Thinking In Fragments – Assignment 2 (Reflection)

Our work tries to respond to a few characteristics of online screen making. Firstly, virtual reality, as we try to create the experience of being in this room, and the picture moving as one turns their head in different directions. Sensory quality, as we try to use video and audio to create this experience, and were we to actually produce a VR experience, we would encourage the use of a headset to single out the visual and audial qualities of the project. Our intention through this is to maximise immersion in any scenario that we may choose to create. We wanted to respond to interactivity in our preliminary version of the project, but alas it is just a video we’ve created so the viewer’s engagement has just been predetermined and there is no way for the viewer to actually make choices around the room (move around, select, back, etc). Thus in this video we just demonstrate that the ability to click on and explore what the viewer wants, as opposed to what we (the creator) want(s) them to explore, makes for a deep level of interactivity. However, throughout the development we have done, we considered, is just clicking on random objects really considered interactivity? If we did actually go ahead and create this VR experience, is a viewer’s selection (click) and the project’s response (open file), enough to call this entire experience interactive? And finally, we believe our project to be aesthetically driven, for we have tried to create an experience using specific visual qualities and sounds rather just words.

In development, and from the online fictional works looked at, interactivity is considered work where the “reader” or viewer has a choice over what happens in it, and where any predetermined setting does not interfere with this choice, (Eat Me, 2017). From attempting to upload the first copy of our project online, we also discovered that YouTube is far stricter with music licenses (specifically Sam Smith’s new album) than they are with copyrighted videos (copyrighted vine videos). A copyright strike and blocked video later, and we chose to use Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’ instead and stuck with Vimeo.

If we were to develop this prototype further into a full VR experience, and we wanted to appeal to more of the senses – taste and smell and touch – how would we do this through the online environment? I consider, perhaps through the manipulation of thoughts, we can encourage a person to think about the smell of ex. lavender, and then this perception of ‘scent’ can generate a response in the viewer. Just like how when I used to watch Masterchef, and the decadent desserts would make me smell a cake baking in the kitchen and make my mouth water. In terms of online screen content in general, and not our project specifically, the question of interactivity still concerns me. I personally thought that the nonfiction works we saw in class were quite interesting because I had the ability to choose what I wanted to look at, and when I wanted this to happen. However, others in the class stated that they weren’t actually interactive and seemed more like a website than anything else. But isn’t a website interactive enough? I don’t understand the varying levels of interaction but I guess I haven’t finished exploring interactivity in regards to online screen making, and it’s something I will have to look at further in this class.

Thinking In Fragments – Assignment 2 (Project Work)

This is our prototype for the interactive VR experience we aim to provide. Clicking on an item acts as a ‘trigger’ for a memory, quirk, or event from the past, whether it’s a holiday to San Francisco, a love of photography, a music-listening session, the beloved computer click-clacking, or a favourite toy from the 80s. These experiences all represent an aspect of the owner of the room. Perhaps we will try to make our VR experience about how the bedroom or office of an individual provides endless insight into the person and who they are – without any need for words/narration.

Thinking In Fragments – Assignment 2 (Development 4)

Responding to Interactive Fiction and Class Discussion

Last week the difference between nonfiction and fiction work was discussed, whereby the former was deemed more ‘elastic’ – meaning, a viewer won’t be sure of what happens next as there are endless possibilities and almost no restrictions placed upon a creator – and the latter – more rigid, for a carefully crafted, defined world must exist in order for fictional work to retain its sense of familiarity and appear realistic to a viewer. Also mentioned – that the online environment is more open to interacting with screen projects.

I looked at two fictional works in an online environment – ‘Eat Me’ (2017) by Chandler Groover and ‘A Beauty Cold and Austere’ (2017) by Mike Spivey.

“The typical work of fiction isn’t very interactive, in the sense that the reader has no choice over what happens in it. The author has completely determined the setting, the plot, the characters, and what those characters choose to do. The reader’s choices are limited to reading or not reading (or perhaps skipping ahead).” (Eat Me, 2017)

One of the first things I noticed about these online works was their limited understanding. Through their inability to comprehend full sentences (as opposed to succinct commands) and other complexities, we are reminded that these story-telling devices are not human, that they do not possess the ability to communicate with us, and that they are programs telling us a story. Emphasis on the telling, you see. There is as much of a limit on options as there is in a ‘typical work of fiction’. As told in Eat Me, of the nature of online interactive fiction, “of course, the reader does not have complete control over the story or the main character; the author has created the setting, much of the plot, and the characters, while circumscribing the set of actions available to the main character.” This doesn’t sound very different to the likes of traditional fiction works. From my own experience, I felt as if there was a right and wrong choice – and the story would not proceed to the next chapter until I discovered and chose the correct one that was already preplanned. Therefore, is there any significant difference between tangible fiction and fiction that we see on our screens? I believe that in both, there is the opportunity for interaction, where the reader can choose when/how the story advances. When I was in primary school, I would read books from the ‘Give Yourself Goosebumps’ series by R. L. Stine, which was a fictional horror gamebook series that would allow the reader to make choices in the story. A negative outcome would occur if you were to make bad choices, and a positive one for questionably good choices. Decisions were made by turning to a specified page number. In the same way as projects like Eat Me, this model was interactive and the story would progress by “the reader telling the main character what to do”, despite there being limited choices and outcomes. As Manovich states, “in short, computer characters can display intelligence and skills only because programs place severe limits on our possible interactions with them”, (page 34).

In both typical fiction work and online interactive fiction, there seems to be the same amount of reading. I was bored of reading when I engaged with the online work, and wanted some visuals put in front of me. But why don’t I need visuals when I’m reading, say, a novel? I chalk it up to being accustomed to seeing images on my computer screen. I noted thinking – why is this project so drawn out? There’s so much reading to be done on the screen that it hurt my eyes. Why doesn’t this project that is exclusively online, cater to a shorter attention span, which is often attributed to the instant-gratification aspect that technology (and the speed of the Web more specifically) has granted us with?

This has only been my first encounter with interactive fiction, and while I value its general ability to engross a reader and make them feel like an influential presence in the outcome of a story, I will have to continue engaging with these kinds of projects until I find one that has this same effect for me.

Thinking In Fragments – Assignment 2 (Development 3)

Responding to the non-fiction work ‘September 1955 Virtual Reality Documentary of the Istanbul Pogrom’

The non-fiction work I looked at, ‘September 1955’, is a virtual reality documentary of the Istanbul massacre that occurred on the 6th of September, 1955.

The quality of it being a virtual presentation of events, allows the project to emulate the real physical space and mood of the time. Because it is not just a 360 degree video, and because it also incorporates sound – such as dialogue, ambience, etc – the result of engaging with this presentation is pure immersion. It feels like being there, right in the moment, and amongst the conflict, which can be intimidating. My view is that this experience encourages empathy. The representation of confrontation allows the viewer to step into the shoes of the victim, and should make them more understanding of the emotions that the victim has gone through.

When the viewer moves their head in a particular way, the picture responds to accomodate this change in direction, and we are given a different perspective of the room. And while I consider this work to be somewhat interactive, I don’t believe that it isn’t linear (in response to why it was made interactive and not linear). Sure, you are able to interact with the things around you as you move around, but the story still continues to progress – the calls from outside continue to build up. It was made this way so as to stay true to the events of the massacre. Nothing stopped the events from occurring in the moment, and so no choices can be made in this interactive project to do so either. For that reason, one’s interaction does not really offer anything to the project. The interaction element is to explore the things around you and be open to the educational aspect of the work, as it “[serves] as a warning against extremism and mob mentality”, but that is all. The events are still carried out in sequence. I also considered whether the project is aesthetically driven – one of the qualities we described to be common amongst online works. And I believe that it is, as its construction is driven by the intention to replicate the exact aesthetic qualities of the space in 1955.  I’m glad that I engaged with this project, because it’s giving me ideas to work with virtual reality for my second assignment.

Thinking In Fragments – Assignment 2 (Development 2)

Responding to the reading ‘The Language of New Media’ (2001)

I have never described a project as a form of ‘new media’, because I wasn’t able to distinguish it from what could be deemed ‘old media’. What made this content different? Is it just a collection of media that has been crafted more recently through the use of a computer? But what about the media that has been made recently but not mediated through modern technology?

This reading about the historical convergence of computer technology and media was interesting to me. According to Manovich (2001), “the popular understanding of new media identifies it with the use of a computer for distribution and exhibition rather than production,” (page 19). However, Manovich counters this “limiting” definition, for the sole reason that using a computer for creating and storing media is just as likely to have a cultural impact as using a computer to exhibit and distribute media. And thus the lines continue to blur for me.

However, new media, as opposed to old media, tends to be modular in structure. New media contains objects and consists of elements that have the ability to maintain their independence, and retain their ability to be individually changed. These “[media] elements are assembled into larger-scale objects but continue to maintain their separate identities, (page 30)”. For example, as an artefact of popular culture in modern society, vine compilations are made by collating 6-7 second videos together, and yet these individual videos maintain their original meaning and ‘independence’ – their… comedic value?

Manovich goes on to detail a well-known browser, “The Netomat browser by artist Maciej Wisnewski”, which exhibits media from different websites without “identifying the Web sites from which they are drawn” (page 31). One of the qualities we talked about being intrinsic to online screen productions in the first week of class, was a generally lighter censorship, and for the average internet user, the higher prospect of uploading a video without laws – governing what can and cannot go up on the internet – being enforced, as tends to occur in more content-saturated websites (Manovich, pp. 35-46). Vine videos are not public domain and are protected by copyright law. A huge number of popular vine compilations are monetised, whereby the user that puts it up generates ad revenue. Apparently posting Section 107 of the Copyright Act as a disclaimer lets you avoid copyright strikes. However, these compilation videos do not fall under fair use because they are not transformative – there is no originality in the editing, only cutting someone else’s videos together. And yet, there is still an audience for this content because “deleting parts of a new media object does not render it meaningless.”

“In fact, the modular structure of new media makes such deletion and substitution of parts particularly easy” (page 31). It is not a mashup, whereby a new meaning is extracted from the piece. These compilations may be entertaining, but they are not intended for educational use. Therefore, the presence of this kind of screen media content on YouTube demonstrates that in this moment, there is less restriction of ~illegal activity~ concerning video content online. If this were to occur on a television show on Channel 10, to upload someone else’s content without permission, nor without stating that it is not your own property, it would be a breach of copyright law and could lead to legal action being taken upon them. Far more serious that receiving a ‘strike’ on the good ol’ YT. That’s why major productions of a traditional television show tend to have full access to a legal team.

Additionally, Julia Alexander of Polygon believes that vine compilations should be considered a ‘communal experience’, as they bring together groups ‘of people who [seem] to have the exact same taste in comedy’. It is considered a site where an ‘audience of like-minded weirdos’ can indulge in some ‘subversive comedy’. This supports the notion that vine compilations, as online screen content, have the ability to construct a sense of community via shared interests, and thus promote interactivity. With the ability to leave likes and comments, these videos encourage communication between the creator and the viewers, and amongst the viewers themselves. If we consider this quality under the pretence of a film, there is often no physical/digital space for communication between the creators and the audience. It’s an undeniably useful quality in an environment where success is measured by the amount of online traffic on your content.

Thinking In Fragments – Assignment 2 (Development 1)

Project Development

Samantha and have I decided that for this assignment, we want to explore a different characteristic of online screen work. In the previous weeks, we considered the value of hashtags and their presence in our lives as both media creators and media consumers. As media makers, they can be used to organise images and information into one space, and even provide this space for a community/audience across multiple online platforms and increase our reach using unique keywords. As media consumers, they offer us a sense of familiarity and the ability to share information and communicate with others who have the same interests.

This week however, after engaging with the non-fiction work ‘September 1955’, a virtual reality documentary, we decided to explore virtual reality. To us, virtual reality means providing a realistic experience through the engagement of the senses. Perhaps this is the second quality we will look at – sensory quality. We plan to appeal to sight – video – and hearing – sound, for now. Our intent is to have a viewer immerse themselves in the scenario that we simulate, which may be something as simple as looking around the room. Either way, our work will be considered an example of new media, for its construction, storage, and distribution involves the use of computer-based technology (Manovich, 2001). For right now, we consider the distribution of our project to be simply a presentation. There is no opportunity for interactivity because our prototype is just a video. We simply aim to demonstrate the capacity for a viewer to engage with our work, by clicking on what they want to explore and doing so, but right now, this is not possible. The level of interaction is passive, but our hope is to make the entire simulation as interactive as the documentary we chose to look at, and involve directional sound and movement around the room, in the direction the viewer chooses. My concern is one that was raised in class – how ‘interactive’ is it really? Will our final product really be influenced by an audience at all or is it just clicking and exploring what we have already pre-designed. As of right now, I am trying to think of ways to deepen the level of interaction beyond just ‘participation’ and instead, allowing participants to leave an actual mark/effect on our work.