Cognitive Dissonance

Unpopular opinion: locative media and locative narratives are actually less immersive than, for instance, a traditional novel or a video game experienced purely through a digital medium. This is not to say that locative media is not entertaining or a good experience; I binge-played Pokemon Go (as many others did) the first couple days it came out. In my humble opinion, however, I find myself a lot more drawn in by worlds created through novels, movies, or video games that do not require interaction with the physical space around you.

I have two reasons as to why I find transmedia storytelling less compelling or immersive. The first is what Ritchie calls the “narrative value threshold” in his novel The Affordances and Constraints of Mobile Locative Narratives. This threshold is defined as the “difference between perceived effort and perceived reward,” as in is the narrative or game engaging enough that the user would voluntarily decide to put in “non-trivial effort” such as walking to different checkpoints just to know what happens next. For me and many other people, this is a pretty hard feat to accomplish. There have been plenty of books that I have put down in the past because I didn’t find them interesting, and all a book requires of me is really just to turn a page. For locative media to get me off my butt and actually walk around means that I have to really want to know what happens next, or there is some type of incentive for me such as the idea of levelling up or competing with friends.

Secondly, I find the link between the real world and the digital world to actually be distracting and interruptive. My favorite part about reading a novel is being able to construct the world and the characters in my head, and create a dimension separate from reality. However, having to use the environment around me to continue the narrative disrupts this world I’ve created in my head space. Looking up from an app to interact with the real world creates almost a type of cognitive dissonance, and I find myself having to mentally switch between the two without ever truly being able to immerse myself in one. I do think that virtual reality is a medium that solves this issue. Although it doesn’t necessarily have the same purpose or do the same thing that locative media is meant to do, it still allows the user to interact with a simulated environment that is consistent with the story or world.

Although I do still think that there is a lot of merit and potential in locative storytelling and appreciate the fact that it links technology with the physical world, I still prefer the consistencies of the one dimensional aspect of traditional modes of storytelling.

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One thought on “Cognitive Dissonance

  1. I think you raise an important point here about immersion, and I suspect that Dr. Farman and Ritchie would agree with you. Part of the problem with locative narratives is that there is already an existing narrative–someone is already trying to tell the story in that physical space (or using the space to tell a story as one might with the natural world). The overlay and tension between the existing narrative and the AR narrative is what Dr. Farman attempted to resolve in his article. That said, I don’t think we’ve yet seen an AR game/story that can compete with more mature media such as film and the novel. What is clear, however, is that we continue to live in both physical and digital spaces as we traverse our world cell phones in hand. It will be fun to see if and when someone cracks the code on bringing physical and locative media together.

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