I’ve been thinking about this since I started writing – and it’s something that’s informed most of my writing life over different mediums.
I feel as though I’ve had my fingers in a lot of literary pies – I’ve written novellas, short stories, plays, poems and even a screenplay (as part of my MA Creative Writing module) and it’s very much like learning a different language.
This comes with the difficulty of “translating” or “transposing” a narrative from one form to another.
Each mode has its constraints and its own way to be creative – and of course, this varies in opinion. Here’s one example: my PhD thesis on Science Fiction Theatre argued the importance of dialogue and performance in world building as opposed to the visual detail of film.
It’s a nice coincidence that it’s National Poetry Month in April, as I’ve been figuring out how to fill in or stretch out gaps when poetry is transposed to a digital/virtual/augmented medium.
I’ve said in one of my Instagram posts that: “Poetry is not the breadcrumb of narrative/But the bird who pecks at it and disturbs the trail”.
There are many ways in which poetry is consumed, taking into account the oral playground of sounds and rhythms in performance poetry to the way the words sit upon the page, either highlighting presence or absence by its negative space.
So how can it work digitally?
It’s not a new phenomenon, by any means. Digital poets from Theo Lutz to Stephanie Strickland, Jason Nelson, Loss Pequeño Glazier and many more have been doing this for a while. It allows for a different kind of interactivity, of dissemination, of understanding. I’ll talk more about this on a future blog.
Virtual Reality’s hallmarks appear to be presence and immersion, two things I touched upon in my PhD in a theatrical sense. Maybe it’s no coincidence that Artonin Artaud mentions the illusory nature of theatre as “la réalité virtuelle” in 1938. With constraints comes a different form of creativity – and VR is no exception, particularly when in its relative infancy as an art form.
Every piece of art lends not only a different way of viewing the world, but a way of conversing with the audience. It should, in my opinion, leave space for the reader to interact: from leaving a message in a virtual arena to creating a unique interpretation from a line of printed or spoken poetry.
There’s a video that Barry Kramer (from the Game Grumps) made that illustrates this idea exceptionally well when it comes to video game design:
So, long story short (the old fashioned way of TL:DR) – I’ve been trying to figure out the balance of telling and showing, that old chestnut.
Can VR poetry just be slabs of text pasted on a photo-realistic environment? I’m not too sure on that. There has to be a connect, for the pieces to fit together rather than hastily arranged. It has to mesh somehow in a way that feels intuitive.
Hello How Are You is VR because you’re inhabiting different people’s perspectives and what they wish to see (or not see) in the world. As we interact with a train of thought/conversation, we get linked to a particular character and get led down their rabbit hole of being. The words either follow or movement or become part of the scenery according to their wishes.
The game isn’t photorealistic by any means – and that is to reflect how they are building themselves into the reality, much like myself creating this environment. You get to see it develop and change over time, just like the words and sounds.
In the next blog, I’ll be talking about the AR poetry books I’ve been developing and how it can add rather than distract from the reading experience (here’s hoping!).