Natalie, Underberg, M., Zorn, Elayne, (2013). Digital Ethnography: Anthropology, Narrative, and New Media, University of Texas Press, pp. 10-29.
Natalie M. Underberg and Elayne Zorn’s book is about new media enabling audiences to go beyond absorbing facts, computer-based storytelling allows for immersion in the experience of another culture. While certain usages suggest that digital technologies should be seen as forms of communication or mass media, extensions perhaps of the telephone or television, other applications of these same pieces of hardware or software suggest that digital technology should rather be viewed as platforms that create new social and cultural spaces in which communicative and/or expressive interactions can take place. Underberg and Zorn’s discussion mirrors some of the discussions among scholars in the early twentieth century about the role that film should play in ethnographic work. While representational and analytical uses were sometimes seen as mutually exclusive by early ethnographic filmmakers, Underberg and Zorn see a range of possibilities as equally significant in the application of digital technology to ethnographic work.
After reading more I noticed that the contents of the book might not be exactly what I had expected as the title falls victim to the vagueness in the existing terms. The lack of focus on a particular type of new media made the relevance to what I wanted out of this article drop. The authors’ decision to paint this view on interactive narratives with such broad strokes made it feel overly generalized. It also of note that this book is three years old and that might not be a very long time but when writing about new media it needs to be quite recent.
Huszarh, Rachael, (2015). Subtropolis: Breaking New Ground in Immersion and the Power of Theme, The George Washington University, pp. 1-39.
Rachael Huszarh has created Subtropolis, a proposed exhibition for the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center that explores the idea of what life could be like underground. Aimed at children, ages 6–14 that live in city environments, the exhibit will be a new take on incorporating immersive environments and technological interactives to create a strong sense of theme that engages on every level. The development of the exhibition is discussed, considering the various challenges posed and the solutions that led to the ultimate design and narrative choices.
Precedents examined include Coney Island’s Luna Park and the use of elemental spectacle to convert fear into awe. There is also an in depth analysis regarding the human psyche and where the fear of the underground originates from, and how those factors contributed to the overall feel and message of the exhibit. Guided by the narrative and a sense of discovery, visitors will learn about living underground in the natural world, both animals and ancient civilizations, how underground life is imagined in the media, and lastly what a realistic underground city might look like and how it could operate. Subtropolis will serve as a possible model for conveying ideas that have not yet happened into a physical form designed to keep people interested, entertained, and aware in order for them to leave feeling open to new possibilities, namely, that one day and entire city could exist under our feet. This is a nice idea for having an interactive environment that you can explore and develop a narrative around the experiences you have as you go.
Ryan, Marie-Laure, (2016). Narrative as Virtual Reality 2: Revisiting Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media, Revised Edition, Beaverton: Ringgold Inc, pp.17-34.
Marie-Laure Ryan, a prominent literary critic and scholar-in-residence at the University of Colorado at Boulder has written a study that analysis the meaning of the term virtual and what it means to for audience immersion and interaction as the line between the real and the virtual is becoming blurrier. As the technology improves and these virtual worlds become more lifelike, the risk of these virtual plains becoming forms of escapism increases. Ryan also explores the reasons behind the cultural and technological changes as she argues that the two are intertwined as technology conforms to the need of the population and vice versa.
Ryan brings up the point about the virtual space previously being a representation of reality and could potentially become its own reality. This level of immersion is what makes a narrative in this virtual world more impactful and here lies the opportunity and threat of these emerging forms of narratives. The study uses several sources both technological and philosophical ones that she unpacks and applies to the issues brought up. The fact that this was published this year makes it a much more current and relevant source to refer to when making our project. However, despite it being titled as Narrative as Virtual Reality 2, it is not actually a follow up to the first edition as it is a revised version of the first Narrative as Virtual Reality. This might simply mean that there were things in the first edition that are irrelevant now that are simply removed but it also means that no new research or finding were included in this edition.
Welsh, Timothy, J., (2011). Immersive Fictions: Modern Narrative, New Media, Mixed Reality, University of Washington, pp. 59-78.
Dr. Timothy J. Welsh, an assistant professor of English at Loyola University has written about the relationship between the media consumer and the media itself and how it is immersion on a level that has no precedence. Welsh compares traditional mediums such as print media to video games, a ‘newer’ form of media and tests the immersive experience that they offer. What he found is that users were more immersed in a vicarious level though a video game rather than a book. The manner media forms are evolving would suggest that media is becoming more and more immersive.
Welsh explains that the ability to play as yourself in a fictional setting is what truly creates a visceral type of immersion. There are characters that the media user can use to project themselves within the narrative in films and books but is their limitations as none of those mediums can claim to give the user ownership over their actions within the narrative. It is clear that the author has a passion for interactive media as the sheer number of examples of video games. It is always ideal that the author has firsthand experience with the subject matter and Welsh seems to have a considerable amount. The limitation of this source however, is the released date as it was published in 2011. This was a time where the new media that we have today (VR and AR) were not readily available or even viable for consumer consumption. Despite this, the concepts brought up in this study can still be applicable to today’s technology.