Conference „New Visual Narratives”

The first edition of the conference “New Visual Narratives” is the starting point for the activities of the Visual Narratives Lab at the Film School in Lodz, whose task is to explore and develop the new forms of visual narration that have been flourishing in the contemporary media landscape. The time for such a effort seems appropriate: the landscape in question has not only experienced a strong diversification over the last decade, but it is expected that in the coming years, as a result of the introduction of 5th generation wireless technology, we will face a real revolution. While the 20th century was without a doubt the age of film, today it seems that the future of visual narration will be multidirectional; it is shaped at the intersection of traditional film, theatre, television and photography with the contemporary, digital tools of visual communication. This development is also driven by the new needs and expectations of the recipients of these dynamically changing media, which also have to be thoroughly researched.

The presentations of and discussions with recognized artists, experts and researchers from the areas of interest of the vnLab’s individual workshops will allow us to recognize the current state of research on visual narration changing under the influence of technology and to present the most important artistic achievements in this field, and thus—to set the directions for further explorations, research and debates.

The material result of the conference will be a multi-media publication containing essays and papers written in response to the debates held during the conference, texts by invited authors, audiovisual research works, as well as records of these debates.

The programme of the conference will be divided into three modules:

Module 1: the future of film?

Module 2: Visual essay and interactive narratives

Module 3: Audience and business models

Roundtable

Roundtable discussion with all guests, concluding the symposium, moderated by Krzysztof Pijarski

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Module 1: the future of film?

We will begin with a reflection on the issues surrounding changes in the film and audiovisual language and the ways of constructing narratives in the context of the developing immersive media. We place special emphasis on cinematic VR and stereoscopy, but remain open to areas such as augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI) and video games. This part of the conference will be an attempt to examine the narrative, artistic and cognitive potential of immersive media, as well as address questions regarding technology, production and research. It will also be an opportunity to reflect on where cinema is going and how it is changing under the influence of the new technologies. In the context of spherical film, we will ask, among other things, how to give the viewer a sense of agency without giving up the artistic and narrative ambitions of the director, how to negotiate the relationship between immersion and interactivity without breaking the viewer’s sense of presence, how to direct the viewer’s attention while recognizing the deconstruction of the notion of frame in the experience of filmic virtual reality? In the context of stereoscopy, it is worth looking (again) at the possibility of stereoscopy growing beyond a post-production effect and towards artistically ambitious applications of real stereoscopy, and to consider whether and how the addition of the third dimension to the experience of film can be a carrier of emotional content, whether it can enrich the artistic message, etc.

One thing seems obvious: we face the need to redefine the means of film in terms of how we film and edit, how we direct the viewer’s attention and work with actors, how we narrate and build dramatic structure, and finally, how we produce.

Module 1 participants:

Domna Banakou – Being somebody else: the future of narrative storytelling

Ludger Pfanz – Space-Time Narratives

Sylvia Rothe – Timeline vs Spaceline

Pola Borkiewicz – New XR Narrative Paradigm

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Module 2: Visual essay and interactive narratives

In this section we would like to discuss new forms of narration created through the use of interactive and digital technologies, such as interactive documentaries, film essays, trans- and cross-media projects or participatory narratives. The basic question is how to understand narration in the face of genres that undermine the classic approach to narration understood in terms of a set of events unfolding in a specific time span. Is there such a thing as an essayistic narrative, understood as an constellation of thoughts and affects rather than a sequence of events? How can we construct narratives that are not contained in a work but are created in the course of experiencing them, as is the case with interactive film? Moreover, we will be interested in the influence of interactive and digital technologies on character development, as well as on the viewer’s perception of the work.

Module 2 participants:

Kuba Mikurda – An essay in space

George Legrady – From hardwired to automation: visual narrative through computation

Sara Kolster – To click or not to click?

Roderick Coover – Cinema of immersion, interaction and database

Kevin B. Lee – Exploring Farocki. Three approaches to videography

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Module 3: Audience and business models

It can be said that the closing module is the cement of the conference, combining all the already mentioned themes on a slightly different level. Here we will focus on the changing models of film financing and the need to find a way to monetize digital and interactive content. We will try to think about the reasons why some filmmakers and financing institutions or investors are interested in non-linear, interactive or participatory narratives and to answer the question: who are the contemporary audience: where, on what devices, and how do they watch films and other audiovisual content? How do they experience them, how is their attention formed, what are their habits and where do they come from? All this, of course, is connected with a further question: how to reach this new audience effectively? We will also be interested in how new narrative media change the processes of creating works, how the status of the creator changes in this context (especially in the face of the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning), how the behavior of cultural participants changes in the era of social and economic virtualization, what role the Internet plays in the decision-making processes of cultural participants, and to what extent access-based culture displaces culture based on ownership.

Module 3 participants:

Marta Materska – Samek – Cinematic VR Business Model – A disruptive or a sustaining change?

Patrick von Sychowski – Cinema is an experience

Grzegorz Mazurek – Business models in media in the times of digital transformation.

Piotr Francuz – Virtual worlds from the evolutionary, neurocognitive, methodological and axiological perspective

Katja Schupp – Back to the future – interactive and immersive formats as an opportunity for non-fiction storytelling

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Katja Schupp – Back to the future – interactive and immersive formats as an opportunity for non-fiction storytelling

Just ten years ago, interactive storytelling formats were the acclaimed panacea to access the highly contested market of younger recipients in the field of journalism and non-fiction. But despite award-winning productions sweeping success with users failed – to an extent that editors like Alexander Knetig of “arte creative” e.g. said in 2016: “I think (…) that concerning the future of the genre interactivity and non-linearity will no longer be the big buzzwords. … We have to be careful not to just go back to the classic video.“ Now immersive formats such as 360 degrees and VR productions are hyped within the non-fiction community. As ten years ago in the context of interactivity, design criteria for these productions currently are developed along the line of what producers perceive as the best possible immersion. But again, first user data reveal a gap between immersive production enthusiasm and reluctant, even skeptical recipients. In our session, we would like to discuss findings explaining the failure of success concerning interactive formats and try to transfer them to current questions in the context of the reception of immersive formats. Since we understand our research as a contribution closely linked to practical production, we suggest a project to collect data on the reception of immersive formats in the context of a design-thinking process. The aim is to find design criteria oriented to the needs of the recipients.

Katja Schupp
Katja Schupp is a professor at the Seminar of Journalism, Johannes Gutenberg-University, Mainz. Her main areas of teaching and research are audiovisual journalism, transformation and development of audiovisual formats, storytelling, mobile journalism, journalism and the public. 

Piotr Francuz. Virtual worlds from the evolutionary, neurocognitive, methodological and axiological perspective

Man, and in particular his mind, is the product of evolution, its most perfect child, and at the same time it does not keep pace with the results of the technological revolution which he himself initiated. Nowadays, the human mind is exposed to experiences with which it has never had contact before. Our brain, which is best prepared to live in nature, has to face adaptation issues on an unimaginable scale. On the one hand, the human mind is a powerful generator of imaginary (virtual) worlds, and on the other hand, it is almost completely helpless against them when they are created by other people. Understanding this phenomenon is extremely difficult. Research in this field is only in the bud. We are barely beginning to understand multisensivity at the level of sensory experience, and already we have to face the questions that modern technology poses today about the possibility of interfering in human identity. In addition to presenting important points concerning the biological and mental condition of contemporary man in confrontation with multimodal technologies, I would also like to draw attention to the possibilities and traps associated with research in this area and, at least, touch the problem of the responsibility of creators, using new media, for the state of mind of their recipients.

Piotr Francuz
Prof. dr hab. Piotr Franz, psychologist, head of the Department of Experimental Psychology and Perception & Cognition Lab; director of the Institute of Psychology of the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin; member of the Psychology Committee of the Polish Academy of Sciences; scholarship holder of American and European universities; author, editor and co-editor of 22 books and over 140 articles published in international and national media; head, supervisor and main executive of numerous research grants; interested in the issues of understanding audiovisual and visual expressions, in particular paintings, as well as perception and visual and kinesthetic imagination from the cognitive and neurocognitive perspective.  

Grzegorz Mazurek. Business models in media in the times of digital transformation.

Innowacje dysruptywne, takie jak media społecznościowe, rzeczywistość rozszerzona i wirtualna, technologie mobilne czy cloud computing szybko zmieniają krajobraz sfery społeczno-gospodarczej. Ogromne zmiany pojawiają się w różnych branżach, ale także w zachowaniu ludzi, w tym w sposobie tworzenia, konsumpcji, oceny i monetyzacji treści kulturowych. Klienci są raczej współtwórcami wartości niż biernymi odbiorcami oferty oferowanej przez stronę podaży rynkowej. Nowe media zmieniają sposób, w jaki treści są tworzone i konsumowane. Wielu nowych graczy – często bardzo silnych, biorąc pod uwagę ich siłę rynkową – nie tylko dołącza do świata mediów, ale także zmienia sposób, w jaki ten świat działa i wykorzystywane w nim modele biznesowe. Kto decyduje, czy coś jest wartościowe pod względem artystycznym? Czy istnieje zestaw zmiennych decydujących o sukcesie artystycznego performance’u? Czy nadal istnieje zaufanie opinii publicznej do pośredników oceniających wartość produktu kulturalnego? Wreszcie, czy sztuka i tworzenie treści kulturowych różni się w epoce cyfrowej transformacji, a jeśli tak, to kto może z tego skorzystać? A kto powinien widzieć tylko zagrożenia współczesnej epoki cyfrowej?

Grzegorz Mazurek
Professor Grzegorz Mazurek is a researcher at the Kozminski University, a lecturer and consultant specializing in digital transformation of marketing and organization. A graduate of, among others: IESE Business School and University of Tilburg.

Patrick von Sychowski. Cinema is an experience.

The transition to digital technology has freed cinema technologically and creatively. However, 124 years of film tradition still dictate how films are consumed in public forums. How is cinema evolving to compete with films available on any platform? Is streaming an enemy or ally? What are the most advanced experiences that cinema can learn from? This tour of the current world cinema situation will put the image on the big screen in a broader media context.

Patrick von Sychowski

EDITOR AND CO-FOUNDER OF CELLULOIDJUNKIE.COM  

Spent the past two decades writing and consulting about/for cinema industry. Fascinated by what keeps cinema going after 120+ years. Editor and Co-Founder of CelluloidJunkie.com    

Worked on both sides of the fence, implementing new cinema technology (Hollywood and Bollywood in London and Mumbai), as well as covering new developments in the Chinese and Asian markets from Singapore.    

Dividing time between London, Berlin and Asia. Member of CTC, EDCF and BAFTA. Frequent contributor to Cinema Technology Magazine. Never tire of popcorn – salt only.

Marta Materska – Samek. Cinematic VR Business Model – A disruptive or a sustaining change?

Cinema, for over one hundred and twenty years, has been an important meeting place for the artists and their audiences. Despite the development of parallel distribution channels and repeated predictions of its replacement by VHS, DVD and recently VOD, it has not lost its importance and prestige in promoting and distributing the art of film. However, new, particularly immersive, forms of visual narration require specialised equipment and individual operating conditions, as well as verification whether existing funding, programming and distribution models are still valid. This analysis includes an overview of the factors that determine the development of new visual narrative projects, models for financing production, and discusses scenarios for the distribution and exploitation of immersive content in the context of the existing film distribution system in Europe.

Marta Materska – Samek

Experienced ICT project manager, expert in the field of cinema market and regional, national and European funds. Author of innovative projects introducing ICT tools in the area of education and cultural industries. She worked as president of the Cinema Development Foundation and coordinator of the Malopolska D-Cinemas Network – the first European cinema digitisation project co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund, distinguished by the European Parliament as an example among the challenges for European cinema in the digital age.

 

Geogre Legrady. From hardwired to automation: visual narrative through computation

I will present a series of computer-generated, time-based artworks realized in my studio that explore multi-linear visual narrative from the early 1990s to the present. These works came to be through intersecting diverse resources such as the current state of artistic visual exploration, the analytical methodologies of cultural studies, and the evolutionary confines of technological availability. For instance, sampling of documents through scanning, the capture of time-based audio and images were all introduced in 1992. The primary multimedia tool that introduced multilinear narrative flow at that time was Macromedia Director where sequences were hard-wired. Other approaches included the organization of data accessed through hierarchical and relational databases introducing metadata. Since then, due to the increased speed and bandwidth of data processing, and data-processing algorithms with statistical analysis, multi-linear visual narratives increased in real-time, based on computational dynamic decision-making through artificial neural-networks and machine-learning. Through the examples that I will present, I will share ideas about data processing, the narrative potential of visualization, and compare engineering and media art approaches.

George Legrady
Artist & professor with focus on research and experimental projects in the areas of data visualization, algorithmic processes, computational photography, and interactive installation. Creator and manager of the Experimental Visualization Lab at the California Nanosystems Institute / University of California, Santa Barbara.