Accepted Paper:

Immersive shared anthropology: possibilities and limitations  
Rob Eagle (UWE Bristol)

Paper short abstract:

This paper questions the possibilities and limitations of a Rouchian 'shared anthropology' in immersive media production. Pulling from recent examples and scholarship on indigenous VR, this paper asks to what extent can ethnographers involve research participants in the production process - and why.

Paper long abstract:

As VR documentary production often requires collaboration between the makers and the contributors (Gaudenzi 2017), the Jean Rouch-inspired methods of 'shared anthropology' translate well to the medium. Much of 360 filming and VR production requires planning, staging and/or re-enacting with the contributors. While the potential to share the power in the production may create more ethical results, this paper questions to what extent (and why) subjects should be involved in the process.

I examine two recent examples of immersive co-creation: the 360 video project 'Gimme One' (2020) and my own headset-based AR installation 'Through the Wardrobe' (2019). I trace contributor involvement throughout these projects in planning, production, editing and distribution. While a Rouchian methodology of shared anthropology was at the core of both projects, the technical complexity of the hardware and software limited the involvement from participants.

Harry Silverlock, the producer of 'Gimme One', asked: 'As this is not household or accessible technology, what is the point of co-creation? We're making these pieces for white privileged audiences.' The exclusivity of the medium that limits audience and distribution appears to contradict the production ethos of 'breaking down barriers' between producers and contributors. This paper offers some solutions for the problems of distribution, especially now in a COVID-19 world.

Finally, this paper reflects on the 'indigenous media debates' of the 1990s and what we can learn for turning over the 360 camera, software and headset today. I examine recent initiatives and scholarship on 'indigenous VR' - its possibilities and its potential limitations.

Panel P12b
Immersive Ethnography: Authorship, Agency and Collaboration in VR and 360 video
  Session 1