Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design

Committee Chair/Advisor

Dr. Jordan Frith

Committee Member

Dr. Michelle Smith

Committee Member

Dr. Matthew Browning

Committee Member

Dr. Lauren Cagle


In this dissertation I analyze two AR apps from Internet of Elephants, Safari Central and Wildeverse, and one VR app from National Geographic, National Geographic: Explore VR. These three apps use photography as the central tool for engagement, attempt to educate users, and prompt them to care about wildlife and wilderness. However, the ethical consideration of design has largely ignored representations of the environment, especially as it may intersect with facilitating care for wilderness and wildlife that is experiencing the effects of habitat destruction and environmental degradation. This project begins developing a critical discussion of how wilderness and wildlife are selectively created through CGI by asking two research questions: What kinds of relationships are facilitated between users and representations of wildlife by designing around photography in AR and VR? and How can these designs be revised or leveraged for more beneficial environmental communication through care ethics?

To answer my research questions, I use methods from game studies and a methodological lens informed by care ethics, new materialism, and feminist materialism. My results show that these apps facilitate an underdeveloped researcher/subject and patron/recipient roles. In answering my second research question, I craft three approaches for applying care ethics: 1) designing based on performances, 2) modeling behavior, and 3) engaging in a reflective photographic review process. This dissertation attempts to support the rewilding of media, which helps people reconnect (rewild) with (other) forms of wildlife and wilderness.

Author ORCID Identifier




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