Re: [-empyre-] intro from tamiko thiel

Hi Adam,

Thank you for your kind remarks! I am indeed aware of the site - Rob Mikuriya and I have corresponded per email for a while, and it is a great piece to have out and available on the web right now, when it is needed most.

I do think the difference between Beyond Manzanar and Face to Face is the difference between 'experience' and 'being told,' as you suggest, but I think this is a difference in the structure of the pieces, not in the differences between Web2D and Web3D per se. For instance the 2D web piece Tropical America uses a lot of the sort of experiential technique, although it is also uses the storytelling device (in a didactic way that I personally think is annoying sometimes.)

I should repeat that the full Beyond Manzanar piece is shown as a room installation, not as a web3D piece, partially because I really want the "immersive" effect that comes from having a life-sized image on a large screen (see image at While the physical "immersion" is less that in a CAVE or HMD, I find the psychological/perceptual immersion that this format produces to be substantial, as the kinesthetic sense of the body reacts to the life-scale image in a way that it doesn't to an image on a desk monitor. I believe the type of immersion of attention that you speak about when reading a book comes only from compelling subject matter and/or presentation, and is independent of the medium itself. So perhaps we can talk about:
- full physical/perceptual immersion, where you can't see anything else,
- perceptual/kinesthetic engagement, where you can see the rest of the environment but the virtual image still affects your kinesthetic senses,
- and a compelling artwork that holds your attention,
as being 3 different meanings that people use for the word "immersion."

I do specifically use the word "experiential" for the sort of interactive, navigable 3D VR that Beyond Manzanar is, and think that "experiential virtual environments" is a good term to distinguish these non-competitive works from games such as Myst and its follow-ons, whose main point is the solving of a puzzle even though the process of solving the puzzle requires you to go use an experiential technique. I talk more about the development of experiential dramatic structure for Beyond Manzanar in the online paper:

It was very important to me to implement Beyond Manzanar in interactive 3D because I wanted the user to develop their own personal relationship to the barracks, the barbed-wire fence, the landscape of Manzanar rather than think of it as the backdrop for someone else's story. I believe that this sense of "being there" is the experience that interactive 3D or virtual reality can provide that other media cannot.

The compulsion to fill Beyond Manzanar with the stories of all the people portrayed in its photographs was very strong, but again that would've turned the piece from a personal experience into a storytelling stageset, and I figured that there were enough books, films and websites that covered that aspect, so it was OK if I tried to provide an experience that they couldn't.

- tamiko

Adam Nash wrote:
Hello Tamiko,
Congratulations on your piece. I was wondering if you were aware of this site that uses Flash to look at similar issues to your piece:

Face to Face: Stories from the Aftermath of Infamy

Here's the blurb:

"In the wake of 9/11, many Muslims around the United States faced a backlash of resentment and anger. This groundswell of emotion was not without parallel, as Japanese and Japanese-Americans faced a similar reaction after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. The Independent Television Service has developed this Web site to bring a human face to the experiences of Muslims and Japanese people in the United States by collecting these powerful interviews from members of both groups. On the site, visitors can listen to stories from older Japanese-Americans talk about their experiences on the West Coast after Pearl Harbor, and the experiences of Muslims, both young and old. The interviews are divided into thematic sections, such as "Fear," "Internment," "Identity," and "Being American." At another section of the site, visitors can respond to the stories, and a glossary of terms is also provided as background material."

As this is dealing with very similar subject matter, I thought it might be good way of the list looking at the differences between Web2D and Web3D. Would you feel like elucidating what properties you feel that 3D brings to the work and why you prefer to work in this medium? Whilst I've only seen the web version of your piece, I imagine its the difference between 'experience' and 'being told'? Whilst I note that you use the term 'virtual reality', I don't imagine that your aim is for the beholders to actually think they are experiencing it, rather to provide a deeper, more experiential, insight into what it must have been like to experience that reality? I ask this because I am very interested in Web3D artists trying to develop an appropriate vocabulary, rather than one that is based on precedents (usually cinematic or early-90s hokum).

As an example, I love the idea of 'immersion', but recently this word has taken on a very narrow definition that means the kind of Imax or CAVE type environment that attempts an actual physical immersion, whereas (as much as I enjoy Imax movies) I find reading a novel to be far more immersive. Similarly, what is the verb that we use for beholding a Web3D piece? The verb 'seeing' is inadequate. Perhaps 'experiencing' is more appropriate. By identifying the qualities that set Web3D apart from Flash and other 2D tech's, perhaps we can start working towards an appropriate vocabulary.

I'd be most interested to hear your views, as well as those of the other guests this month.

Adam Nash
1/360 Carlisle St, Balaclava, Vic, 3183

 Tamiko Thiel       Media Artist


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