i-Docs 2016 panel: The promise of VR for non-fiction storytelling

Virtual reality has come to dominate the interactive documentary landscape over the last couple of years, presenting an exciting opportunity t0 use a new medium and for makers. This i-Docs 2016 panel responds to the varied approaches, issues and ethics that are entangled with using VR for non-fiction storytelling.

Moderated by Adrian Miles (RMIT/nonfiction lab) this was one of a few key discussion at i-Docs about what virtual reality means for documentary. Giving a platform to both practitioners and academics, the other talks will be posted over the next couple of weeks.

Kicking off the panel was Deniz Tortum is a filmmaker, a graduate student at MIT Comparative Media Studies and a research assistant at the MIT Open Doc Lab. His presentation explores the role of 3D-scanning the real world in documentary storytelling, the relationship between the real-world physical environment and the 3D virtual objects thats are created.

Following Deniz was Lucilla Calogero, a PhD student at the IUAV University of Venice whose current research focuses on the need to introduce design innovation into interactive media. Her presentation offers ‘food for thought’ about immersion, considering the renewed documentary horizons offered by experimentation with VR through the analogy ‘cinema /VR’.

Lucilla compares the filmic and VR experiences

Lucilla compares the filmic and VR experiences

Lastly, Mandy Rose (DCRC and co-director of i-Docs) addresses the “empathy machine” in her presentation about the hype and hope that has been thrust on the experimentations in non-fiction VR. Mandy highlights the issues for documentary, as it intersects with the affordances of virtual reality, proposing questions around form, language and ethics.

“It is the affective dimension of this spectator position – the rhetoric of VR as an “empathy machine” which is this paper’s central concern.”

The presentations are followed by a lively panel discussion with questions from the audience – enjoy!