[How does Virtual Reality and convergence affect the relationship between media, technologies and audiences?]
Convergence can be described as “The flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries and the migratory behaviour of media audiences” (Jenkins, H. 2006). Jenkins believes audiences in today’s contemporary and developing society lay a fundamental role in both creating and distributing content stating the inquiry whether the umbrella of convergence instigates more opportunities that challenge the media and its consumers.
This project aims to explore Virtual Reality, technology and how it has the ability to alter the relationship between audiences and media; steering away from it’s perhaps traditional use in today’s technological era, ‘Gaming’. This digital narrative and qualitative research delves into further applications of virtual reality, and it’s potential impacts on the attention, presence and place of an individual or individuals alike, transforming a passive audience into an active ones.
Virtual reality viewing technology may be the most significant upgrade to the media consuming experience since the conversion from 2D to 3D graphics. By 2020, research and claims from M&A advisory firm Digi-Capital suppose that the virtual reality market will be worth $30 billion, most of which the growth is stimulated by the sales of VR headsets, games, and videos (Sun, 2016). Virtual reality and it’s accompanied device could easily be the future of video games, as we know it. However it can be identified that this media platform has great applications to Jenkins’ notion and convergence. Blurring the line between virtual and real life therefore affecting the traditional relationship between audiences, information and machines.
The spectacle of immersion is the ability for a person to mentally transcend their physical position and envelop him or herself in a virtual reality, and it has been studied extensively. “Immersion is the state of consciousness where an immersant’s awareness of physical self is diminished or lost by being surrounded in an engrossing total environment; often artificial” (Miller and Vandome 2009). This immersion carries across many platforms “People can be immersed by art, story-telling, music, films, games, and day-dreaming, and these methods have each been explored” (Ryan, 2002) Types of immersion can differ including tactical immersion, where one is able to perform the task without consciously thinking about it, narrative immersion, where a one becomes invested in a story, and spatial immersion, where the responder is engrossed in a simulated environment that feels ‘real’.(BjoRk and Holopainen 2004). The idea that this technology impacts the spatial awareness and functions of people through a digital system emphasises the potential of advancing technology regarding interaction and altered physical environments.
A strong binary exists between immersion and emotion, that in many ways they both require each other. For not only games but also content across many media technologies to remain engaging, the audiences should be emotionally engaged with the story, the character or even their own progress as the responder. Virtual Reality is developing in the world across these technology borders to incline the public to think and feel outside of the passive norms in which familiarity is granted. Accordingly, this has spread to that of journalism and especially photojournalism.
Through virtual reality a greater sense of empathy is created regarding world issues depicted through the media, this is evident with the creation of The Enemy, a virtual reality experience, which aims to place the audience in the middle of a face-to-face encounter between combatants of opposing sides which those within Palestinian borders are utilised. Karim Ben Khelifa; creator of The Enemy, states “Fundamentally, as journalists, we’ve always been trying to arouse empathy so that viewers will care for a situation happening miles from their home or to others,” (Butet-Roch 2015). His crafting of this online and interactive set piece aroused questions such as ‘How would people react? How would the public engage with them? And what impact would it have on their understanding or on how much they care?’ In the creation of this experience it brings an emotional meaning in journalism as there was never before, whereby giving the audience a more personal understanding rather than the descriptions conveyed by the media which can be seen in depriving society of compassion and urgency. The spatial nature in this context is reinvented through a more interactive manner where the notion of ‘presence’ is partly achieved through the technology — the processing power, the graphics, the display, but it’s also achieved through the consistency and richness of the story-worlds we create. (Newton, 2016)
Below is an infographic which has been created accordingly with a survey to which I designed to gain insight and opinions of media consumers through a virtual reality filter. This information supports the video interview and research I have conducted showing many perspectives regarding the use of technologies in achieving a heightened sense of consumption.
The results found were conclusive to my initial hypothesis that because of the technological growth there is now a changed and altered relationship between VR devices, people and content. These outcomes depict both those familiar and foreign to the notion of virtual reality but show little negative opinions about their capabilities and uses for the present and ultimately the future. In an age where multi-screening is an activity that subconsciously unfolds, the stripping away of that ability when fully immersed was the most concerned issue within the research.
Please follow the infographic to find out more:
The power virtual reality and supporting devices are prevailing pieces of media technology that are successfully beginning to adapt to industries that will have an effect on audiences everywhere, it will alter the way one thinks, acts and experience. This relationship therefore also allows media, arts and technology to rise side by side with users permitting them to cross boundaries not possible before and empowering audiences to perceive elements both negative and positive to grow technologically and personally with the world.
- BjoRk, S. and Holopainen, J. 2004. Patterns In Game Design. Hingham, Mass. Charles River Media.
- Butet-Roch, L 2015, See How Virtual Reality Could Be the Future of Photojournalism, 17 April, viewed 20 Oct 2016. < http://time.com/3825072/see-how-virtual-reality-could-be-the-future-of-photojournalism/
- Jenkins, H. (2006). “Worship at the altar of convergence”: A new paradigm for understanding media change. In H. Jenkins, Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide (pp 1-24). New York: New York
- Miller, F, P, and Vandome, A, F, 2009. Immersion (Virtual Reality). Mauritius. Alphascript Publishing. Viewed: 20 Oct 2016
- Newton, K 2016. The Storyteller’s Guide to the Virtual Reality Audience – Stanford d.school, Medium, < https://medium.com/stanford-d-school/the-storyteller-s-guide-to-the-virtual-reality-audience-19e92da57497#.poheqww40 >, date accessed: 23 Oct 2016
- Ryan, M, L. 2003. ‘Narrative As Virtual Reality: Immersion and Interactivity In Literature and Electronic Media’. N. E. ED. Baltimore. Johns Hopkins. UP. Viewed 19 Nov 2016
- Sun, L 2016, 12 Virtual Reality Stats That Will Blow You Away — The Motley Fool, The Motley Fool, <http://www.fool.com/investing/2016/06/06/12-virtual-reality-stats-that-will-blow-you-away.aspx > date accessed: 25 Oct 2016