Emersive Storytelling - An Exploration of Animation and the Fourth Wall as Tools for Critical Thinking - Eva Wijers
‘Emersive Storytelling’ is a way of storytelling in which the fictional nature ofthe medium is acknowledged. Emersive is derived from the verb ‘to emerge’;to come forth into view or notice, as from concealment or obscurity. While immersive storytelling strives to totally engage the viewer, emersive storytelling is aware of its own fiction and thus the so-called fourth wall’ (the fictional wall between the medium and the audience). It embraces the positive effects of breaking the fourth wall and plays with the ‘suspension of disbelief’ of the viewer. This causes two effects. Brecht’s distancing effect addresses the conscious intellectual connection the audience makes with the medium when the fourth wall is broken. The closeness effect is introduced by the author and describes the empathy an audience still can feel for characters even if the suspension of disbelief is broken. Emersive storytelling demands an active attitude from the viewer and triggers critical thinking on both the (message of) the story and the medium itself. Emersive storytelling is a way of storytelling that can be used in any medium, but animation has a special relation to it because it is a highly self-reflective medium. Animations ability to reveal the medium and use it as a storytelling tool connects to qualities of emersive storytelling. With ever more realistic looking virtual reality and the uprise of artificial intelligence it might seem as if the fourth wall is disappearing. If we are fully immersed, there is no need for a suspension of disbelief, we start conceiving virtual reality as real. Emersive storytelling can create distance for critical reflection and help us reason about our relationship to these technologies.
Eva Wijers (1984) is a visual artist who creates drawings and animations with a philosophical focus. She analyses human behaviour in crisp imagery in which form and content are inseparable. Wijers completed the Master of Animation cum laude in 2018 with the 2D animated film Humanoid and the thesis Emersive Storytelling (AKV St.Joost Master Institute, NL). Ten years before she earned a bachelor’s degree in Fine Art and has since then worked in fine art, animation and illustration. She is currently working as a guest‘research’ tutor at the Master of Animation of AKV St.Joost Master Institute and focusing on a new independent animation project.