ubiquitous virtuality. The upcoming Web 3.0, as an evolution of the current digital space, leads us to an evolution of hyperreality (where the virtual is more real than reality).

We call this next step “hypervirtuality” as a portmanteau of “virtual” and “hyperreality”, where the physical becomes a meaningless canvas, overlaid by digital information, which is itself appended by virtual spheres of digital signs that attempt to differentiate themselves from the mundane digital world.

We investigate virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality models, stating that virtual reality and augmented reality lack the interaction with the physical space to create hypervirtuality, but mixed reality could overlay the physical with a digital layer of

information that increasingly becomes more significant and symbolic than mundane physicality.

These spaces can replicate the physical or exaggerate the virtual, pointedly marking themselves as more virtual-than-virtual. The transmediality of identity between the user and their avatar is one of the last relationships where the physical, offline, signs form a primary foundation to the semiotic communication model.

Our thesis concluded that an enhanced digital literacy education within the classroom would enable the contextualisation of self within the physical space, thus avoiding the loss of the physical sign as a meaningful part of one’s identity schema. The virtual space should add meaning and not replace offline signs completely.


The defence will be held in Zoom.

The doctoral thesis is available here: Semiotic modelling of identity and communication in virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality

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