What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality—including but not limited to its use in smartphones and wearable devices—allows information and sensory experience to be layered over the physical-geographic world, mediating and supplementing users’ perceptions of ‘reality’, space, and place.

Given the increased prevalence of such technologies and intense recent interest in rhetorics of space and place, such additions to the lived environment afford rich possibilities for rhetorical scholarship and instruction.

Augmented reality devices are extensions of ourselves because they augment the senses, so the augmented aspect of wearable AR should aspire to better humanity in some way. But when, in augmenting our humanity, are we actually detracting from our human-ness? In “A Semiotics of Human Actions for Wearable Augmented Reality Interfaces” (2005), Isabel Pedersen focuses on the everyday movements that wearable technology should ideally augment as our bodies move through the world. Pedersen argues that designers of these interfaces should ensure that wearable AR is human-centric, which is something that is not necessarily being accomplished: “By placing wearable AR in the terms of human-centricity, we remind ourselves that humans are always at risk to the design decisions that we make” (185). Design strategy stays with an AR technology even through the development of its software, and so, this stage is critical in considering how such a technology will better humanity in some way.

In an effort to become active agents of design from a rhetorical standpoint, the Augmented Reality Research Group aims to move towards a technology that will empower rather than dehumanize.

The Augmented Reality Research Group is part of the Digital Writing and Research Lab at the University of Texas at Austin. Our approach to augmented reality is situated within rhetoric and informed by scholars such as N. Katherine Hayles, Jason Farman, Alexander Galloway and Isabel Pedersen. This site is meant to be a resource for Rhetoric scholars and students interested in augmented reality, but who may not know where to start. In the drop-down menu, we’ve made a list a list of research areas within augmented reality that we’ve found fruitful, each with a link back to work we’ve done in the DWRL. 

Works Cited:

Pedersen, Isabel. “A Semiotics of Human Actions for Wearable Augmented Reality Interfaces.” Semiotica 155 1/4 (January 2005): 183-200. DOI: 10.1515/semi.2005.2005.155.1part4.183