Designing Meaningful Social XR Workshop

Designing Meaningful Social XR Workshop

The ACM International Conference on Interactive Media Experiences (IMX) is the leading international conference for presentation and discussion of research into interactive media experiences. It brings together researchers and practitioners from a wide range of disciplines, from human-computer interaction, multimedia engineering and design, to media studies, media psychology and sociology. IMX 2024 will be held in Stockholm, Sweden, from June 12th to 14th.

Workshop Description

Social extended reality has become an interesting addition to the realm of immersive experiences. Social extended reality (XR) refers to the use of XR technology to enable social interactions in virtual or physical environments. For audiences, social XR may present a novel form of collective entertainment, but it can also serve as a mediated platform for meaningful and purposeful social gatherings. For creators and event organizers, VR projects designed for multiple participants offer a potentially lucrative avenue—shifting from individual users to accommodating groups simultaneously.

The latest VR technology allows groups of users to engage in social narrative experiences concurrently. Notable instances of social extended reality in location-based entertainment include the immersive virtual concert The Saga of Sage by WeMakeVR, debuting at the 2023 Amsterdam Dance Event, and Studio Wildvreemd’s Smartphone Orchestra sessions showcased at the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), among other venues. During a Smartphone Orchestra session, participants use their smartphones to rate statements about each other in a dynamic group setting, fostering a distinct sense of connection and togetherness. Similar experiences are the DUST (by Andrej Boleslavsky and Mária Júdová) and Cosmogony (by Gilles Jobin). Okawari VR (by Landia Egal and Amaury Laburthe) also brings together audiences by addressing their senses, while – probably the most famous example – is The Void that offered a story-heavy experience for the participants in an exceptionally entertaining manner. Various performative or theatrical social VR productions have also shown how they can create powerful temporal communities (e.g. Finding Pandora X directed by Kiira Benzing).

However, despite the eagerness of audiences to explore social story-based experiences, producers often grapple with the challenge of developing compelling storylines. How can they transcend the obvious narratives, often derived from classic video game storytelling, that center on lost or endangered worlds and the participants’ responsibility to prevent catastrophe by completing specific tasks?  Another challenge lies in designing social XR experiences that not only captivate and entertain but also generate positive effects by intentionally fostering human connection, collaboration, empathy and/or togetherness. Which design mechanics could facilitate the creation of such experiences?

In this workshop, we want to further explore the possibilities of social XR and its impact on groups of participants. We aim to dive into the possible beneficial effects of social XR: what kind of content would be not only entertaining, but could also open up various meaning making strategies for the experiencers? What principles can we unravel in the presented cases, that may help guide the design of future meaningful social X? Can we probably implement strategies derived from LARP or immersive theater design? And moreover: which kinds of interactive digital stories will prove to be suitable for these new forms of immersive experiences?

This half day workshop will start with presentations by two keynote speakers from the field. The organizers themselves will then present their thoughts on the topic and share some insights derived from their own work. In the second part, invited participants will give 20-minute presentations about specific social XR case studies.

In the third part of the workshop, all participants will be invited to take part in group discussion on the specific characteristics of social XR, exploring what kind of narrative elements can be included in these experiences and how possible beneficial effects may be achieved.

Call for contributions

We invite participants to propose a case study or a research project that they would want to present during the workshop, in maximum 350 words. Video’s or links to websites that offer a clear impression of the proposed work are also accepted.

Topics for the workshop include, but are not limited to:

– Online or offline multiplayer games
– Roleplaying games
– Location-based experiences
– Transmedia interactive theatre
– Meaning making online rituals of ceremonial magic
– Therapeutic online events
– and other kinds of immersive social experiences

Researchers who have conducted a study in this specific field are also invited to share insights they have gathered. Participants who do not want to send in a case study or research project but still would like to attend the presentations and take part in the discussion are very welcome to register as well.

Organizers:

– Mirjam Vosmeer, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands
– Ágnes Karolina Bakk, University of Art and Design, Hungary

Submission dates (provisional):

– Deadline for workshop participant contributions: March 3rd, 2024
– Notifying participants of acceptance: April 7th, 2024
– Deadline for camera-ready submissions from participants: April 30th, 2024

Format: Half-Day hybrid  workshop, June 12th 2024

For more information contact: Mirjam Vosmeer –  m.s.vosmeer@hva.nl


Bio Mirjam Vosmeer
Mirjam Vosmeer received her Master’s degree in the field of Psychology of Culture and Religion, with a thesis that focused on narrative psychology. She worked as a scriptwriter for Dutch television before presenting her PhD thesis Videogames and Gender at the University of Amsterdam in 2010, focusing on the medium videogames from a cultural studies and women studies perspective. In 2013, she started her first virtual reality research project Interactive Cinema. Since then, she has presented workshops, keynotes and presentations on storytelling for VR at conferences all over the world. Her work on VR focuses on interaction, user experience and narrative design. She received Dutch government grants for her research projects Storytelling for 360° Media and VR for Diversity. VR for Diversity focused on the use of narrative and physical interaction in VR, with a series of projects that offered a range of different perspectives on the topic of diversity. In 2021 and 2022 she was Program Chair for ICIDS (the International Conference for Digital Interactive Storytelling).

Bio Ágnes Karolina Bakk
Ágnes Karolina Bakk: narrative designer and lead researcher at the Innovation Center of Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, Budapest. She focuses on immersive storytelling & the science of magic, and currently leads two research projects: 1. on romantic relationships in Metaverse-like environments 2. psychological restoration in a specific VR prototype. She is the founder of the Zip-Scene conference (next edition 2024 November, Prague); cofounder of Random Error Studio, a lab that supports various VR productions and the co-curator of Vektor VR section. She teaches immersive&VR- storytelling, speculative design and presented at various conferences and platforms from Moscow to Montreal and at festivals (e.g. DokLeipzig). She is currently involved in several video game productions and works on her own artistic VR creation.