Call: 6th Zip-Scene Conference on Immersive Storytelling

Call for Papers

6th Zip-Scene Conference on Immersive Storytelling
Topic: Unveiling the Crisis of Stories: Can Interactive Digital Storytelling Lead to Deep Listening?

October 17-19, 2024
DOX: Centre For Contemporary Art
Prague, Czech Republic

Submission deadline: July 1, 2024

In 2024 Byung-Chul Han’s latest book was published in which he stated that we live in the era of a narrative crisis (Han 2024). According to him, the stories became “inflated”, “they have lost their original power” and the story consumers might be lonely beings as they do not experience the stories within a community. One of the main reasons for this is that we experience these stories via technological means: “The loss of empathy in the age of the smartphone is a clear sign that this technology is not a medium for telling stories.” While Byung-Chul Han’s work is heavily debated (see Chayka 2017), the philosopher’s work is influential and based on his latest work one could also interpret that the format of interactive digital storytelling is also in crisis as it takes place by using technological means and we often experience it alone – physically. As creators in this field use digital media formats (video games, visual novels, XR formats) to communicate their stories, statements questioning the capacity of technologies can be heavily debated and we would also like to bring them to table at the Zip-Scene Conference vol. 6. We invite authors, designers and researchers dealing with interactive digital storytelling to reflect on the possibility of this crisis, and share what they embed into their practice to not objectify their audiences (Westling 2020, 5), but to design for meaningful participation. We also aim to question whether the audiences are still eager to participate in these formats or do they choose more passive observation and delegate their agency rather to nonhuman entities, NPCs, etc. (Chia and Ruffino 2022), this way emphasizing the need for interpassivity (Fizek 2018)?

Sandboxes for immersive aspects and participation

The information society can perceive that stories should be interactive to propagate active participation, which could be transferred into real life (and hopefully into real-life citizen relationship taking). Is it just the wildest dream of designers and researchers of these experiences, that the interactive digital narratives can have a long-term transformative effect? Can contemporary interactive digital stories offer us – besides information – directions and interpretation possibilities? These various sandbox experiences could be suitable for designers – with the help of the participants they can try out novel ways of communicating, interacting, and expressing themselves in the sense of “Playful Utopias”. This notion connects interactive digital storytelling to the long tradition of literary and cinematic utopias and their effect on reality (cf Shedroff et. al. 2012) and positions them as a more democratic, participatory form of speculative narratives, especially in the realm of Metaverse-like environments. Also, this needs to be fostered by creating more awareness of interactive digital storytelling formats and literacy on IDN’s (Interactive Digital Narratives) (Koenitz 2023).

If the act of storytelling is in crisis, then do the new technologies and media dim even more the genuine capacities of stories or do they just respond to our contemporary needs of bringing magical experiences (Bakk 2020) and enchantment to our everyday life to arm’s length away? While many active citizens – as members of our current information society – try to promote their values and call for action on social media, the apathy towards some of these platforms is growing (Shen 2022). Can one state though that even social media is not made for telling stories as it does not allow close listening, although it can offer the sense of wide accessibility and the illusion of agency as one can interact with the story.

But does it offer the possibility for deep listening? Or our society – as Gerhard Schulze defined – as the experience society (Schulze 2008) – is not in need anymore for deep listening, but rather lost its „careful listener” capacity (Han 2024) and aims more for fast experiences? Therefore, can we state that we also experience the crisis of perception? Can this crisis and the lack of careful listening be reasoned and linked intrinsically to the prevalence of power structures? Can for example feminist technology perspectives or other marginalized cultures and societies offer new ways of storytelling? Should regions also aim for cultivating local (interactive) storytelling practices (that is a mission of Zip-Scene Conference in the Visegrad area as well)?

Key questions

  1. How are new technology tools used to shape the stories told with them and how do they add or question the crisis mentioned above? How can we uncover new layers of the history of interactive digital storytelling by taking into perspective social cultural aspects and their creators’ backgrounds?
  2. How do creators working with immersive analog/physical media (e.g. with immersive theatre, installations, printed formats, etc.) define their position towards the technological media and its capacities of storytelling?
  3. How do creators aim to tackle the question of lack of time for reflection and sensory overload that results in heightened mental tension in the audiences? How do audiences deal with their overstimulation?


Proposals may be for a paper/panel and should be related to at least one of the conference themes. Deadline for submitting the proposals is July 1, 2024. Please upload your abstract proposal (max. 500 words) and a short bio (max. 300 words) to If you do not receive a confirmation letter generated by Gmail, please reach out to us at The papers will be reviewed by the conference committee. If your proposal will be accepted you will be given 20 minutes for your presentation.


Workshop proposals are also welcome: on the 19th of October we offer the space for ca 4-5 hours workshops. Please send your workshop proposal (max 700 words including the detailed schedules) and please also mention what is the maximum participation number. We can provide room for the workshop and a basic technical setup. Workshop holders will receive a fee waiver for the conference. Please upload your proposal to If you do not receive a confirmation letter generated by Gmail, please reach out to us at

The Zip-Scene Conference takes XR/extended reality (VR/AR/MR) and Metaverse-related works seriously and treats them on equal footing to film and performing arts, and wishes to expand its scientific treatment and reflection. On this basis, we are inviting papers that address narrative experiences enabled by digital platforms, especially online and XR or related to the Metaverse. We are also looking for IDN practices and prototypes from medical and mental healthcare practices that could offer new approaches on how storytelling can be embedded in scientific practices. Papers should address either one or several of the following topics:


  • Interactive storytelling methods and authoring
  • Video games
  • Virtual reality experiences & movies
  • Augmented reality in interactive storytelling
  • Interactive performing arts practices
  • Interactive museums and archives
  • Immersive environments (media archeology and phenomenological approach)
  • Participatory practices using interactive digital storytelling in education, health care and other applied areas
  • Interactive storytelling formats and their effect on mental health
  • Special track #1: Crisis of the stories told through digital means
  • Special track #2: Feminist histories and creators of interactive digital storytelling and of VR


The conference is intended as an in-person event in Prague, barring complications caused by the pandemic. The organizer reserves the right to make changes to the event program.


100 EUR (physical attendance)
(Reduced registration fee is available upon request)

The fee includes entry to the ART∗VR Festival happening at the same venue. More information about visitor tickets in September.

The organizers cannot cover travel and accommodation costs. Upon request we can provide you with an invitation letter.


The conference addresses scientific researchers, game professionals, programmers, artists, scholars and professionals from the fields of performing arts and game studies, as well as interactive storytellers, experience designers, narrative designers, VR-professionals and philosophers and others concerned with the conference topics. The conference aims to bring together emerging scholars, professionals and creators in order to create a joint platform which would help individuals to understand and to develop these types of productions.

This year the conference is organized in cooperation with ART*VR festival, the biggest curated art XR showcase in the region of Central and Eastern Europe. The carefully curated programme aims to present the best in the field of artistic VR creation and immerse the audience in unique, immersive virtual worlds. The programme will showcase the latest projects presented at major festivals such as the Venice Film Biennale, Sundance, Tribeca and SXSW in the USA, and IDFA in Amsterdam. The event also aims to present several projects in international or world premieres.

The festival will have a competitive and non-competitive part and will aim to present VR projects set in physical art installations. The event will take place in the exhibition space of Centre of Contemporary Art DOX. An important part of the programme is an industry programme for film professionals, a series of lectures on VR and an accompanying programme. A special programme for primary and secondary schools will also take place in the morning of the festival.


Art*VR Festival
ARDIN – Association for Research in Digital Interactive Narratives


  1. Code and Soda Company
  2. Random Error Studio
  3. Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design


Hartmut Koenitz


Bakk, Ágnes Karolina. 2020. “Magic and Immersion in VR.” In Interactive Storytelling, edited by Anne-Gwenn Bosser, David E. Millard, and Charlie Hargood, 12497:327–31. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Chayka, Kyle. 2024. “The Internet’s New Favorite Philosopher”. The New Yorker, April 17, 2024.
(Accessed: 20 April, 2024)

Chia, Aleena, and Paolo Ruffino. 2022. “Special Issue Introduction: Politicizing Agency in Digital Play after Humanism.” Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 28 (2): 309–19.

Fizek, Sonia. 2018. “Interpassivity and the Joy of Delegated Play in Idle Games.” Transactions of the Digital Games Research Association 3 (3).

Gäckle, Kristian, Tim Reichert, and Nicola Marsden. 2018. “Virtual Reality or Virtuous Reality?: How Gender Stereotypes Limit Access to Virtual Reality.” In Proceedings of the 4th Conference on Gender & IT – GenderIT ’18, 143–45. Heilbronn, Germany: ACM Press.

Han, Byung-Chul. 2024. The Crisis of Narration. Translated by Daniel Steuer. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

Koenitz, Hartmut. 2023. Understanding Interactive Digital Narrative: Immersive Expressions for a Complex Time. Abingdon, Oxon New York, NY: Routledge.

O’Hagan, Joseph, Mohamed Khamis, and Julie R. Williamson. 2021. “Surveying Consumer Understanding & Sentiment Of VR.” In Proceedings of the International Workshop on Immersive Mixed and Virtual Environment Systems (MMVE ’21), 14–20. Istanbul Turkey: ACM.

Schulze, Gerhard. 2008. Die Erlebnisgesellschaft: Kultursoziologie der Gegenwart. Frankfurt: Campus Verlag.

Shen, Fuyuan, ed. 2022. Social Media News and Its Impact. New York London: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.

Westling, Carina E. I. 2020. Immersion and Participation in Punchdrunk’s Theatrical Worlds. London: Methuen Drama, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.


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