My talk/paper “Narrativity in Virtual Reality: From Meaning-Making to World-Building” has been accepted and will be featured at the Electronic Literature Organization Conference in Vancouver in June. Work on the trailer for QueerskinsVR should be done by April, so I will be able to show it then as part of the talk.
Using my own experience in translating a work of electronic literature into virtual reality as a point of departure, I will look at how storytelling in VR differs from and is similar to storytelling in other formats. Drawing examples from cinema, video art, video games, electronic literature and early VR experiments, I will examine trends in narrativity which predate the emergence of VR as a significant storytelling medium. These include: the move away from what Hiroki Azuma calls “grand” and “small” narratives to “database” narrative and the accompanying changes in perceptions and evocations of time and space, the move away from characters to processes that create affective asymmetries that I will relate to Thomas LaMarre’s analysis of Japanese anime, the move from meaning-making to aesthetics including the tendency to emphasize musicality (rhythm, repetition, and tone) over verbal semantics that relates to Flusser’s theory of gesture and Kojéve’s meditations on the end of history, the move from “authenticity” to kitsch and performativity that I will discuss via the writings of Walter Benjamin, Brecht, and Celeste Olalquiga, and lastly, the increasing role of “things” as a form of narrative that I will examine in light of Ian Bogost’s writings on video games and object-oriented ontology.
I will end with a discussion of desire, intentionality, presence, and subjectivity in storytelling using the example of my new work in progress Queerskins VR, which combines 360 degree video and computer modeled environments to tell the story of a devoutly Catholic mother’s relationship to the estranged son she has lost to AIDS.