Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

Anja Boato | Sapienza Università di Roma | Italy 


September 16th 2022 | 12.00 – 13.30
Panel #9 | “Pandemic Discourses and Imaginaries
Room G.127 | Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore Milan, Largo Gemelli 1

Our Dystopian World.Catastrophic Storytelling in Virtual Reality

The proliferation of dystopian narratives is a sign of the uncertainty of the times.
Doubts about the future of robotics and computers have given rise to several dystopian technologies (Clayes 2017). Today, those same technologies can be used to tell stories with strong dystopian overtones. The research aims to investigate strategies forepresenting dystopian worlds in Virtual Reality Cinema (Cine-VR) through the lens of textual analysis, with a focus on allegorical dystopias that project some issues of our times into alternative worlds. The two case studies to be presented relate to the tradition of dystopias about migration (Anam 2018) and environmental crisis due to the pandemic (Clayes 2017, Al-Aghberi 2021). The key (by Céline Tricart, 2019), which is often characterized as an almost-documentary immersive experience, actually reinterprets the traumas of immigration in a dreamlike and catastrophic alternative world.
In contrast, the pandemic universe described by the stop motion animation The Sick Rose (Bing Mei Guei, by Tang Zhi-zhong and Huang Yun-hsien, 2021) imagines a present inhabited by demonic creatures to allegorically represent the world of COVID-19. Both case studies illustrate the catastrophic environment as a representation of two contemporary problems, taking advantage of the unique features of virtual reality. As a perceptual medium, VR uses the mechanisms of embodiment and presence to generate empathy (Milk 2015). Therefore, Cine-VR adds new elements to dystopian stories, combining empathic strategies of storytelling with its main tropes.

Anja Boato is a PhD student in Music and Performing Arts from Sapienza University of Rome. Her doctoral research is focused on cinema in virtual reality (Cine-VR), but she has also written about transmedia storytelling and audience reception in articles (e.g. Il fandom delle serie TV e l’esperienza dello shipping, in Mediascapes Journal n. 14), books and chapters of collective works (e.g. Shipping. Uno sguardo sociologico sui fandom romantici, Edizioni Epoké 2022).