Building a City in the Sky

Multiliteracies in Immersive Virtual Reality


  • Honeiah Karimi University of California, Santa Barbara
  • David Joshua Sañosa University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Kevin Hernandez Rios University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Phoebe Tran University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Dorothy M Chun University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Richert Wang University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Diana J Arya University of California, Santa Barbara



affordances of IVR, embodiment, immersive virtual reality (IVR), multiliteracies, social VR


The conceptualization of multiliteracies initiated by the New London Group (NLG, 1996) emphasized the situated nature of language use as a socially complex network of multimodal engagement. Inspired by this view of language and literacy, computer-assisted language learning and second language acquisition scholars have advocated for a broader scope of second language learning to include the development of multiliteracies (Reinhardt & Thorne, 2019; Warner & Dupuy, 2018). In this conceptual article, we explore the potential affordances of immersive virtual reality (IVR) for the development of multiliteracies. As we attempt to construct a working theory of IVR as a catalyst for understanding and creating multiple forms of language in use, we draw on existing literature as well as on data from our multi-year study of multilingual adolescents engaging in multimodal activities using the Meta Quest headset. The interactions between adolescents and researchers were designed to maximize key IVR affordances (embodied cognition, presence, agency, and contextualization), and examples from the IVR sessions suggest how the adolescents are developing multiliteracies. We conclude with ideas for future research that focus on empowering L2 learners to express themselves as they develop the necessary knowledge and skills to engage in multimodal literacies.

Author Biographies

Honeiah Karimi, University of California, Santa Barbara

Honeiah Karimi is a PhD student in Education with an emphasis on Quantitative Methods at University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). Her research interests include VR for language learning, data science, and educational measurement. She received a BA in Linguistics from UC Riverside and an MA in Linguistics from California State University, Fullerton.

David Joshua Sañosa, University of California, Santa Barbara

David Joshua Sañosa has been working with VR research/development since 2013. He is currently a PhD candidate studying at UCSB, focusing on sociocultural approaches to technology-mediated creative learning activity. He is a researcher and lead VR designer for the Community-Based Literacies (CBL) virtual reality project.

Kevin Hernandez Rios, University of California, Santa Barbara

Kevin Hernandez Rios has been part of the virtual reality project since 2020 as a research assistant and graduated from UCSB in 2021 with a BA in Sociology and a minor in History and Applied Psychology. He is currently a graduate student at the University of California, Davis. His research interests are in technology,
interconnectivity, transportation, and their functionalities together.

Phoebe Tran, University of California, Santa Barbara

Phoebe Tran has been a part of the virtual reality project as a research assistant at UCSB since 2019. In 2021, she graduated from UCSB with a BA in Sociology and Asian American Studies with a minor in Applied Psychology.

Dorothy M Chun, University of California, Santa Barbara

Dorothy M. Chun is Professor Emerita of Applied Linguistics at UCSB and Co-editor of Language Learning & Technology. Her research areas include L2 pronunciation and intonation, L2 vocabulary acquisition, CALL, and telecollaboration for intercultural learning. She is currently on a team developing VR games for learning.

Richert Wang, University of California, Santa Barbara

Richert Wang is Associate Teaching Professor in UCSB’s Computer Science Department and College of Creative Studies Computing program. His research focus is in computer science education and interdisciplinary applications of computer science.

Diana J Arya, University of California, Santa Barbara

Diana J. Arya is Associate Professor and Faculty Director in Education at UCSB. Their research interests converge on the intersection of multiliteracies and inter-disciplinary learning across K–20 contexts.


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How to Cite

Karimi, H., Sañosa, D. J., Hernandez Rios, K., Tran, P., Chun, D. M., Wang, R., & Arya, D. J. (2023). Building a City in the Sky: Multiliteracies in Immersive Virtual Reality. CALICO Journal, 40(1), 24–44.

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