SYLLABUS

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES
School of Arts & Architecture
Department of Design Media Arts

DESMA 289
Special Topics
STORYTELLING IN VIRTUAL SPACES

Winter 2021 | Remote | Monday 12:15–1:30 pm PST

Professor Jenna Caravello
Office Hour: Friday 1–2 pm PST
jcaravello@ucla.edu

COURSE DESCRIPTION

What kind of story necessitates virtual reality? This course explores the challenges presented by narrative projects for augmented and virtual spaces, giving students an opportunity to devise new strategies for storytelling in AR and VR. Individual research, readings, screenings, and discussions will center on one of the most pressing questions presented by a new platform—why use it? We will analyze narrative structure in immersive media, video games, films, and expanded cinema, and experiment with linear and nonlinear approaches to storytelling with in-class storyboarding and brainstorming exercises. The final project will consist of a fully realized proposal for a story that can only be told in augmented or virtual space.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

By the end of this course, students will:

  • Have an understanding of the limitations and advantages presented by virtual spaces. This foundation will be a basis for developing new storytelling strategies
  • Frame unique perspectives about the future of storytelling in virtual spaces
  • Develop methods for conceiving, organizing, and presenting an XR story proposal, in order to seek funding or collaborators

EVALUATION

20% – Participation

40% – Weekly exercises

40% – Final Project

Participation involves actively engaging in critique and discussions, and spending time to develop smaller exercises into engaged works.

Weekly Exercises include presentations, and will be evaluated on their ingenuity, aesthetic presentation, and “completeness”.

The Final Project for this course is a pitch, proposal, or prototype for a larger narrative work that takes place on a web platform, in AR, 3DOF, or 6DOF VR. This class offers an opportunity to previsualize, experiment with ideas, and build an air-tight plan.

Successful final projects will:

  • Outline a story from beginning to end
  • Visually describe space, pacing, and interactivity
  • Creatively eschew conventional narrative structures
  • Detail a plan for completion, including ideal venues, contractors, and budget scenarios

ATTENDANCE POLICY

Our class intersects with 2 holidays this quarter, so unfortunately, we only have 9 sessions together. More than one unexcused absence will lower your grade, so please email me if you can’t make it to class.

ACCESSIBILITY

The UCLA Center for Accessible Education (CAE) is responsible for ensuring students with documented disabilities have access to an inclusive, supportive learning environment. Students with disabilities or other needs requiring academic accommodations should speak with me as early in the quarter as possible to be sure they get the support they need. If you have a disability or health concern, be sure to contact CAE (310) 825-1501 or submit a request for accommodations via the CAE website (https://www.cae.ucla.edu/).

REMOTE LEARNING      

Students in need of special accommodations due to time zone differences or limited computer access should get in touch with me as soon as possible. Notes will be posted on our class site.

LAND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

The University of California, Los Angeles occupies the ancestral, traditional, and contemporary Lands of the Tongva and Chumash peoples. Our ability to gather and learn here is the result of coercion, dispossession, and colonization. We are grateful for the land itself and the people that have stewarded it through generations. While a land acknowledgment is not enough, it is first step in the work toward supporting decolonial and indigenous movements for sovereignty and self-determination.

COMMITMENT TO DIVERSITY + SAFER SPACES

We understand the classroom as a space for practicing freedom; where one may challenge psychic, social, and cultural borders and create meaningful artistic expressions. To do so we must acknowledge and embrace the different identities and backgrounds we inhabit. This means that we will use preferred pronouns, respect self-identifications, and be mindful of special needs. Disagreement is encouraged and supported; however, our differences affect our conceptualization and experience of reality, and it is extremely important to remember that certain gender, race, sex, and class identities are more privileged while others are undermined and marginalized. Consequently, this makes some people feel more protected or vulnerable during debates and discussions. A collaborative effort between the students, TA, and instructor is needed to create a supportive learning environment. While everyone should feel free to experiment creatively and conceptually, if a class member points out that something you have said or shared with the group is offensive, avoid being defensive; instead approach the discussion as a valuable opportunity for us to grow and learn from one another. Alternatively, if you feel that something said in discussion or included in a piece of work is harmful, you are encouraged to speak with the instructor or TA. *Statement adopted from voidLab at: https://github.com/voidlab/diversity-statement

EQUIPMENT + SOFTWARE

  • Unity
  • A smartphone that has plenty of room on it for new apps
  • A smartphone headset — will be provided by the course.

UNITS

Brainstorming: Weeks 1–5
We will focus on story writing for AR, VR, and browser spaces

  • Virtual Dreams
  • 360 Aural Story
  • Diving Bell
  • 360 Cinema Space

Storytelling: Week 6-7

  • Write the story you’ll want to focus on for your final project

Mapping it out: Weeks 8-9

  • Techniques for storyboarding in 3D
  • Strategies for preparing a proposal