The Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier Program featured over 20 different VR, AR, and AI experiences that were pushing the boundaries of immersive storytelling. After seeing all of the experiences, I had a chance to unpack and analyze the larger themes with chief curator Shari Frilot. The common theme among all of the storytelling experiences is that they’re exploring embodiment and interactivity in different ways, and how VR takes the audience member on an inner journey of presence. Frilot refers to this inner journey as a “superbody reflecting pool” in that these technologies are extensions of our bodies (ala Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man), but that it’s also a mirror that allows us to perceive ourselves and understand who we are becoming.
We talk about the storytelling experiences that use artificial intelligence to foster social interactions based on cultivating a piercing vulnerability, the live performances that blend the modalities of cinema, live storytelling, & music to create more of a “living story” experience, the themes of women’s empowerment that emerged in both the VR and film program at Sundance this year, the social VR experiences, experiences exploring sparse symbolic representations that require you to project your imagination, the differences between objective facts and the truth of a story, and the humility and wonder that comes with not knowing where this journey of immersive storytelling is taking us.
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Here’s Frilot’s curatorial statement:
Poetic statement from curator @sharifrilot talking about this year's #NewFrontier theme of SUPERBODY REFLECTION.
VR is a mirror that enables us to perceive ourselves and develop new intelligences.
I'll be sharing more impressions after I see the rest of the experiences.#Sundance pic.twitter.com/nUsZvZtDHC
— Kent Bye VoicesOfVR (@kentbye) January 20, 2018
Here’s a Twitter thread that’s explores the concept of a Heroine’s Journey:
VR's embodied presence is a receptive/feminine quality. I think the VR medium will likely emphasize the heroine's journey in new ways that's different than Campbell's monomyth, which is centered masculine expression of agency.
What's that look like?
Here's Maureen Murdock: https://t.co/MkKFGa0oTE
— Kent Bye VoicesOfVR (@kentbye) March 4, 2018
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