“Immersive environments surround a participant such that everything they perceive is a part of a new world”
Expanding further on what Kayla has said on the different types of immersion, I placed my focus on the type that I connect with best; Narrative Immersion. People still get immersed in story worlds today. They see the details, believe the actions and make connections between stories and their own lives. Storytellers have used the immersive experience from times even earlier than the alphabet’s creation. Poems were told to relay old stories so that even those oral cultures found themselves lost in stories of grandeur and heroes.
As said in the article I read by Kevin Brooks, “In the canonical image of village people sitting around a fire at night, everybody is listening to the storyteller tell the tales of the day, the season or of the people themselves. For those storytellers and those audiences, there was nothing virtual about the tales told or the experience. The tales were about life itself-living it, surviving it and ending it; whether historically or metaphorically. We are the same today.” In the search for ways to immerse the audience in a story world, we attempt the design of electronic media with meaning and a story to tell about us and what is relevant to us.
The experience of Narrative Immersion directly connects to us identifying with the characters. It is about how well we can fall into the story and be lead through the story. Knowing the audience or what the audience can connect to is the job of the story teller or experience designer. With regard to New Media, this is important for us to know. Knowing more about how people get immersed in a narrative allows a designer to work on the environment of interest much more effectively.
This actually goes even further than us being an audience. Once we experience a great story that is well told by the storyteller, we create our own immersive environments with details that electronic media can never rival. The human reaction is the important part of any experience and when we can walk away with our reality so enveloped in what we just observed or were a part of, the story teller or designer has accomplished something on a larger scale. We remember and connect to the experience and remember it when more stories rise to the surface.
How many of you reading this can recall a story from a family member or even a childhood tale that just sticks to mind. The three little pigs? Goldilocks and the three bears? Or even just a story about the childhood of a family member? These are all stories, told to us by an average story teller and we remember them because we are immersed in these stories from a young age. We learn to be storytellers ourselves and suddenly the cycle of an oral culture still exists within a world with technology and the written word.
“In oral storytelling, the storyteller knows the story, either word-for-word or mental image-for-image. The story is then filtered and seasoned through the life experiences and craftsmanship of the storyteller. Life experience provides texture to the story, while craftsmanship provides structure. When the storyteller combines personal experience and craftsmanship with their own immersion in the story they are telling, the audience is drawn in further, each individual in their own way. While one person’s enchanted tower may not look exactly like someone else’s together the teller and audience create a very real immersive experience composed of many individual story world variations”
Kevin Brooks has the right idea. The world is different to everyone and the designer/story teller has a talent when they can pull the audience in and despite the different variations of the story world, still keep them in that environment till the very end of the story or tale. Like Deanna said, “The problem with media now is that people’s attention spans are so short. In response to the sudden flood of irrelevant information and cult of instant-gratification, the average mind rarely allows enough time for something digital to become truly immersive.” That is where the challenge lies. Captivating an audience and maintaining their interest in the story you have to tell is a challenge. Knowing your audience is all a part of the immersion process.
“When full narrative immersion happens (that is when someone is completely drawn into a story) very often time appears to slow and sometimes stop.” Suddenly, that short attention span is no longer an issue as your audience is fully captivated and a part of this world. This world is all there is and reality only returns when the world you are immersed in is complete.
1. Brooks, Kevin. There is Nothing Virtual About Immersion: Narrative Immersion for VR and Other Interfaces. Motorola Labs/Human Interface Labs. Web: October 24, 2009.
2. Lectures from Greek Philosophy; Edward James Cunningham