MEDIA PANIC

My slides from the MIT Virtually There Conference

MIT Virtually There Murray

Video from the conference: my talk is at 6:40

Versions: The Creative Landscape of Virtual Reality – YouTube

The video stream from the  Versions conference on VR curated by Kill Screen and New INC at the New Museum in NYC March 2016.

Our panel starts at around 2:14. I think there are disappointments ahead in the short term because expectations have been raised too high before genre conventions – -a “language of VR” — has been invented, but I remain optimistic about the long-term power of immersive, navigable, 3D art and entertainment.

This event offers a snapshot of a particular moment in which a diversely situated  community of practice has been called into being while platforms are still in flux. There is excitement from all the commercial interest and the emergence of some early high-production-values examples. But directions are unclear.

Some of my take-aways from a very well curated set of presentations:

  1. There is a tension between film and games as the model for VR.
  2. Since the interactor’s experience of agency is always the most important design value for digital environments, games are a more productive starting point.
  3. Hand controllers are key to success because they give us a presence in the virtual role, functioning as “threshold objects” when they mimic two-handed operations we can see.
  4. Virtual vehicles are a promising approach to constraining and empowering interaction.
  5. Documentary film approaches may work, shaping interaction as a visit (as I describe in Chapter 4 Immersion in  Hamlet on the Holodeck). To be successful, designers need to invent:
    1. interaction conventions for  navigating the space,
    2. cues to entice us to navigate,
    3. dramatic composition of the experience to rewards us for being in one place rather than another,
    4.  a fourth wall equivalent to make clear what we can and cannot do.

The Life-After-Life Replay Story is becoming a genre

Thanks to Andrew Marantz for calling my attention to this December 2015 interview with filmmaker Charlie Kaufman in which he describes a TV pilot he worked on with a plot structure similar to Life After Lifeexploring the alternate paths the same person’s life might have taken:

It seems that you would be an ideal person for an Amazon or a Netflix to throw a lot of money at and say, “Hey, make us a distinctive, Charlie Kaufman–esque show.”
I had a pilot at HBO that Catherine Keener was going to be in. The whole series takes place on one day. The premise of the show is that there are so many different accidents in your life that lead you in different directions, and as you look at someone’s life from birth to, let’s say, 50, there are so many different versions of that life that could have happened. My idea was that you take this woman, she is this age on this day, that’s the only given, and then each episode is based on a different route. Maybe it broke off here and the difference is very small; maybe it broke off when she was a baby, in which case it’s a completely different life. In the course of the series, you start to recognize, first of all, there’s clues given as to what these things were that happened that changed the course of her life. But there are also similarities in all these different versions of herself — about who she is. What I thought was really cool about the show, in addition to the premise, which I really liked, is that there’s no one right version of it. You can watch this in any order, and it’s a different show. The example that I like to use is that in one episode, she’s married to this man and you see their life together. In the next episode, she’s divorced from this man and you see her life having been divorced from this man. In a third episode, she and this man walk by each other on the street, clearly have never met. And depending on which order you watch the series in, there are different a-hamoments.

So what happened with it?
I wrote a first episode, and then they wanted to see a second episode because they weren’t sure what it was going to be. So I wrote a second episode. And I decided to make the second episode very, very different, so that they could see how it could be very, very different. The response I got from them was, “Well, I don’t see how this could be the second episode. It’s so different.” And it’s like, “Well, no. I’m not saying it’s the second episode. I’m saying it’s another episode. This isn’t like the order that the show has to go in if we want to establish the premise.” It may not be the real reason they didn’t want to do it, but they could not remove that idea from their head. Ultimately, they didn’t go ahead with the series.

This is clearly a genre that will work best on interactive platforms. The significant thing here is that both Charlie Kaufman and Kate Atkinson, Hollywood/experimental filmmaker and mainstream/experimental  British novelist  are conceiving of extended replay stories of this kind.

 

Hamlet on the Holodeck updated ebook

HoH ebook updated

New ebook-only edition revised for 2016 with over 10,000 words of new content in the form of chapter-by-chapter commentary, with new examples and useful web links illustrative of the enduring principles of design that have been validated by  multiple communities of practice — from game designers to digital journalists to VR developers —  since 1997 when it first appeared, and emphasizing productive design strategies for the next phase of creative innovation.

VR as Empathy or Novelty – continued

In a previous post I identified some of the unsolved design issues that make VR a less than engaging storytelling platform, and questioned whether the global elite wearing headsets to look at refugees in a UN-sponsored virtual reality documentary,  were experiencing an expansion of empathy, as claimed by one of the filmmakers,  or simply a sense of excitement at the novelty of a new technological gadget.  This interview with Gabo Arora, who c0-produced the project provides some useful context: that the VR experience was positioned as a  high profile replacement  for a cancelled appearance by Bono. It also offers  a key detail about an important design intervention that Arora made in staging one part of the film. The glamour of VR may not last, but the design intervention — creating action that encircles the viewer — is a useful convention that is likely to become a staple of the evolving medium.

It is works better in the  refugee camp (see 6:20 in), than in the Disney VR of the intro to the Lion King which disrupts the immersive effect of a meticulously  choreographed, costumed,  and lighted stage picture by allowing us to move around chaotically, revealing the strained and tawdry artifice behind the illusion. Perhaps this is a new convention in the making as well — unintentional here, but potentially quite powerful: to take a composed image, like the pseudo-African primitivist landscape of a Broadway musical,  and expose its constructed and distorting character  nature  by turning into an explorable 3D space.

Refugee Crisis in Virtual Reality

Is VR the appropriate way to engage sympathy for child refugees or are child refugees the appropriate content to expand the market for VR?

Empathy or Novelty?

Empathy or Novelty?

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Future of Storytelling | Dramatic Agency

Here is a film that was made for my participation in the the 2015 Future of Storytelling Summit.

Source: Future of Storytelling | 2015 Films

Among the games that flash by are Dys4ia, Blood and Laurels, Unmanned, Every Day the Same Dream,  Framed,  Walden, Her Story, Papers Please, and Game of Thrones: Iron from Ice

The interactive TV projects are from my Georgia Tech eTV Lab