Fundamentals of Immersion

Jun 28

Waysdorf, Abby, and Stijn Reijnders. “Immersion, Authenticity and the Theme Park as Social Space: Experiencing the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.” International Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 21, no. 2, 2016, pp. 173–188., doi:10.1177/1367877916674751

  • The functioning of a park like Wizarding World of Harry Potter (WWOHP) is reliant on sensory detail as well as the inherited communitas of fans who feel like the space was prepared for them. It invites embodiment within the fiction and encourages engagement with the existing communitas of the HP fandom. It is perhaps designed to be the ultimate expression of fandom – the place that is as close as possible to habitation inside the fiction, designed to be experienced in a way as honest as possible to the way it would be engaged with were it “real” – as a place where you can not stay forever, but merely visit as a tourist.
  • New key terms: Habitus, Ironic Imagination
  • Returning key terms: simulation, communitas
  • a new definition of immersion: immersive because it feels inhabitable – as detailed as the real world and shared with others as an imaginary habitus
  • emblematic of a trend in the industry toward environments promising immersion into a favourite text
  • Limited understanding of why theme parks appeal to people, as most of the theory has focused on form and simulation
  • Paper is a visitor-centered work
  • small research base – only 15 interviews
  • Ironic Imagination (Saler)
  • Visitors can explore the storyworld in an embodied manner
  • Eco: “Disneyland tells us that technology can give us more reality than nature can
    • In choosing Disney over actual locations “the tourist has preferred the simulation to the reality” (Sorkin)
  • Success of the theme park points to the postmodern preference for simulation, safety and entertainment over the “real” experience of landscapes and environments
    • “a special place full of communitas not found anywhere in the mundane, consumerist habitus” (Aden)
  • Cult Geography: “fan attachment to non-commodified space, or… to space/place which has been indirectly or unintentionally constructed” (Hills)
    • eg tour of X-Files filming locations in Vancouver – constructed through fans meaning-making process rather than the media or tourist industry
  • Most critiques of theme parks is that they are inauthentic
  • Lukas: a themed environment becomes authentic when it “is sensory available”
    • That is, those visiting know it is a simulation but it becomes authentic when it feels correct on all sensory levels
  • Fantasies, mythologies and cultural icons can be enacted and played with
  • The visitor is encouraged the engage with the fictionality of the theme, and to imagine on a body level
  • This is the same kind of performance asked for and required for Total Immersion as suggested by Machon
  • Immersion, for this article: “The feeling, through the medium, that the audience member is part of the artistic or narrative world”
  • Saler: Virtual worlds: “acknowledged imaginary spaces that are communally inhabited for prolonged periods of time by rational individuals”
    • A storyworld becomes virtual when it is adopted and discussed by many individuals who group together in order to fill its details and make it more real
  • Becomes immersive because it feels inhabitable – as detailed as the real world and shared with others as an imaginary habitus
  • Embodiment (Crouch) : “A process of experiencing, making sense, knowing through practice as a sensual human subject in the world”
  • Ironic Imagination: A “double-consciousness” that allows the subject to be emotionally invested in and contemplative about a fictional world while maintaining knowledge that it is fictional.
  • There is no more “real” version so the simulation suffices as the closest thing to actual experience
  • diegetic expansions: products that are, or could be, from the series
    • “Like you are vacationing in Diagon Alley”
  • In WWOHP there is a sense of communitas inherent in arriving with a shared experience and camaraderie coming from Harry Potter. For example, recognizing another park-goer as being from the same HP House as yourself and using that to strike up a conversation

“‘Like Walking into a Movie’: Intermedial Relations between Disney Theme Parks and Movies.” The Journal of Popular Culture 50.4 (2017): 704-22. Print.

  • Provides some insights into the cinematographic inspiration behind theme park and ride design. More importantly the article provides some language and taxonomic tools for discussing elements and techniques borrowed from other media.
  • The organization of space in Disneyland follows cinematic principles rather than architectural ones
  • Wolf and Rajewsky’s typology of intermediality.
    • distinguishes between phenomena of transmediality and intermediality
    • each of their categories can be illustrated with an example of Disney parks “borrowing” from movies
  • parks are distinct from museums in that they create self-contained worlds that are separated from the rest of the world, fusing media that have been historically and culturally viewed as distinct
    • Can thus be classified as a “hybrid” medium, “composite” medium, or “meta-medium”
  • transmediality refers to elements that are nonspecific to individual media and whose origin is unimportant. Intermedial transposition is concerned with specific artefacts that have been “translated” from one medium to another
  • Intended to provide critics with a set of conceptual and terminological tools to describe intermedial phenomena
  • In many Disney rides vehicles frame the visitors’ view like a movie camera.
    • The ride vehicles, writes Lainsbury,were designed to function like movie cameras by twisting, turning, and directing the gaze of passengers from scene to scene. Their high backs and sight-restricting sides, not to mention the metal lap bars that held guests firmly in their seats, guided the experience further by erasing from view anything that might spoil the illusion. 
    • a Transmedial phenomenon as it is also employed in photography and painting, for example
  • Remediation is the retelling of a story in a new medium – in theme parks the line between remediation and intermedial transportation can be blurred
  • “Magic Wand” principle :a corridor links the entrance to a central square, from which different themed areas radiate out like the spokes of a wheel

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