Literature review 2

Literature review 2019

Immersive industries growing exponentially, 360 VR and VR is changing rapidly and information can be quickly superseded. Therefore, I limited the years of enquiry to the last three unless particularly relevant as historical / information that still stands. Our 360 films are entry level, equivalent to what was new in 2016.

Gaming is thriving and 360 VR is part of it but the VR computer created environments form the greater part of that sector, so, I’m just acknowledging it and not including it this review.

There are online academic journals that discuss aspects of VR, notably in Communications.

Online industry sites abound too, around the immersive industries, featuring interviews with practitioners, and a large volume of material on technical developments, new gear; hard ware, software releases, apps etc. geeky stuff.

Podcasts: there’s also many (hundreds) where both professionals, independents and amateur enthusiasts release their thoughts on what they have learned so far. The podcasts are often designed as info-tainment within the immersive technology world, or magazine style interviews with people working in the field in various sectors. Some are audio versions of their video channels.

Instructional videos on the web about VR abound too. Hundreds. Broadly based around publishing content, instructional, reviews, tech channels by magazines or individuals.

Broadcasters publish articles and research and distribute VR in their channels, notably YouTube and Facebook.




My data set and gender

Having decided on my data set : three long transcribed audio interviews and my auto-ethnographic voice transcriptions, one thing really stood out – all my references were from women, all being  linked to our collaborative project Coldharbour.  Interviews were with an academic,  a practitioner working for a broadcaster, and another, a VR director working in the humanitarian sector.

I did some reading to place these female practitioners into contemporary context and tried to get a sense of whether these women are part of a small minority in the field – and I just happened to meet them. Our project itself being co-created by a woman with many contacts in her field of investigative documentary gave me the introduction to one of the practitioners, and the other, my colleague had worked with her in 2D filmmaking and seen some of her VR works at a documentary festival and suggested her to me as a speaker. So in this context two women recommend other women that they’ve worked with before.

Immersive industry technology is growing rapidly in the UK (Tarling, 2018) and this is good news for  women working in, and for those including students, who are considering a career in VR.

However the culture of the industry and of the content itself really needs to improve its offer to women and girls. Commercial VR 360 film applications are big in sport, porn and in gaming, an industry known for its sexism and online bullying and abuse of female gamers.

“Women have previously been found to experience ten times the amount of negative comments in chat forums and three times more likely to experience negativity when gaming online.” (Cybersmile Foundation, undated)

An article written by a female American author for Upload VR (Duong, 2016) celebrates the rise of women working in the new industry of VR, noting the challenge but pointing out the possibilities.

“Working in virtual reality, as the intersection of technology and entertainment (two mediums with tremendous gender gaps), these women have demonstrated intelligence, will, and bravery as they face the unknown and a sea of men. However, given how new virtual reality is, there is a unique opportunity to really have an impact in the way the virtual reality industry is shaped… and women are taking it by storm.”

So it was disappointing to read that  in the year after Duong’s article was published, UploadVR was itself being sued for: “‘rampant’ sexual behavior in the workplace and wrongful termination, sexual harassment, sex and gender discrimination” and the deposition notes that the virtual reality startup’s SF office was “a hostile environment for female employees.” (Matney 2017).

Whilst admitting it’s difficult to determine how many female creators are involved in the sector, UK national network Tech Nation has recently produced research that indicates low levels of women in the field: Tech directors (22%) and female tech workers (19%). (Tech Nation, undated).

A London based tech company founder Ghislaine Boddington in Tarling, 2018 mentions meeting mostly men in VR contexts, also talks about content of VR work and the need to be inclusive to involve the widest possible audiences, and in particular female audiences.

“A high proportion of VR content is male heterosexual porn,” she explains. “Content creators need to think in a much more diverse way” to broaden the technology’s appeal, she adds”.

Producer and VR creator Catherine Allen says (Faramarzi, 2017)

“VR is an incredibly powerful medium, but no one is a VR expert yet. We honestly don’t know what the hell we are doing with this technology which is why it is so important to get all backgrounds involved regardless of gender, age, or expertise. The stronger we stand together, the more impact we will leave for future generations.”

So my sense from the articles that I can access (due to language and search engine bias) is that currently in the UK, and more so in the US, that there is  a small but growing group of female creators and experts, who are committed to developing VR, are engaged in experimentation, and evolving new types of content and are excited about being at the start of what is clearly a growing sector worth billions. However those blocks to the involvement of women, that is, the  culture and practices of the immersive industries, (and in education before it), has to change to take full advantage of the potential that female creators and audiences can grow.


Duong, J. (2016) A New Era: Women Working in VR UploadVR . Available at:
UploadVR is a virtual reality media company based in San Francisco, California. The company is best known for its virtual reality-driven events, digital publication, and the Upload Collective, a VR focused co-working space in San Francisco

Matney, L. (2017) UploadVR sued over ‘rampant’ sexual behavior in the workplace and wrongful termination
Available at:
TechCrunch is an American online publisher focusing on the tech industry. The company specifically reports on the business related to tech, technology news, analysis of emerging trends in tech, and profiling of new tech businesses and products. Wikipedia

The Cybersmile Foundation (undated) Abuse of female gamers linked to bullying ‘rather than misogyny’.  Available at:
The Cybersmile Foundation is a multi-award winning anti-cyberbullying nonprofit organization. Committed to tackling all forms of digital abuse, harassment and bullying online, we work to promote diversity and inclusion by building a safer, more positive digital community.

Tarling, S. (2018) Why VR is out of touch with reality for women. Special report FT Transform, Financial Times. Available at:

Tech Nation (undated) Diversity and Inclusion in Tech Companies report. Available at:

18 March Presentation : Little Red Riding Cap & the property developer

18 March  Presentation exercise:  The groups in our cohort were seated on our tables, were given a fairytale, a version of Red Riding Hood, a Brothers Grimm story and given 15 minutes to analyse and present it in a completely new way in a two minute presentation.

We decided to make it a participatory exercise, interrupt the data of the fairytale, interpret it and to present it as a short skit, which we felt was appropriate to the content.   We workshopped it very quickly. The skit started with a broadcast studio newscaster presenting the story, liaising with the reporter on the scene. Before I had time to think, I was sprung into the role of Grandma who exonerated her friend and ally the Wolf, the indigenous owner of the forest, who had been falsely accused of my imprisonment. My own granddaughter had taken up with the woodsman who was actually a property developer, wanted us out of the forest to cut it down for a development of luxury apartments.

It was great to have the freedom to change the narrative and to present it as a short drama, to experiment away from the usual academic lecture mode.

My notes from the day about the presentation point out:

“Presentation: it’s based on communicating a finding – engaging the audience is part of process – and is undervalued in academic environment. Presentation and public are part of this together. Different perspectives. The bottom line is to pass the message on.”

Whilst researching data and how it’s presented, I came across the Tactical Technology collective: . Their online 1’20” film presented complex ideas about data, and the scope of their big project:  PERSONAL DATA: POLITICAL PERSUASION. I thought I could condense my findings in this way, and to perhaps present three short films , as part of my presentation.

The proliferation of video in online contexts, the ubiquity of phones and social media apps and online life in general, have combined to make our attention spans very short. As far back as 2012  Film Industry Network magazine pointed out this trend. Short films with text are now ubiquitous, a major message delivery device in online visual communications.


Alexander, I.  (2012)  Short films will become the most important communication tool Film Industry Network. Available here: (Accessed: 20 March 2019)

Tactical Technology collective (2019) PERSONAL DATA: POLITICAL PERSUASION. Available here: (Accessed: 20 March 2019)

Approaching my interview data

Having found and audio recorded (generally 35 – 50 min in length each) my three main interviewees, I transcribed by ingesting the audio file into a video editing program, added a visual, exported it as a movie file, uploaded to YouTube, and used their automatic caption creation software. Once I exported the captions I edited the results in my word doc – though I could have done it in YouTube I wanted to get rid of the timecode and line breaks, and the environment of Word is much less distracting.

I decided to sweep read the interviews and remove any vocal tics, “you know” “sort of” “like”,  as they really distracted from making sense of the information. What people say and how they express themselves in how they write of course produces different results. And my interest is in extracting the hard information from the transcripts and not the authenticity of the vocal expression. Then I emphasised text in each by either highlighting, or making bold.

My intention is to make a simple grid around major elements surrounding the production of short 360 VR films for our students before they embark on the next phase of the project this coming term. So my process is transformational in that the audio media is changed into text, and is also reductive by punctuating verbal flow into sentences, and deleting verbal tics, the signs of talking from the script, stripping the content into lines in a matrix, which then taken together into a table / padlet page will act as a quick guide to students starting out filming 360VR. There’s a lot of interesting contextual material too that I’ll have to figure out how to use.

I started out wanting to know how 360 VR space is changing documentary storytelling, and the general answer is that it’s continuously evolving. 360 VR is changing so rapidly, the immersive technology sector that it is part of, is growing exponentially in the UK, and the applications are still being discovered. There is a US computer scientist / modern languages expert (Ryan, another woman) who has defined nine narrative structures used in VR which may be the academic standard in a very niche field of enquiry. There are quite a few trustworthy online sources, magazines, industry sites, technology sector online reviews in national papers, 360 VR many of them from the US.

The timeframe of the collaborative project extends beyond the timeframe of this research project. The joint MA VR and MA Doc Film sessions that we had were scheduled late in the Term. 

Experimenting with Visual Research

I flirted with the idea of visual research, but I’m not familiar with the process, and feared it would take me a long time to get to grips with it. These are some of the images that came to me while researching.

I didn’t think it aligned to the needs of my research but I’d like to find an excuse to do some visual research though, it’s fascinating.

11 March: Analysis of data workshop


The workshop on how to analyse data was so fruitful .  Listening to the presentation of approaches to analysis and then working in groups produced really focussed outcomes – and for me, a range of unexpected responses. Of course those outcomes depend on the communication within the various groups, who dominates the conversation, the kind of recording of the conversation and how it’s presented but, as ever, I really appreciated the points bought forward by other groups.

There were various tasks but the first one really resonated with me.

It was so useful to hear from table 1, with their comment about language, there are patterns in responses by people – cycles of good / bad and how they present and gave this example:
“In language we tend to give more weight to the second thing said: 

– My brother is a pain in ass, but I love him
– I love my brother but he’s a pain in the ass

So the second thing said is likely to reveal the stronger response, the thing that the person most wants to say.

Those on our table did an overview of the whole process, rather concentrating on one aspect, looking at the focus group transcription example above. Kathy had told us she analysed her student responses to her questions using colour coding – such a useful method – so I did that as I read. It made my progress slower but it did make me concentrate and analyse as I read, as a first response. You would then want to review it, coming back to it later. Margarita noticed the non-verbal in the script (laughter) and that added another means with which to analyse the responses. Jon told us that good transcripts of video material included indicators of movement, non-verbal like a script.


This is what I recorded from our conversation following:


“MISSING DATA – REFERRING TO THE CONTEXT, what they were actually doing

DE-CODING – (even though we’d mentioned it only in passing on the day, later I came across the idea of de-coding as “exposing the invisible” from the Tactical Technology Collective who analyse data about organisations that collect data digitally )

We used keywords to look at the data (excerpts in CAPS).






(the “we” “you” the “I” – some people to identify themselves as part of a particular group – narrating a pronoun.. when does a speaker identify with a group?


POSITIVE – THINGS SAID: I think it’s gone really well



Autoethnography as method

I’ve been considering using autoethnography as a minor method of investigating my research process, alongside the major method – interviews I’m conducting with the VR practitioners who are visiting practitioners on the collaborative project.

The autoethnography resource of my verbal recordings’ transcripts is reflective and personal, and could track my learning in relation to the research process.

The way I’ve been experimenting is to talk into my iPhone in Notes, and the signals are sent so quickly to Apple servers and back it’s truly astounding how good it it generally… – it makes the transcription text very stream of consciousness… I go back and check the quality of the translations and add punctuation – or sometimes I don’t. I like reading over it and seeing the unconstructed nature of it. Yet because I am recording knowing that I am using it in my project I think that acts as a self-imposed restriction on my own freedom of expression, self-censorship.

I’ve recorded not a huge sample but hopefully enough to help my way to my findings.

Méndez (2013) gives an overview of the history of the use of autoethnography:

“During the ‘crisis of representation’ period (the mid-1980s), autoethnography emerged due to “the calls to place greater emphasis on the ways in which the ethnographer interacts with the culture being researched” (Holt, 2003, p. 18). Thus, autoethnography allows researchers to draw on their own experiences to understand a particular phenomenon or culture.”

From my previous post:

Author of Autoethnography as Method Heewon Chang writes about inserting the personal into the academic, as a “research method that utilizes autobiographical data to analyze and interpret their cultural assumptions”. Critic Sue Butler reviewed Chang’s book and wrote:

To support her central assumption of self, the author draws on the principles of social constructionism proposed by Ken Gergen (1999/2000): What we take to be knowledge of world grows from relationship, and is embedded not within individual minds but within interpretive or communal traditions. In effect, there is a way in which constructionalist dialogues celebrate relationship as opposed to the individual, connection over isolation, and communion over antagonism.

(my emphasis) (Butler, 2009 p. 122)

There’s two strands of what arises in my notes – as above, interactions with the external world, ideas about VR, the sessions we have,  and my internal world where “raging imposter syndrome” lives. It was great to hear Professor Susan…. refer to it in our large group meeting last year, and to see it being referred to in filmmaking communities and gender discussions.

 “Autoethnography can range from research about personal experiences of a research process to parallel exploration of the researcher’s and the participants’ experiences and about the experience of the researcher while conducting a specific piece of research (Ellis and Bochner, 2000, Maso, 2001).”


Méndez, M. (2013) Autoethnography as a research method: Advantages, limitations and criticisms Colombian Applied Linguist. J. vol.15 no.2 Bogotá  Available at: (Accessed: 2 Mar 2019)

 The Audiopedia (2017) What is AUTOETHNOGRAPHY  Available at; (Accessed: 2 Mar 2019).
A Filmmaker’s Guide to Overcoming Fear and Anxiety (undated) Filmmaker Freedom podcast S 2 Ep3 Available at: (Accessed: 1 Mar 2019).