Fundamentals of Immersion

Annotated BibliographyArchive

May 21

Annotated Bibliography

Machon, Josephine. (2013) Immersive Theatres: Intimacy and Immediacy in Contemporary Performance, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Introduction

  • Immerse: “be submerged in a liquid”, “to involve oneself deeply in a particular activity or interest”
  • Immersive: provides stimulation for a number of senses beyond sight and sound
  • Experience means “to undergo” for the purpose of this discourse
  • One-on-One or One-to-One is designed for one audience member
  • worlds can last longer than the event; one example is even that the proposal/grant is written in-world
  • points out that the space between the show’s end and the return to the world can be “theatricalized”
  • the principle of minimum fiction
    • coined by Stevens
    • “minimum fiction required to play with the real world and… recast it as otherworldly in the imagination and experience of the beholder”
    • in other words, the least that must be done to turn the mundane into something exciting to the audience’s imagination
  • growing fan-bases are said to come about from a growing desire for “genuine physical connection”
  • reduced opportunities for “sentient human interaction” in the face of digital communication
  • immersive theatre requires bodily engagement, tactility
  • “sensually stimulates the imagination”
  • “epic”: grand in execution and profound in appreciation, spectacular but with powerful meaning
  • Immersive theatre means new environment and context every time – no familiar theatrical lights down/lights up presence/lack of presence
  • Techniques and sensibilities attached to immersive theatre can be traced to Modernist Theatre (1905-59) owing to the growing interdisciplinarity of the time
  • the mix of “fun, flux and furore” of immersive practice can be traced the theatre traditions of Commedia Del’Arte and European street theatre, which influenced the so-called “Assemblages, Environments and Happenings” of the mid-20th century
  • Antonin Artaud’s “total theatre” – “an intensive mustering of objects, gestures and signs used in a new spirit” – immersive theatre puts much of his manifesto into practice with its “sensual practice”
  •  Happenings – Allan Kaprow
    • The line between art and life should be kept as fluid, and perhaps indistinct, as possible”
    • viewers are fused with the space-time of the performance and lose their identities
    • should take place over multiple locations and avoid the static
    • Should not be repeated
    • Duration perceived as real and experienced as opposed to the conceptual time of traditional theatre
  • Installation Art
    • “art in to which the viewer physically enters”
    • the effect is that the viewer (“actor”) is “submerged”, “engrossed”
  • Immersive experience arise where medium and message are fused
    • the perceiver is within the art
  • Immersive technologies
    • seek to heighten sensual experience
    • seeks control in order to get at the experiential intent of the work
  • impact of duration + space and human interrelationships within the space establish an environmental sensibility that allow wider ecological concerns to exist within the work
  • Communitas
    • place/space/art as living experience facilitates communal recreation
  • Immersive theatre requires
    • the letting down of boundaries
    • giving in to experience
    • willingly engaging in a truly embodied fashion
  • Requires liveness and “live(d)ness
    • the live performance is fleeting, never can be repeated, but lasts in the receiver’s memory of the event
    • praesent – being at hand
    • “live(d)”: the performing/perceiving body is living, tactile, haptic material
    • live(d) bodies establish a constant praesence

Part One: Defining Immersive Theatres

Definitions and Details

  • Traditional theatre vs Immersive Theatre
  • The conventional relationship with theatre asks us to forget our physical bodies. immersive reminds us of our physical presence. Perception is more important than attending.
  • traditional theatre is audio/visual and offers nothing to other senses
  • “Immersive” first applied to computer technologies in the 1980s
  • In digital, “immersive” is applied to displays that generate a 3d image that surround the user.
    • or, deeply involve the senses or create an altered mental state
  • Grau: “Immersion arises when the artwork and technical apparatus, the message and medium of perception, converge into an inseparable whole.. maximize the intensity of the message being transported”
  • In gaming theory and game studies “immersion” is used interchangeably with “presence”
  • Immersive theatre must be a practice in and of itself, and not defer to any technological practice
  • a sense of presence is always related to form (Calleja)
  • the live(d) experience is a tangible fact and a pivotal element of the immersive experience
  • Immersion as Absorption
    • the event is a total activity that engrosses the participant within its form
  • Immersion as Transportation
    • the participant is imaginatively and scenographically reoriented in another place, requiring navigation according to its own rules
    • in games this occurs in a conceptual space, in immersive theatre this is a conceptual space and an inhabited physical space
    • affords actual physical cohabitation and contact with human bodies
  • Total Immersion
    • Involving both of the above and leading to an uncanny recognition of the participant’s own praesence within the experience
    • the participant can fashion their own narrative or journey
  • All immersive events exist at some point between these three criteria
  • Earliest claimed usage of “immersive” in relation to theatre is attributable to Artangel; Morris uses it to describe La Fura Dels Baus in 1983.
  • Oily Cart using immersive sensory explorations as educational and therapeutic purposes, such as being immersed in hydrotherapy pools, sensory explorations using scent, touch, feeling of momentum using trampolines
  • Immersive theatre begins to be defined as a genre between 2005-2010
  • Immersive theatre is the practice which allows participants to be in “the playing area” with the performers

Features and Finer Details: A Scale of Immersivity

  • Venue, architectural details & design, landscapes, are of concern
    • can incorporate a focus on geographic location, community, culture, history politics
  • “Audience involvement, audience evolvement”
  • Threefold agenda of “activation; authorship; community” (Bishop)
  • “theatre experienced from within… part of it rather than fundamentally distinct”
  • Audiences are keen for visceral experiences that can remind an individual what it is to feel alive; esp as people spend more time online
  • Machines like ATMs now perform work that once represented “many opportunities for exchanges, pleasure, or conflict”
    • “art is a state of encounter” (Bourriaud 2006)
    • Immersive practice creates a space for reinvigorating human interaction and exchange
  • Difficult to come up with a term for audience members (I’ve been saying “participants” mostly)
    • immersants vs immersees
  • Mercuriali: “everyday technology use can serve to distance human interaction and destroy a sense of personal connection… The immersive practice can employ technology to return the user to the personal relationship that is more precious than anything”
  • A central feature of immersive theatre is related to the sensual construction of the world
  • Banes taxonomy of odour: 1) to illustrate words, characters, places, or action. 2) to evoke a mood or ambience. 3) to complement or contrast with aural/visual signs. 4) to summon specific memories. 5) to frame the performance as ritual. 6) to serve as a distancing device
    • Olfactory sense has the capacity to “summon up memories”, argues that it in some way fuses past and present in time
  • Haptics (meaning skin to surface, skin against skin, kinaesthetics and proprioception – not necessarily the digital definition of haptics) are “often crucial” to immersive performance experience
    • Haptics are “whole body” experience
  • touch is an opportunity for “sensate involvement” – 78
  • The prioritization of all human senses opens up a new taxonomy for appreciation – 80
    • Articulated by Lundahl and Seitl as the “sixth sense”.
    • The “(syn)aesthetic sense”
    • draws on the full cognition of the body to make sense and sense the inarticulable
    • This is unusual due to the process of becoming aware of the fusion of senses
  • “the play of the senses… allows for an immediate and intimate interaction within the performance event.
  • Immersive practice is, and must be, an embodied event. – 83
  • Immersive practice can encourage individual to invest in each other as well as the work
    • a palpable sense of communitas – 85
  • Higgin: the storytelling environment bleeds into the real world – 87
  • collaborate with communities to encourage them to find an artistic access to their local environment + reignite their relationship to their community (Holdsworth) – 88

Immersive Perspectives

  • Theories pulled from multiple disciplines
    • philosophy and art
  • (syn)aesthetics – 104
    • making sense/sense-making
    • understanding through embodied, somatic perception via feeling
  • aesthetics
    • subjective creation, experience, and criticism of the art
  • corporeal memory and embodied knowledge – 105
    • primordial human impulses
    • the emotional and physiological capabilities of the physical body
  • Deleuze: “Immanence” – 108
    • fusion between immanence (a state of being, within the material/physical qualities of human experience) and transcendence
    • transcendence is supressing the materially immanent and entering int oan otherworldly state. “Transcendence is always a product of immanence”
    • (syn)aesthetically pulled between the plausible and implausible – 109
    • “sensation is in the body and not in the air”
    • Deleuze aligns with Artaud’s theories for theatre
    • “artworks just are sensation” and allow us to enter into a “pure presence” or a “pure plane of immanence”
  • Kathryn Linn Geurts: “Seselelame” – 110
    • Anlo-Ewe peoples’ word
    • embodied consciousness for which in some non-western cultures there already exists an expressive vocabulary (Geurts, 2003, 2006)
    • social and cultural experience is bound in sensory order established by early education
    • Seselelame: “perceive-perceive-at-flesh-inside”
    • Anlo sensory does not divide itself by five senses (a Western ideal) but by a generalized feeling within the body that includes internal senses (such as balance and proprioception) and external ones, as well as perceptual, emotional, intuitive dimensions of experience – 111
    • both a specific sense and a descriptor for human sentience in general
    • The embodied sentience innate in all humans, which exists in everyday pursuits
      • (intention is not to appropriate the Anlo terms a theoretical concept and academic jargon, but to show how Geurts’s study is useful to prioritizing embodied knowledge) – 112
  • Umberto Eco
    • wrote of the active judgment of the audience member of the audience member when interpreting and experiencing artistic works – 113
    • “art can only represent and express the experience of human existence by employing equally open and complex forms” – 114
    • where works are open, the performer can “impose his judgement on the form of the piece” which forms “fresh dialectics between the work of art and the performer” – openness is “indefiniteness” – audience is an active collaborator in the work, resulting in an outcome where the work is constantly being formulated and interpreted
    • the audience and artist must work together
    • the form of the artwork gains an “aesthetic validity” in proportion to the perspectives from which it can be viewed and understood
    • Eco notes that his perspective comes from contemporary theory and practice and cannot be applied to work prior to the twentieth century – 115
  • Jacques Ranciere
    • theorizes the relationship between aesthetics and politics
    • his perspective is central to the collaborative nature of immersive events
      • suggests a democratic community within these events – 117
    • refers to Plato’s “choreographic community” where everyone moves to the “community rhythm”
    • emancipation: “the blurring of the boundary between those who act and those who look; between individuals and members of a collective body”
    • “viewing” is an action that encapsulates “observes, selects, compares, interprets”
  • Nicolas Borriaud
    • “art is a state of encounter” – 120
  • Juhani Pallasmaa
    • the sensuality of space – 123
  • Doreen Massey
    • The politics of space and place – 130
  • Gaston Bachelard
    • the poetics of space – 137
May 11

Annotated Bibliography

Coulton, P., Lindley, J., Sturdee, M., & Stead, M. 2017. ‘Design Fiction as World Building’. In: Proceedings of the 3rd Biennial Research Through Design Conference, 22-24 March 2017, Edinburgh, UK, Article 11, pp. 163-179. DOI: 10.6084/m9.figshare.4746964.

  • worldbuilding
  • Bruce Sterling: Design fiction is more “practical” than science fiction
  • “Design Fiction is the deliberate use of diegetic prototypes to suspend disbelief about change”
  • There is a diversity of mediums in which to create design fictions
  • What is the diegesis?
  • what is the “story” in “story world”?
  • “It tells worlds not stories”
  • “The creation of rhetoric within a world rather than through a story allows those interacting with the world to explore the rhetoric of that world rather than being forced down a prescribed path”
  • Diegetic prototypes that exist within the story world are part of everyday life and are real in that world
  • The world is the principle task of the designer when creating a design fiction
  • they propose a framework where the design fiction world is a distinct entity, with a distinct shape, but with a complex hidden inner structure
    • a series of “entry points” are visible
    • this is an artefact that contributes to making up the design fiction and can be extrapolated from (see Figure 1)
  • “Powers of 10” inspired by the film of the same name
  • start with an entry point and increase the “visible area”
  • world building applied to design fiction moves the focus away from storytelling and instead it is placed on the cohesion of the world – how things and people interact
  • Design fictions are “collections of artefacts, that, when viewed together build a fictional world”
  • “The artificially built world is a prototyping platform for the very designs that define it, meanwhile these designs reciprocate in kind and prototype the world”

Dunne, Anthony, and Fiona Raby. Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming. MIT Press, 2013. pp 69 -100

  • Chapter 5 – A Methodological Playground: Fictional Worlds and Thought Experiments
    • Shift the focus from how the world is now to how the world could be
    • Lubomir Dolezel: speculative design is “experimental laboratory of the world-constructing enterprise”
    • Speculation = imagining other worlds and alternatives
    • tools for reflection, critique, provocation, inspiration
    • build a whole world rather than traditional starting points
    • actual vs fictional is key distinction
    • literature & fine art offer the best sources of inspiration
    • a fictional world can be impossible; a possible world needs to be plausible
    • examples of non-fictional worlds in fashion, fine art Crewmaster Cycle and The Fantasy Collection
    • Game design is the area where fictional worlds is most developed
    • Utopia: literary utopia, utopian practice, utopian social theory
    • Nazism, Fascism, Stalinism are said to be the fruits of utopian thinking <- attempts to realize utopias from the top-down
    • utopia is “far more interesting when used as a stimulus to keep idealism alive” “something to aim for rather than build”
    • cognitive estrangement, a development of Brecht’s Alienation Effect, describes how alternate realities can aid critique of our world through contrast
    • Limitation of cinema: can deliver a powerful story and immersive experience but “requires a degree of passivity in the viewer reinforced by easily recognized and understood visual cues”
    • As designers we are between literature and cinema
    • start with designs that the viewer can use to imagine the society/world that would have produced them
    • China Mieville’s The City and the City is poli-science fiction, everything is familiar; the reconceptualizing of the common concept “the border” is the crux of the fictional world (and “makes it relevant to design”)
    • Reducto Ad Absurdum thought experiment: take one argument to the extreme
    • Counterfactual thought experiment: change a historical fact and consider what might have happened
    • What-ifs thought experiment: what might happen in a society of extreme circumstances
    • Speculative design is fictional, disconnected from industry and market
    • Speculation & imagination is a part of everyday design
    • The purpose of speculation is to “unsettle the present rather than predict the future”
  • Chapter 6 – Physical Fictions: Invitations of Make-Believe
    • Fictional objects exist outside of art and design; such as patents and failed inventions. Fictional objects but accidental fictions
    • Film props and design speculations have different requirements; film props must be legible and serve a greater purpose & use a visual language
    • functions in design speculations can be wider and more varied
    • Kendall L Walton: props are objects that “prescribe imaginings” and “generate fictional truths”
    • Being “caught up in a story” means “to participate psychologically in a game in which the story is a prop”
    • Speculative design props do not carry a behavioral schema with predetermined roles to fill
    • A Prop’s purpose is to “facilitate imagining”
    • Props are synecdoches of the fictional world, designed to elicit a response to the world the prop belongs to
    • Suspension of disbelief = asking people to participate in make-believe, not belief
    • belief leads to fakery, trickery, hoaxes
    • for Dunne & Raby “fooling the viewer into believing something is real is cheating”
    • A speculative object does not have to be realistic, just plausible
    • Objects must appear real but subtly signal that they are not
    • Differences between design fiction and speculative design, including that design fiction is intended mostly for video & internet

Von Stackelberg, Peter, and Alex McDowell. “What in the World? Storyworlds, Science Fiction, and Futures Studies.” Journal of Futures Studies, 20 Dec. 2015, pp. 25–46.

  • Universes provide rulesets that develop larger realities
  • Theories have found their way into foresight methodologies
  • Foresight professionals should understand storyworlds
  • Also read: Floyd (2008), Fuller and Loogma (2009), Inayatullah (2010), Slaughter (2011) for analyses of foresight methods
  • Causal Layered Analysis (CLA): delve into subjectivity, interpretation, and cultural context. Multiple levels to make sense of reality and the future
  • Social Constructionism: Whenever we employ words or symbols to refer to objects we are constructing them. Re: Future Studies, each member of a group contributes to the development of a world using currently available information.
  • Integral Theory: Subjective Perspective (individuals interior world), Objective Perspective (individual’s exterior world), Interobjective Perspective (collective exterior world or physical world), Intersubjective Perspective (collective interior world or shared meaning of groups as expressed in culture)
  • Critical Futures Studies (CFS) and Integral Futures (IF): examines “social interiors” (language, worldviews, paradigms, values) of the future (equivalent to Intersubjective Perspective of Integral Theory)
  • Sense-Making: Social activity where plausible stories are shared, retained, and preserved. Vital to the processing of information.
  • Storytelling exists to help us make sense of the world around us
  • Narratives support strategic decision making and critical reflection, help comprehend uncertainties
  • Futures narrative creative process by Schultz, Crews, and Lum (2012)
    • 1) Create a participatory, integrated futures process that digs into organizational cultural assumptions and blind spots
    • 2) produce scenarios inductively by interconnecting impacts of multiple variables to mimic more closely the turbulence of real-world change
    • 3) engage participants in creating their own richly detailed, vivid, dramatic stories about possible futures
  • Design fiction prototypes possible future outcomes of contemporary life
  • science fiction and future studies can be confused and “each side worries about being confused with one another”
  • Emotional processes can affect attention and information processing, which science fiction provides
    • “the future is felt as well as imagined and considered”
  • Literary metaphors of future-oriented science fiction (Levin, 2010)
    • Cautionary Tales
    • Thought Experiments
    • Literalized Metaphors
    • Explorations of new science and technology
  • A formal framework for science fiction prototyping (Graham, Greenhill, Dymski, Coles, & Hennelly 2015)
    • narratives based on facts as a design tool in the development of a technology
  • Storyworld: “The place and time in which a narrative happens”
    • or Chronotope (“time-space”)
  • This ability to immerse participants in a persistent coherent storyworld is one of the key strengths of the worldbuilding process and is one that holds promise for futures oriented projects”
  • Future Reality as opposed to science fiction in Minority Report
  • Alex McDowell’s Mandala as a world building process framework
    • First stage: “What If And Why Not”mandala
  • organic evolutionary collaborative process centred in storytelling allowed the emergence of the holistic fictional world (called “precognitive”) of Minority Report
  • Foresight professionals should “set the future in a story” so the audience is better able to experience it
  • Peter von Stackelberg Alfred State College of Technology (SUNY) USA E-mail: pvonstackelberg@stny.rr.com
  • Alex McDowellSchool of Cinematic Arts Media Arts + Practice University of Southern California USA E-mail: amcdowell@cinema.usc.edu
May 06

Annotated Bibliography

Comment, Bernard. The Panorama. Reaktion Books, 1999. pp. 1-27

  • Crowd-pleasing, lowbrow entertainment – a “motley crowd in search of wanton, enigmatic  and rarely denied pleasure”
  • Patented by Robert Barker 1787
  • means “to see all”
  • “so true to life that they could be confused with reality”
  • Viewers walk through a dark corridor and staircase before entering
  • paradox: enclosed area representing a space “free of all worldly restrictions”
  • Context: industrial revolution + first metropolises. People wanted to control & escape from collective space + mass culture
  • First subjects were the towns in which they were exhibited
  • Panorama became a propaganda machine, showing battles & historical events
  • Travel to distant lands & historic sites
  • Painted in conjunction with camera obscura and early photography to ensure accuracy
  • very heavy painted canvas, vulnerable to fluctuations in temperature
  • Multiple painters required which caused workflow + quality problems
  • No panoramas after 1861

Holmes, Oliver Wendell. “The Stereoscope and the Stereograph.” The Atlantic, June 1859, pp. 1–8. Accessed from https://www.nhag.org/uploads/2/4/9/1/24914531/holmes_-_stereograph.pdf

  • A comparison to “film” as an organic material – say, in the eye of an animal – is made to “film” as it applies to photography
  • Written in response to the daguerreotype and photograph (Daguerreotypes made publically available in 1839, photographs made it obsolete in the 1860s)
  • modern inventions are given a mythical import, compared to the magical artefacts of an Arabian Nights story
  • A layperson’s explanation of how daguerreotype and photograph are created
  • Stereoscope: invented by Wheatstone in 1838, contemporaneous with Daguerre’s invention
  • “A stereoscope is an instrument which makes surfaces look solid. …by this instrument the effect is so heightened as to produce an appearance of reality which cheats the senses with its seeming truth”
  • Description of the laws of perspective in such detail that it’s almost laughable – to us “things look flat with one eye closed” is something we learn as little children
  • “we see something with the second eye which we did not see with the first… the two eyes see different pictures of the same thing”
  • the brain works with the eyes to produce an image. If they are not in concert (damaged, moved, drunk) the image will be distorted
  • An artist could not make a stereoscope, but a photograph can
  • Simply take a picture, move the camera “the distance between the human eyes” and take another – or “better yet” take two pictures in a double camera
  • How do we “slide them together?” squint, or build glasses that “squint for us”
  • “a frightful amount of detail” upon looking through a stereoscope (device) at a stereograph (dual-image print)
  • Holmes argues that we can see more details and inferences in a stereoscope, as there is a suggestion of motion and intention in the difference between the two images
  • Holmes offers suggestions of how to best consume stereographs, with tips like “beware of investing largely in groups” and avoid high-detail images of people as they may be flawed and are of less interest than architectural views
  • “Form is henceforth divorced from matter” <- very resonant in the digital world, especially with a mind to VR

Prince, Stephen. “Through the Looking Glass: Philosophical Toys and Digital Visual Effects.” Projections, vol. 4, no. 2, 2010, pp. 19–40., doi:10.3167/proj.2010.040203.

  • Argues that the meeting of art and science have been and continue to be necessary for advancement of cinema.
  • cinema-centric but details the Camera Obscura and other pre-cinema visual spectacles.
  • intense collaboration with scientists allows for the development of convincing special effects in film
  • “Perceptual Realism” is the replication via digital means of contextual clues designating a 3d world
  • It is a major goal of VFX artists
  • Visual effects = spectacle. Spectacle is anti-narrative
  • vision is culturally coded and therefore relative to social formations in a given period
  • Early films emphasized spectacular views – attractions – rather than stories
  • Function ruled cinema until 1907 when narrative became dominant
  • Techniques and instruments originating in cinema are now used by scientists
  • Camera Obscura – known in the 11th century to Ibn al-Haytham
  • This + the zoetrope/phenakistoscope/thaumatrope were “philosophical toys” – both scientific investigation and popular amusement
  • stereoscope – first exploration into binocular vision
  • pseudoscope – played with the stereoscope to induce visions of impossible geometry – inspired computer scientists who would simulate the phenomenal world