Finding Shimmer: Immersive Non-Fiction Media and Entanglements in Virtual Nature

In this article I explore how immersive nonfiction media works may offer a scaffold for an ecological imagination that entangles us, humans, within the environment, rather than othering nature and conceiving of it as something ‘out there’. Taking as a frame the intersection of documentary studies and emerging creative media technologies, and connecting this frame with Barad’s (2007) concept of entanglement and Zunino Harper’s (2016) construction of naturecultures, I examine discourses of nature in digital media representation. Immersive and experiential media forms offer a number of particular affordances which are reviewed here –including generating a sense of presence, use of embodiment and layering and scaling of environments. A number of non-fiction immersive media works are presented as case studies, in which I explore their use of these affordances and their engagement with ecological narratives. Using immersion to engender awe at nature is considered, and while studies seem to show that this is indeed possible, I suggest that there are contingent risks of othering nature. Instead, a development of a sense of bewilderment or shimmer – incorporating complexity, ritual, wonder, humanity and ecology – seems a more likely route to re-minding us of our nature entanglements. Similarly, there are parallels in othering nature and in crafting contained virtual worlds for participants to step into and out of. I argue, building on Speakman’s (2019) writing and creative practice, that an approach that further embeds us within and augments our existing reality, may be more effective in maintaining a sense of entanglement. There are certainly a multitude of rich creative routes to further explore this, and thus practice-led approaches are offered as a vital prong in the work to address climate and ecological crisis.

Scott-Stevenson, J. (2020) “Finding Shimmer: Immersive Non-Fiction Media and Entanglements in Virtual Nature”. In: Digital Culture & Education Vol 12 Issue 2, ISBN ISSN 1836-8301

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