One world? Narrative Presence in Stories vs. Sensory Presence in Immersive Environments

:speech_balloon: Speaker: Tilo Hartmann @thartmann & Miguel Barreda

:classical_building: Affiliation: VU Amsterdam & Telefónica Research, Barcelona

Title: One world? Narrative Presence in Stories vs. Sensory Presence in Immersive Environments

Abstract (long version below): Media comparisons stand in a long tradition (e.g., Lessing 1766), with some scholars focusing on how the same phenomena can occur in different guises in various media, while maintaining essential characteristics; and other studies aiming to identifying unique qualities of the medium (e.g., in Chatman 1980, What Novels Can Do That Films Can’t (And Vice Versa). VR and literature seem total opposites; here we will explore how they are, and how they are not. The symposium stimulates a cross fertilization, by coupling empirical research on these media, thus generating new insights, and deepen our understanding of key concepts such as narrative, embodiment, transformative experiences, immersion, presence, and transportation.


:newspaper: Long abstract
Summary: That users get immersed in a narrative (Moore & Green, 2020), feel transported to (Green, 2004; Green & Brock, 2002) or engaged in (Busselle & Bilandzic, 2008, 2009), and even located or present in the story’s world (Busselle & Bilandzic, 2009, ““narrative presence””), is a hallmark of the narrative experience. Interestingly, as scholars noted before (e.g., Moore & Green, 2020; Pianzola et al., 2020; Pianzola et al., 2022; Schubert & Crusious, 2002), the sensation of presence is also the key experience provided by new immersive technologies like Virtual Reality (Haans & IJsselsteijn, 2012; Hartmann & Hofer, 2022; Slater, 2009). But are these two types of presence identical? To address this question, the present presentation proceeds in three steps: First, it reviews the technological and psychological origins, experiential qualities (“qualia”), and general effects of both types of presence experiences, and reviews an integrative account proposed by Pianzola et al (2021, 2022). Second, it widens this theoretical synthesis by positioning presence, either evoked by narratives or by immersive technologies, within users’ general dualistic aesthetic experience (Hartmann & Hofer, 2022). Third, the presentation highlights the practical boundaries of simultaneously fostering both types of presence in a single media encounter, as it is for example envisioned by VR storytelling (e.g., Barreda et al., in press). In summary, the presentation provides further insights into how two previously separately discussed yet similarly labelled phenomena might be integrated in order to reveal a more general, cross-modality, theoretical view on how users experience mediated representations.


Barreda, M., Hartmann, T., & Bowman, N. D. (in press). Merging presence and narrative engagement: Is VR storytelling the response to the challenges of climate change communication? In N. D. Bowman (Ed.), Emerging issues for emerging technologies: informed provocations for theorizing media futures Peter Lang.

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Hartmann, T., & Hofer, M. (2022). I know it is not real (and that matters): Media awareness vs. presence in a parallel processing account of the VR experience. Frontiers in Virtual Reality, 3, 694048.

Moore, M. M., & Green, M. C. (2020). Immersion. In The International Encyclopedia of Media Psychology (pp. 1–6). John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Pianzola, F., Riva, G., Kukkonen, K., & Mantovani, F. (2022). Am I present in imaginary worlds? Intentions, actions, and flow in mediated experiences and fiction. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 45, e293. Am I present in imaginary worlds? Intentions, actions, and flow in mediated experiences and fiction | Behavioral and Brain Sciences | Cambridge Core

Pianzola, F., Riva, G., Kukkonen, K., & Mantovani, F. (under review). Presence, flow, and narrative absorption: an interdisciplinary theoretical exploration with a new spatiotemporal integrated model based on predictive processing. Manuscript submitted for publication.

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Slater, M. (2009). Place illusion and plausibility can lead to realistic behavior in immersive virtual environments. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 364(1535), 3549–3557.