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Author Archives: Matthew Lombard

Call: Mind – Media – Narrative: Exploring the Nexus of Transmedial and Cognitive Narratologies

Call for papers

Mind – Media – Narrative: Exploring the Nexus of Transmedial and Cognitive Narratologies
University of Warsaw (Poland)
20-22 June 2016

Proposals deadline: 15th of March, 2016

Narrative is a universal phenomenon that shapes virtually every aspect of human life. Narrative exists across time, culture – from the cave narratives of Lascaux, to the hypertext narratives of contemporary cyberspace. And together with the proliferation of narrative forms, there are also the myriad ways of understanding and defining them. Consequently, narrative can be understood as the ‘representation of at least two real or fictive events’ (Gerald Prince), as the ‘method of recapitulating past experience’ (William Labov), as ‘the play of suspense/curiosity/surprise between represented and communicative time’ (Meir Sternberg), and a host of other theoretical and rhetorical formulations.

As suggested in the conference title, ‘Mind – Media – Narrative’, the purpose of this conference is to provide a forum for the discussion of narrative – especially narrative in the context of what Marie-Laure Ryan defines as: ‘a mental construct, which can be activated by different types of signs’. Defined in this way, narrative is both a mental and textual entity and its final shape relies on the specificity of applied media, affordances and limitations, and human cognitive mechanisms. Accordingly, when researching narrative, it is important to account for both its medium-independent and medium-specific aspects. Medium-independent aspects include event sequencing, causality, temporality, but also the role of affect in the function of characters, the motivation of narrative events, and the engagement of the reader/viewer/participant in the narrative. Conversely, an investigation of medium-specific aspects places emphasis upon the techniques and qualities specific to particular media, such as the representation of characters’ speech through dialogue balloons in comics, or the techniques involved in the gestural languages of drama and dance. Also significant is a consideration of the relations between the different forms, modes, and methods of narrative, including remediation, parodic revision, and the shared properties and artistic techniques used in and across various media (including interactivity).

Discussions at this conference will involve consideration of cognitive models and theories that enable an understanding of the processes of creating and perceiving narrative: both ‘classical’ (e.g., through mental schemata or reader inference) and ‘contemporary’ (e.g., involving the role of embodied cognition, theory of mind, the concept of experientiality). Simultaneously, this conference is also open to questioning the influence of media on the shape of narrative; e.g., how do media which are rarely associated with storytelling, such as architecture or music, influence the creation of narrative when they become its vehicles? And further, what new narrative affordances do digital media bring to their users? Do they change the way narratives are mentally (and bodily) constructed?

Defining narrative as both a textual and cognitive construct prompts researchers to think about the nexus of mind and media in the creation of stories. Consequently, the proposed approach compels narratologists, media specialists and cognitive psychologists to work together to better understand the dynamics of creating storyworlds. During the conference we would like to create such an interdisciplinary space for sharing ideas, hypotheses and doubts.

We invite contributions from researchers (at all stages of their careers) interested in cognitive and/or transmedial narratology. Contributions may be theoretical as well as analytical. Proposals may address, but are not limited to:

  • narrative in various media (from literature, comic books and video games, to architecture and music): differences, similarities, methodologies of analysis,
  • narrative affordances and limitations of different modalities (verbal, visual, gestural, spatial),
  • narrative and interactive media,
  • the role of bodily and affective engagement in the creation and understanding of narratives,
  • theoretical foundations of transmedial and cognitive narratology,
  • psychological and cognitive approaches to narrative,
  • narrative categories and techniques, and their presence in various media,
  • intermedial translation and its role in the creation of narratives,
  • construction of transmedial storyworlds across multiple media platforms,
  • narratology in light of new schools of thought and fields emerging within the contemporary humanities (performance studies, theory of affect, object oriented philosophy, digital humanities, empirical literary and media studies etc.)

Read more on Call: Mind – Media – Narrative: Exploring the Nexus of Transmedial and Cognitive Narratologies…

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‘Doors’ models how to bridge physical and virtual worlds

[This simple and elegant presence-evoking installation could be a model for one way to help users move between nonmediated and mediated realities; the original version of the story from Fast Company features a 1:21 minute video and more images. –Matthew]

Doors installation graphic

This Magical Door Lets You Explore The Virtual World Without Putting On A Headset

There’s a chasm between our physical and virtual worlds. This captivating installation offers one way to bridge them.

Mark Wilson
February 10, 2016

It should feel like a cliché. Doors, a project by interactive studio The Ortiz, is something we’ve seen 1,000 times before: a portal leading to another world. And yet, in watching it exist in real space where it’s examined by real people, it dawns on me that this isn’t just another sci-fi movie—and that we’re really seeing the age-old concept made real for the first time.

Doors was inspired by a modern problem. We have a real world, and we have a virtual world, but how do we connect the two with an experience more elegant than putting on a big old VR headset? The resulting thought experiment was what you see here: a digital world beckoning you through a door frame. Read more on ‘Doors’ models how to bridge physical and virtual worlds…

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Call: 4th International Conference on User Science and Engineering 2016 (i-USEr 2016)

4th International Conference on User Science and Engineering 2016 (i-USEr 2016)
23rd to 25th August 2016
Melaka, Malaysia

Official Website:


The 4th International Conference on User Science and Engineering 2016 (i-USEr 2016) will be held in Melaka, Malaysia from 23rd to 25th August 2016. i-USEr 2016 aims to address the main issues of concern within Human Computer Interaction (HCI) with a particular emphasis on the aspects of design, development and implementation of interfaces and the generational implications for design of human and technology interaction.

This conference provides a platform for researchers, practitioners and industries to explore and discuss innovative studies of technology and its application in interfaces and welcomes completed research, work in progress and case studies. The special theme for this year’s conference is Unbounded.

Topics for this conference include, but are not limited to:

  • HCI and Usability
  • User Experience
  • HCI and IT Infrastructure
  • HCI and e-services
  • HCI and Urban Science
  • Human-Centered Computing
  • HCI for the underserved
  • Human Interface and Management of Information
  • HCI and Analytics
  • HCI and Domestic Technologies

Read more on Call: 4th International Conference on User Science and Engineering 2016 (i-USEr 2016)…

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Building theory: The four different types of stories in VR

[This is a thoughtful, example-filled, theory-building discussion of the essential elements of storytelling in VR, all with a focus on the user’s experience (including explicitly the experience of presence – see the third paragraph). It’s from Road to VR, where it includes the 29:39 minute podcast, another image and both mentioned videos. Several typos have been corrected. –Matthew]

Boy inside storybook (art)

The Four Different Types of Stories in VR

Voices of VR Podcast – Episode #293

By Kent Bye – Feb 4, 2016

For the past year, Devon Dolan has been trying to make sense of the interactive storytelling landscape that’s possible within virtual reality. He comes from a world of story where he’s currently an associate at Cinetic Media, which is a well-known and very respected strategic advisory company within the world of independent film. Cinetic has brokered distribution deals for Sundance hits ranging from Little Miss Sunshine to Napoleon Dynamite. Devon recently collaborated with Michael Parets on an essay that proposes a framework to categorize VR stories into four distinct categories. Their original Medium piece was recently expanded upon in Techcrunch, and I had a chance to catch up with Devon at Sundance where we further elucidated and simplified their 4-quadrant framework for VR storytelling.

There has been a debate within the virtual reality community around the validity of 360-degree videos, and whether or not they should even be considered a legitimate part of the virtual reality landscape. This sentiment has been vocalized by Valve hardware engineer Alan Yates, who declared that spherical videos are not VR & that they “basically suck.”

I understand the technical complaint about the limited stereoscopic effects of 360-degree video, as well as my personal experience of them not being as immersive or interactive as a completely computer-generated VR environment. Some of my deepest experiences of presence have come from CGI experiences with stylized art and highly dynamic and interactive environments. But just because I might prefer computer-generated VR experiences over a lot of the more passive 360-video that I’ve seen, then should that mean that a whole range of immersive video experiences shouldn’t be considered as valid VR? How should we think about all of these passive narrative video experiences that are being created? What are the critical components of what is a VR experience and what isn’t? How can we make sense of this emerging landscape that makes sense of all of the different levels of interactivity and storytelling potential within VR? Read more on Building theory: The four different types of stories in VR…

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Job: Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in Social Robotics at U. of Glasgow

Lecturer/Senior Lecturer
University of Glasgow – Research Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology

Location: Glasgow
Salary: £41,255 to £55,389 per annum
Contract Type: Permanent
Closes: 6th March 2016
Job Ref: 012096

The University of Glasgow aims to develop a world-class research emphasis in social robotics, shared between the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology and the School of Computing Science. Within the Institute, we aim to appoint a new member of staff who will significantly develop our research presence in this area. The appointment can be at Lecturer or Senior Lecturer level, dependent on the applicant’s credentials.

Potential candidates should perform research in social neuroscience, computational neuroscience, social cognition, grounded cognition, or a related field that bears on social interaction and social robotics. Examples of relevant research areas include facial or bodily mirroring, theory of mind (intention attribution), the perception of agency, coordinated social action, etc. Primary qualifications for the position include research excellence, together with leadership potential for moving collaborative research on social robotics forward. Commitment to social robotics in previous and current research will be weighed positively.

The candidate’s research program should align with the strategic objectives of the Centre for Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (cSCAN), and should complement our existing expertise in social signal processing, interactive communication, and/or grounded cognition. The Centre has excellent research facilities, including 4-D face motion capture, whole body motion capture, a variety of eye-tracking facilities, together with state-of-the-art neuroimaging facilities for fMRI, MEG, EEG and TMS associated with the Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging (CCNi). As part of the University of Glasgow’s Social Robotics Initiative, the successful applicant will have excellent opportunities for collaborating with computer scientists and engineers in the College of Science and Engineering, with access to their robotic facilities and resources. Read more on Job: Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in Social Robotics at U. of Glasgow…

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Study: People dislike human-like social robots because they threaten our identity

[Robots are among many technologies that can evoke a sense of presence, a misperception of experience mediated by technology, in which the medium itself seems to be a living social actor. This story from IEEE Spectrum considers the possibility that as robots become more human-like in both appearance and behavior we’ll resist them as threats to our uniqueness (akin to anthropocentrism and computers). See the original story for an additional image featuring Geminoid DK with his doppelganger creator and the mentioned 2:56 minute video. –Matthew]

Robotic skeleton of Geminoid DK, an android developed by Dr. Henrik Scharfe

Study: Nobody Wants Social Robots That Look Like Humans Because They Threaten Our Identity

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 8 Feb 2016

Everybody knows that anthropomorphic robots that try to look and act like people are creepy. The Uncanny Valley, and all that. There’s been a bunch of research into just what it is about such androids that we don’t like (watch the video to get an idea of what we’re talking about), and many researchers think that we get uncomfortable when we begin to lose the ability to confidently distinguish between what’s human and what’s not. This is why zombies are often placed at the very bottom of the Uncanny Valley: in many respects, they directly straddle that line, which is why they freak us out so much.

Most of the time, robots (even the weird ones) don’t end up way down there with the zombies, because they’re usually a lot more obviously not human. The tricky part about robots, however, is that they can manifest “human-ness” in ways that are more than just physical. When robots start acting like humans, as opposed to just looking like them, things can get much more complicated. This is increasingly relevant with the push towards social robots designed to interact with humans in a very specifically “human-y” way.

In a recent paper in the International Journal of Social Robotics, “Blurring Human–Machine Distinctions: Anthropomorphic Appearance in Social Robots as a Threat to Human Distinctiveness,” Francesco Ferrari and Maria Paola Paladino from the University of Trento, in Italy, and Jolanda Jetten from the University of Queensland, in Australia, argue that what humans don’t like about anthropomorphic robots is fundamentally about a perceived incursion on human uniqueness. If true, it’s going to make the job of social robots much, much harder. Read more on Study: People dislike human-like social robots because they threaten our identity…

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Call: Image/Interface Symposium, University of Toronto


Image/Interface Symposium
University of Toronto,
Friday May 13 and Saturday May 14, 2016

Co-hosted by the Department of Arts, Culture, and Media, University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) and the Jackman Humanities Institute (JHI), University of Toronto St. George.

Deadline for submission of abstracts: Monday, February 29, 2016.
Notification of acceptance: Mid-March 2016.

Keynote Speakers:
The Otolith Group, London-based art collective
Lisa Parks, Professor of Film & Media Studies, UC Santa Barbara
Julian Stallabrass, Professor of Modern & Contemporary Art, The Courtauld Institute of Art

The Image/Interface symposium will explore the notion of technologies as physical objects—things, tools, apparatus, and the physically situated environment—for producing, receiving, and engaging with the increasing immateriality of imagery and visual cultures. The symposium foregrounds the materiality of technological practice while examining the reception, use, and sharing of cultural and political expression as well as the communication of embodied or situated knowledge and experiences.

We invite artists, creative practitioners, and scholars from across the fields of Media and Journalism Studies, Art History, and Visual Communication to present recent research and artistic work that critically reconsiders images in relation to:

  • the materiality of the screen, the lens, and the interface
  • the social and political ramifications of immersion, embodiment, and interactivity
  • information sharing, surveillance and counter-surveillance
  • the digital expression, construction and/or obfuscation of identity, gender, or ethnicity
  • media-oriented social engagement, collaboration and social knowledge creation

Scholars from all stages of their careers (including PhD students) are welcome to apply. A honorarium at CARFAC rates will be offered to artists and creative practitioners. Read more on Call: Image/Interface Symposium, University of Toronto…

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A video game IRL: Drone Racing League aims to be NASCAR in the air

[Without using the terms, this story from NPR clearly describes the experience of presence in the context of teleoperation. Go to the original version for the 3:43 minute audio interview, a 1:06 minute video, and more images. For more on what it’s like to pilot these drones, see coverage in Ars Technica; for more on the nascent sport, see the story in Quartz. –Matthew]

Pilot and drone

[Image: UmmaGawd (Tommy Tibajia), a pilot in the Drone Racing League, flies his quadcopter in an abandoned power plant in New York. Credit: The Drone Racing League.]

A Video Game IRL: Drone Racing League Aims To Be NASCAR In The Air

Updated February 1, 2016; Published January 31, 2016; by NPR staff

Can drone racing be the next NASCAR? That’s what Nick Horbaczewski is banking on. He is the CEO of the Drone Racing League, and he has lined up millions in venture capital to bring his vision to reality.

Using remote-control quadcopters with onboard cameras and virtual reality goggles, pilots race the drones through complicated courses with hairpin turns, obstacles and precipitous drops. The first-person perspective lets spectators watching the race videos online feel as if they are in the cockpit too, racing at dizzying speeds of 80 mph or more.

The pilots are from around the world and race under names like KittyCopter, Legacy, Steele and UmmaGawd — and, like so many athletes, participate in the drone racing version of trash talk.

So far, the races have been filmed and posted online. The league is working toward live events and live broadcasts.

More than a dozen drone pilots are lined up for the 2016 race season, which kicks off next month at Sun Life Stadium, home of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.

“It’s a whole new world — it’s right on the borderline between the digital and the real,” Horbaczewski tells NPR’s Rachel Martin. Read more on A video game IRL: Drone Racing League aims to be NASCAR in the air…

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Call: Simulations, Training and Digital Game Technology Symposium at U. of Calgary

Simulations, Training and Digital Game Technology Symposium
University of Calgary
17-18 February, 2016

This event has been organized to highlight the latest work on simulations in training, education, and rehabilitation. Together with leading experts from academia, professional agencies, private business and the Calgary Police Service, presenters will share their work and ideas in an intensive participatory environment to create a user-driven learning event for all symposium attendees.

Read more on Call: Simulations, Training and Digital Game Technology Symposium at U. of Calgary…

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BrainGainz VR app lets NCAA players ‘experience’ and avoid damages of concussions

[This press release from the University of Arizona describes an application of presence that has great potential to protect people’s lives; the original includes more images, and for additional background see coverage from last fall in Tucson News Now. –Matthew]

BrainGainz concussion VR app screenshot

UA-Built Concussion App in NCAA Competition

Sports-related concussions are now part of the national conversation, and a team of UA researchers — including football players Jason Sweet and Scooby Wright — is teaching athletes to recognize and report the signs.

Emily Litvack, UA Office for Research & Discovery
February 5, 2016

Despite new concussion-management protocols in the NCAA and NFL, many athletes still don’t recognize concussion symptoms or won’t report them if they do.

The University of Arizona creators of BrainGainz, a virtual-reality app that allows users to experience the symptoms of concussion, hope to change that. Read more on BrainGainz VR app lets NCAA players ‘experience’ and avoid damages of concussions…

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