Locating presence
: from storytelling to storyliving in immersive experiences

  • Sarah Jones

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD by Publication


    This thesis asks: what is the manifestation and meaning of presence within immersive media? It advances the argument that presence is a distinctive quality of immersive media, distinguishing it from traditional film, computer games or television and documentary. The understanding of presence is derived from the notion of suspending all disbelief in the world (Pimental and Texaria 1993) and one where the mediated world is not mediated (Lombard and Ditton 1997).

    To apply this understanding to immersive media, the study draws on immersion, as established through saturated reporting within the New Journalism movement. Through this, the concept of immersive storytelling emerges and our understanding of how an audience can immerse themselves in a story through the lens of another. These studies can then be applied to the growing field of immersive media as a result of the development in technologies in virtual reality. This then takes the audience into the frame of the media, rather than observing through the barrier of a screen. Using scholarly traditions rooted in phenomenological thoughts of Heidegger and McLuhan, it seeks to understand what can be learnt from the essence of the technology, as opposed to an interpretation of simply content or output. This informs an approach where technology itself is not at the heart of understanding presence but where it is the technological impact of how emerging forms can impact the nature of presence in storytelling. An interdisciplinary approach to how we achieve a sense of presence is used to assess multisensory work, different narrative forms and agency within virtual environments.

    Storytelling, immersion and narrative are explored through research analysis and creative media practice that form a portfolio of published and peer-reviewed outputs. These take the form of immersive journalism and experiential film for virtual reality. The practice is then interrogated in journals and book chapters. Core distinguishing features of presence within immersive media are analysed to identify what is needed to create a lived experience. The impact of multisensory environments, agency within the virtual space, identification and connection with characters, immersion and a non-directed narrative are explored throughout the outputs to enable presence to be realised. This combination of factors point to a new form of narrative, one that can be defined as storyliving.
    Date of AwardMay 2019
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorTom Williams (Supervisor) & Bianca Wright (Supervisor)

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