Im/material Event #5: Im/material Futures
Event five of the im/material network provided an opportunity for participants to reflect on key themes from previous im/material events. Contributors to the public events and collaborators active in immersive technologies and practice-based research came together to reflect on the outcomes of the network and discuss priorities for future research. The group refined the outcomes of the broad and wide ranging discussions of the im/material network into a set of key strategic research questions around which future collaborations of the im/material network might be built:
- How is storytelling employed and deployed within immersive experiences?
- How can existing approaches to narrative, as used in theatre or video games, be employed within or adapted for immersive media?
- Can we tell the untold stories from the perspective of those with different lived experiences to generate empathy and understanding?
- Can we connect different senses in different ways, and how does the physical body’s relationship to the virtual world affect immersion?
- What sort of physical venue would Virtual Reality necessitate as these technologies become more prevalent?
- What concepts are Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality particularly well-suited to conveying, and are there low-tech alternatives that are better in certain situations?
- While we tend to focus on capturing and conveying an experience through immersive technologies, how do we evaluate these experiences and creatively document our methods?
Overall, these events highlighted that there is a pressing need for creative and practice-led research to begin answering these questions.
REFLECTIONS FROM OUR PARTICIPANTS
I was struck with how the discussion touched upon concepts and challenges that relate to game design. For example, the importance of understanding something about architecture when it comes to designing virtual spaces, whether in VR or in games. The challenge of telling non-linear stories is also common to AR/VR and games, particularly at a time when ‘open world’ games are so prevalent. Telling a coherent story – or simply conveying a clear message – isn’t so straightforward when the player or user has freedom to explore the virtual landscape at will, encountering objects, characters or other points of interest in no set order. The use of sound to convey information or create a certain atmosphere is also an area in which game designers have a lot of experience, which might be worth tapping into for folk coming to building VR experiences for the first time.
I found the discussion really interesting and fruitful compared to other events of this type I've attended. Much of this was due to the existing synergies between participants but the pace of the event really helped. It's often tempting in organising similar events to move things along too quickly and I appreciated the time to discuss plans in detail with the other participants.