In search of… Interactive Storytelling Design in Perspective — 1 March 2019 — Curation and words by Laura Dirzyte and Bruna Osthoff Images by Francisca Roseiro, Bruna Osthoff…
In search of… Interactive Storytelling
Design in Perspective
1 March 2019
Curation and words by Laura Dirzyte and Bruna Osthoff
Images by Francisca Roseiro, Bruna Osthoff and Laura Dirzyte
New possibilities provoked by digital platforms are empowering contemporary design practitioners to move towards creating inclusive narrative experiences. It is an exciting yet unfamiliar territory, thus, in preparation for In Search of… Interactive Storytelling we equipped ourselves with a key question – what methods can be used to encourage audiences to become collaborators rather than just spectators of a story? On 1st of March we embarked on a journey investigating how the use of emerging digital technologies and the element of audience participation can influence the experience of a narrative.
ANNA GERBER & BRITT IVERSEN
[fig] Britt Iversen and Anna Gerber, founders of Visual Editions in conversation with the group
[fig] The physical book format of We Kiss the Screens
We first met Anna Gerber and Britt Iversen, a lively duo from Visual Editions, who challenge the status quo of traditional publishing with Editions at Play. They look at a smartphone as a place and are curious how technology can help to write audiences into the story. Their newest project We Kiss the Screens is an example how a written narrative and interactive screen navigation can be woven together to deliver a multi-layered experience for the audience. The reader is given an opportunity to move between eight perspectives of the same story and design their own reading experience. These mobile books use simple HTML technology as Anna and Britt vouch for rethinking existing technologies through creative means. For them an important aspect of working with digital platform was the fact stories could be accessed by diverse audiences for free. Throughout the conversation the pair also emphasised the importance of collaboration in their practice. They develop each narrative together with writers, designers, illustrators as well as technical staff at Google Creative Labs in Sydney, all of whom have a voice in directing the reading experience. Before we parted our ways Anna and Britt encouraged us to go on board with ideas born out of a prompt “Wouldn’t it be great if…?” and see what adventure they might lead us.
EXPERIENCING INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
The mission into the field of interactive storytelling continued with a group investigation of four design artefacts. They were carefully selected to instigate a debate on what possible forms ‘interaction’ could take.
We began with Fabulous Wonder.land, a virtual reality music video inspired by the National Theater’s musical wonder.land. Even though it requires a pair of cardboard VR glasses and a mobile app, the experience evokes new relationship between the audience and the performance as well as challenges people’s perception of what art and theatre could be. Despite limited elements of user interaction, VR experience efficiently combined sound and visual to create a sense of immersion. As a result video awakes the desire to interact with presented content.
[fig] The group exploring an interactive graphic novel The Boat
The Boat, an interactive graphic novel, was another example which tried to use sound to communicate the atmosphere of story. The Vietnamese refugee experience was based on the short story by Nam Le and produced by SBS where Matt Huynh’s drawings came to life vividly in a website format. Scrolling through the narrative, the user has a couple options to divert from the main plot, however, these side stories do not affect overall narrative. For this reason group concluded that The Boat is drifting towards an immersive experience rather than interactive one.
[fig] The interactive book Seed is designed to work using the technology available on a smartphone
Seed was a case study of how a website format can be creatively challenged. Written by Joanna Walsh and developed by Visual Editions studio together with Google Creative Labs Sydney, this book uses screen as a sprawling digitally-native canvas to steer individual through their own unique reading of the book. It is likely the book was designed as collection of individual chapters, thus, it allows to grasp content well either way you chose to read it. Group speculated how this book’s concept of non-linear reading could have informed We Kiss The Screens design, Visual Editions’ newest book introduced earlier in the day by Anna and Britt.
[fig] The book Masquerade by Kit Williams was an example of interactive narrative in traditional print medium
The book Masquerade by artist Kit Williams challenged the notion of interaction. It suggests that interactive experience does not have to be understood as the act of reading a narrative. The interactive narrative is built with the actions readers take as they go looking for the hidden golden hare.
MARSHMALLOW LASER FEAST
WE LIVE IN AN OCEAN OF AIR
[fig] People participating in We Live in an Ocean of Air experience
On the 15th of March the group met again at Saatchi gallery to visit the We live in an Ocean of Air virtual reality experience. This exhibition is a multi-sensory immersive installation created by Marshmallow Laser Feast. Advanced VR set with monitors tracking heart-rate, breathing and body movements enable the audience to experience the invisible symbiotic relationship between trees and humans. As people arrive in the exhibition hall, they immediately lower their voices and slow their steps as the huge screens at the back of the dark room capture attention. Audience begins to slowly match their breath to the rhythm of hypnotizing Sequoia tree visuals. Climbing the stairs out of the calming experience of Ocean of Air and into the bright and noisy Saatchi hall is like coming back into reality from a dream. The group discussed how Ocean of Air is mostly immersive but the way people get to modify some graphics with their bodies make it also interactive. Based on our previous experience with wonder.land VR experience, the immersive aspect of Marshmallow Laser Feast piece could be important in encouraging the interaction, creating a connection between these two processes.
In our journey through interactive narratives we kept finding references to immersive stories. Sense of immersion is important in bringing audience into a narrative and evoking desire to participate while interactivity is about actually giving audience a choice to affect the story. Furthermore, it was exciting to discover how practitioners today are not only exploring new technologies, like virtual reality, but are also pushing the boundaries of old ones, like smartphone screens and HTML sites. The technological advancements are opening new spaces for creative exploration that enables audience participation. The group observed that there are a lot of new possibilities in this new area and it is open for contribution as well as collaboration. One of the recurring comments was how other senses could be brought into the interactive experience, like touch and smell while use of sound could be pushed even further.