Unbounded Transmedia + Boundary Conditions

The Transmedia Storytelling Initiative (TSI) is situated in the School of Architecture and Planning. We embrace the powerful alignment between spatial modeling (central to architecture and urbanism) and the expanding world of virtual production that the Boundary Conditions symposium celebrates. Curriculum seeks to expand narrative to consider spatialized storyworlds and the perceptual tools that we bring to them. Since its founding in 2019 with a gift from David and Nina Fialkow, TSI has reached over 300 students through grants, workshops, seminars, and making. If we will increasingly live hybrid lives on Earth and in a metaverse, let us responsibly interrogate our navigational tools.

This semester, TSI is hosting an exhibition Unbounded Transmedia in the Weisner Gallery, and a symposium Boundary Conditions: Architecture, Simulation, Cinema that will be held on November 12. 


Unbounded: Transmedia Storytelling @ MIT 2019-2021
virtual productions by students across MIT engaging with the Transmedia Storytelling Initiative, 2019-2021

Physical Location: Wiesner Student Art Gallery, W20-209
Virtual Location: http://transmedia.mit.edu/unbounded
Time: October 18 - November 23, 2021
The gallery is open daily 9am-9pm, for VR experience please sign up here

 Architectural modeling was once a 2D affair. New virtual production tools and laser scanned point clouds have brought robust 3D capacities into the hands of makers across disciplines, uniquely capable of benefitting from the convergence of the spatial story-telling capacities of designers and the narrative urgencies of today.

The tools of 3D modeling and storytelling were well-known before the global pandemic, but their use in teaching and production has dramatically accelerated under the pressure of remote learning situations.  Students are burning with the desire to create immersive spatialized worlds, bringing their experience as gamers and makers to bear on the social issues they feel passionate about. Projects on exhibition will range from the cellphone that tells the story of its possession by a recycled predecessor suffering as e-waste, to the cinematic split screen that toggles between a pandemic workstation occupied by a human and its clean, virtual clone, to the point-cloud interactive metaverse now associated with memory itself.

Exhibition venue will be the Wiesner Gallery in the MIT Student Center at the heart of campus, a hub of activity for the MIT community of 40,000 students, post-docs, staff, and faculty. Positioned as the main Fall Semester exhibition, Unbounded will include monitor loops of videos documenting 3D and other projects, and a carefully curated showcase for the best immersive XR and projection works by students in professional graduate programs such as Architecture, visual art (the Art, Culture, Technology program), and Comparative Media Studies.

Produced by the Transmedia Storytelling Initiative, MIT*

*Additional partnership from MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST), MIT.nano, MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality, Virtual Experience Design Lab at MIT, The Art, Culture, and Technology program (ACT) at MIT, Department of Architecture at MIT. 



Boundary Conditions: Architecture, Simulation, Cinema
a symposium on virtual production from analogue imaginaries to the digital present


Time: NOV 12, 12-7PM
Physical Location: MIT 7-429, LONG LOUNGE (for MIT community only)
Virtual Location: WEBCAST LINK TBA (for all)
Link to register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/boundary-conditions-architecture-simulation-cinema-registration-194675649107


Cinema begins with analogue simulations of fanciful realities (Méliès’s Trip to the Moon) as well as torquings of time that can run upside down and backwards -- yet all our virtual realities must obey the intuitive physics of human perception. The symposium Boundary Conditions: Architecture, Simulation, Cinema brings together filmmakers, scholars, scientists, and artists in the XR domain to explore this territory -- we explore the surprising history that connects virtual production to architectural simulation, then and now. Rendering space, time, and characters through veridical simulations of reality that appeal to fuzzy logics of perception draws on new boundary conditions that allow both documentary and fiction to build compelling storyworlds. Virtual production was well underway before the global pandemic, but has accelerated under the pressure of enforced social and spatial distance.  Today, virtual production practices drive the creation of immersive spatialized worlds – our symposium panels examine, celebrate, and critique the devices of imagination that shape ubiquitous creativity. Metahumans have arrived, deepfakes are here, and even black holes can function as characters in spacetime – what meanings will we make in the expansive ethical and aesthetic spaces of the new metaverse?


12 pm—1:30 pm
Caroline Jones (Opening Remarks), Ian Cheng*, Veronica So*, Ivaylo Getov*, Judith Barry (Respondent)*, Deniz Tortum (Moderator)*
*remote speakers

What thrives in the metaverse? How does virtual life unfold, algorithmically or otherwise, to tap into our predilection for perceiving liveliness in the world? Long histories of appropriating human bodies for mediatic purposes now intersect with virtual spatial domains rich with algorithmic evocations of teeming, flocking, or vegetal proliferation. If actors wearing masks and costumes once constituted the boundary conditions of our narratives, we can now simulate liveliness itself on transmedia platforms, with bodies being deployed from life (with or without permission) in immersive storyworlds. Beyond avatars, life engines now tweak intuitive physics to convey metahumans and the more-than-human in virtual domains. This panel will feature artist Ian Cheng with his collaborating producer Veronica So and technical director Ivaylo Getov.


2 pm—4:30 pm
Rachel Rossin, Alexander Galloway, Aude Oliva, Eugenie Brinkema (Respondent), Tobias Putrih (Moderator)

Transmedia narrative forms depend on the malleability of space and time. Literary tools such as verb tense, recollection, and prophecy became a material medium of celluloid, sprockets, and frames. Studio spaces and theatrical set-ups could be sliced, diced, run backward, layered, or recombined, a vocabulary that migrated to the digital. How have virtual production and tools such as 'foveated rendering' reached into human perception to further refine these tools of dreaming? Can the blurring of narrative orders allow space itself to emerge as a time-bound experience? This panel will reach into the manifold of spacetime as a place of craft and artful storytelling where makers explore the ever-shifting boundary conditions of this world and others. Participating speakers include artist Rachel Rossin, media theorist Alexander Galloway, and MIT cognitive neuroscientist Aude Oliva. MIT film scholar Eugenie Brinkema will moderate discussion and offer a response.


5 pm—7 pm
Douglas Trumbull, Nicholas de Monchaux

Douglas Trumbull, legendary special effects designer (2001, Blade Runner), who will offer a plenary followed by a discussion with Head of Architecture at MIT, Nicholas de Monchaux, who has traced urban studies models into the special effects lab. Architecture + Planning Associate Dean and media theorist Caroline A. Jones, Director of the Transmedia Storytelling Initiative, will welcome local participants and remote audience members to the event, which will be both live and streamed.


Produced by the Transmedia Storytelling Initiative, MIT*

* Additional partnership from Arts at MIT, MIT.nano, MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality, Virtual Experience Design Lab@MIT, The Art, Culture, and Technology program (ACT)@MIT, Department of Architecture@MIT.