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From i-doc to VR experience: New forms of user engagement in immersive digital documentaries

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Audience research proves that possibilities of interaction in i-docs are often not fulfilled by the user, who is not really part of a ‘work in progress’ (as intended by the makers). With the shift and development of new digital formats (360-degree-films, nonfictional VR experiences, AR apps), the question of the possible interactive potential should be addressed once again. Since VR projects are fully immersive (mostly using head-mounted displays), there is no possible distraction from outside on the one hand. On the other hand, there is a shift from the computer game style aesthetic of early i-docs, with their pure spatial arrangement of events, to a more inclusive digital storytelling modality with the user experiencing his own world-building. This will be discussed with taking into consideration the non-fictional VR experience as a mode of actively combining immersion and storytelling for a satisfactory user experience. Afterwards two very different examples of nonfictional VR production will be presented, and their modalities will be briefly touched; the utilized approach and its user response will be discussed. A look at the future of possible developments concludes the essay.
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Keywords: VR documentary; VR experience; audience research; digital documentary; digital literacy; interactive documentary; web documentary

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 0000000476699786University of Leipzig

Publication date: March 1, 2020

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  • The journal aims to provide a platform for the study of new forms of cinematic practice and fresh approaches to cinemas hitherto neglected in western scholarship. It particularly welcomes scholarship that does not take existing paradigms and theoretical conceptualisations as given; rather, it anticipates submissions that are refreshing in approach and exhibit a willingness to tackle cinematic practices that are still in the process of development into something new.
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