Category Archives: Ch 0 Introduction

Not a Film and Not an Empathy Machine

How necessary failures will help VR designers invent new storyforms

Source: Not a Film and Not an Empathy Machine

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 of our panel from the  Versions conference on VR curated by Kill Screen and New INC at the New Museum in NYC March 2016.

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 as a whole 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 this 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.

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.

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

My Syllabus for Fall 2015 Principles of Interaction Design

This is the current draft (subject to some refinements and revisions) of this semester’s syllabus. Syllabus LMC6313_F15 v0811

My TED Talk 1998

The folks at TED have kindly dug up for me my 1998 talk which I still stand behind and which predicts the future well, but is also still timely. It is longer than the current crop, and more spontaneous. It falls into 4 segments  and it references other talks, some of which are on the TED website but most of which are not.

 

Here is a summary:

1.PREAMBLE: WE NEED EVERY MEDIUM TO EXPRESS OUR HUMANITY (first 5 minutes) I take issue with Julie Taymor who spoke disparagingly of screen-based experiences, and offered the rituals of Bali dancers ( invoked again in her 20** TED Talk) as the superior paradigm for art that addresses the human condition.  I also take issue with John Warnock, founder of Adobe and a rare book collector who described his meticulously prepared facsimile book series as purposely avoiding interactivity, such as searching by text, which makes it much less useful. I would still consider both positions examples of a fetishism for legacy forms of representation. (first 5 minutes).

2. ELIZA IS OUR CREATION MYTH (5:00 – 17:00) I compare the amazement at the birth of film (the legend of the Ciotat Train showing) to the  amazement at the birth of procedural storytelling (the legend of Eliza at MIT), as I do in Chapter 3 ofHamlet on the Holodeck, and as I have done with my students pretty much every semester for the past 20 years.

3. PROTOTYPE OF A  MULTISEQUENTIAL STORY WORLD STILL AHEAD OF ITS TIME 17:00- 2500)  show an MIT project I created with Freedom Baird, sponsored by IBM and based on Alan Ayckbourn’s trilogy, The Norman Conquest. The TV dramas are also now on YouTube.  They were meant to be seen on three successive nights in any order, and each one is complete in itself but an exit in one play is an entrance in another play. This makes a nice comparison with Mitch Horowitz’s recent work on the Netflix version of Arrested Development, as I discussed in another post.   (timecode: )

4. WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? (last 30 seconds) I sum up as I do in Hamlet on the Holodeck, by comparing the development of conventions of interaction with the invention of the soliloquy in Shakespeare’s time.

Other references: John Warnock is the founder of Adobe and a rare book collector. At 1998 TED he presented a facsimile book series that purposely avoids interactivity, such as searching by text, which makes it much less useful. This is a good example of what I would now call legacy media fetishism.

Brenda Laurel, feminist game designer and pioneer of interactive storytelling, whose talk on her wonderful but short-lived series Purple Moon, is on the TED site.

Marvin Minsky, one of the seminal theorists of the field of Artificial Intelligence, who has a notorious blind spot for humanistic discourse. In the corridor between sessions Ben Shneiderman and argued with him. Minsky took the position that fictional stories were a waste of time because they were not true. Ben and I were appropriately outraged.