Virtual Realities: Immersive Documentary Encounters // Project News // Aug 14, 2018.

Stakeholder Survey Results

In Jan/Feb 2018 we conducted an opinion survey with 30 leading producers, curators and directors of VR non-fiction (VRNF) to identify key priorities for our audience studies (planned for Spring/Summer 2018). We asked eight open-ended questions about aspects of past, present and future audiences for VRNF.

The survey findings suggest a shared aim to connect VRNF with audiences beyond the ‘tech curious’ and the ‘educated minority’. Respondents identified inhibiting factors like affordability (of hardware) and accessibility (of content), as well as cultural factors relating to perceptions of who VR is ‘for’.

We asked respondents how we should refer to audiences of VRNF. This divided opinions. Terms such as ‘user’, ‘participant’, viewer’, and ‘visitor’ were suggested alongside newer terms such as ‘immersant’, ‘experiencer’ and ‘interactor’; some rejected the idea that a single term is desirable or necessary.

We asked participants to name three works that had made a specific contribution to the field. Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness was (by far) the most frequently acknowledged, followed by Clouds of Sidra and Assent in second and third place respectively.

We received various interpretations of the future potential for VRNF, from “the magic wearing off” to “everyone filming 360”. Some anticipate VR/AR/MR/XR convergence and others more “embodied”, “multisensory” experiences. Ideas for future research included: business models; information recall; persuasiveness; facilitating “human connections”; integration with other sensory stimuli; reaching audiences in other parts of the world, and creating social impact.

Our analysis of the survey findings suggests four areas of potential focus for our audience research:

  1. The way(s) audiences experience, understand and decode the combination of phenomenological and narratological elements within VR non-fiction.
  2. The differences and similarities in the ways audiences respond to communal/social and individual VR non-fiction experiences.
  3. The difference between audiences’ immediate/emotional and reflective/logical responses to VR non-fiction.
  4. The activities audiences engage in pre- and post- experience that frame and contextualise their experiences of VR non-fiction.