In Search of 360 Poetics

Jon Hoem, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences

This paper presentation investigates the history and current potential of immersive experiences through 360-video. What are the aesthetic potential? Is there a didactical potential within art education, through new ways of combining the visual- and the performing arts?

At the stage the actors, and the performing arts, can interact with products of the visual arts. The interplay between the actors and their surroundings can bring the spectator into a psychological state known as immersion. Total immersion can be understood as an aesthetic experience where there is total lack of psychic distance between the spectator and an environment. Immersion can be achieved in various image media artworks, through mechanisms of illusion combined with interaction.

One of the earlier forms of immersion through a image space was the panorama, invented in 1787 by Robert Barker: a 360 degree rendering of a landscape painted on the inside of a cylindrical screen, The panorama was viewed from the center of the cylinder (Grau, undated). The painted in a way that adjusted for perspective seamlessly across the expanse of the cylinder, creating the illusion of being ‘inside‘ the scene.

According to Lev Manovich “spatial montage represents an alternative to traditional cinematic temporal montage, replacing its traditional sequential mode with a spatial one” (Manovich, undated). Manovich argues that cinema, and temporal montage, has largely replaced all other modes of narration with a sequential narrative: images that appear on the screen one at a time. Temporal montage has been very successful, even though it is not a very efficient, displaying one piece of information at a time. The European avantgarde did experiment with various alternatives, trying to load the screen with as much information at one time as possible (Manovich, 1997).

In a manifesto on Futurist scenography (1915), Enrico Prampolini called for the removal of all static, painted scenery and its replacement by dynamic electromechanical scenic architecture of luminous plastic elements in motion. Prampolini developed this concept, and in 1924, he proclaimed the polydimensional Futurist stage, a ‘‘spherical expansion’’ containing ‘‘new vertical, oblique, and polydimensional elements’’ that are set in motion electromechanically (Grau, 1995, p. 144).

An example of an early attempt to create an interface with qualities that resemble Prampolini’s is Glowflow, first shown at the University of Wisconsin in 1969. Glowflow was a physical space that reacted to the behavior of the people in the room. Synthetic sound and light effects were controlled by computers connected to sensors in the floor. One of those behind Glowflow, Myron Krueger, made what he called VideoPlace in 1975), a system that combined video and computer graphics in an environment where multiple users were able to operate simultaneously. The users were able to interact with representations of each other, and interact with graphical objects, using a variety of sensors that registred how they moved. Krueger called this Artificial Reality (Krueger 1991).

With this backdrop the paper looks more closely into some examples of spheric video and compare the narratology to dimensional representations.