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In this blog we’re discussing immersive media; how it’s changing media, what this means for STEAMhouse and our businesses. We caught up with Dr Poppy Wilde, Lecturer in Media and Communications at Birmingham City University and an active researcher in the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research. 

Hi Poppy, thank you for joining us. So, what are the benefits of virtual space over physical space? 

It’s an excellent question and there’s a variety of ways to answer it. 

Some of the easy kind of wins within virtual space are that you can make things accessible to audiences that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach. I mean both in terms of accessibility with clients or customers who may have disabilities or issues that impact their ability to enter physical spaces in your environment. But also, in terms of being able to have a wider reach. 

What exactly is immersive media? 

When we say immersive media, what we are really talking about is more of a sensorial catchment .Whether that’s your visuals/ sound all around, there may be extra things coming into the picture or coming into play with you that previous media may not have incorporated. For example, with virtual reality, you can put on a headset, and you can enter that whole space. If you’re thinking about 360 videos similarly, you can kind of look all around you, and you are in that world with binaural sound. And so, it’s about creating a more sort of three-dimensional experience. 

Does that mean that people will no longer be consuming media in the physical space, is it going out of fashion? 

I think that based on the fact that we still read novels. We still listen to the radio. We still watch TV. Even though we have advances in films, in gaming, in new technologies. For me, I don’t think that our old media will ever be completely dismissed. I don’t think we’ll ever stop using them. I believe that over the past decades of media consumption, the fashions and trends will change.  

I don’t believe that immersive media represents a complete threat to our traditional forms of media. I think it adds a new lens and enhances specific experiences. There is something to be said there about the spreading your audience more thinly across different mediums, but that’s why a lot of artists, businesses and services now try to incorporate more transmedia storytelling. Additionally, advertising/campaigning, where the different bits of that story/ message is put in the various mediums; so, the audience chooses how to access it. The more different bits you piece together, the more of the world you might see. But still, you can consume the area that fits your preferences, your taste and your interests. 

Will my customer or community still be able to connect with my brand through immersive Media or VR? 

That is something that depends on what you’re trying to do, who you’re trying to connect with and whether it’s the right medium. VR or immersive media is not going to revolutionise your business suddenly. You can use immersive media badly. You can have virtual reality experiences that are gimmicky and not very effective. You can have 360 videos with no kind of sense at all.  What is this bringing? What does this enhance? So that’s why I say, it’s about thinking; what can you do?  There are certain things that in virtual reality that you can do:  pitch your business in a much more interactive way. If you’re a start-up or you’re working on prototypes then being able to make a model of those things in virtual reality or mop-up  a 360 environment. Then that could give people your vision. 

Similarly, if you want to have a much more interactive relationship with your clients using things like augmented reality can enhance that. We see that businesses have now moved away from a model where they kind of push their content and consumers to consume it. In the age of social media, we already have much more interaction with our audiences, and so immersive media can harness that and enhance it to create more interactive relationships. 

What’s your role within STEAMhouse?  

 My role within STEAMhouse is as an academic coordinator for the faculty of Arts design and media. What I’ll be doing with STEAMhouse over the next couple of years is I will connect with businesses who might want to talk about how they can utilise immersive media. They might want to mind map ideas and have some input on that. They might want to talk about the more research aspects of that in terms of my specialisms in embodiments and effect, thinking about their embodied experiences in virtual or physical environments. Also, I run some workshops, so far, we’ve done one on an introduction to immersive media. So hopefully, I will be able to have enjoyable and insightful conversations with any STEAMhouse members. STEAMhouse members who I’ve already connected with have all got fascinating ideas, and it’s an absolute privilege to discuss those with them! 

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