SPARKS February 2021 CFP

Immersion, Interactivity and Altered Realities

Moderated by Derick Ostrenko and Victoria Szabo

26 February @ 21:00 GMT/16:00 EST via Zoom

Proposal Submissions for February: CLOSED – but sign up for future sessions!

The 2nd SPARKS online Zoom discussion, Immersion, Interactivity and Altered Realities, will feature 10 presenters who have responded to the topic of past & present trajectories of immersive media experiences & experiments, as well as the evolving influence of reality altering innovation on art and culture. We will offer a journey through artworks distinguished by totality at the interface of art and consciousness. Following the presentations of the three-minute lightning talks, the zoom audience is encouraged to engage in moderated discussion.

  • How have the affordances of immersive reality technology changed?
  • What are the challenges to creating immersive media artwork?
  • What is the next horizon for extended reality in art and culture?

Submit a short description of your lightning talk for review to the link below. Entries are also welcome from tangential intersections with AR and VR such as gaming, simulation, history, theory, online standards, therapy and other HCI approaches.

Further Questions to Consider:

  • What does immersive reality technology afford artists today?
  • How does the changing landscape of immersive technology impact the ability of artists to work creatively in the field?
  • Is it possible to create persistent immersive experiences? Or are they all inevitably performative and ephemeral? How should we document such work?
  • What is the impact of relying upon commercial tools, systems, and partners to create and share immersive artwork?
  • How does the practice of immersive reality experience design impact other forms of art marking and cultural production?
  • What is the impact of the global pandemic on how we understand and experience immersive reality?
  • How can we approach questions of accessibility for immersive reality – physical accessibility to interfaces, and economic and social access to authoring environments, equipment, expertise? 
  • What does the art world have to offer developers creating immersive reality tools and systems?

Submissions will be judged on the novelty, creativity, concept, range of approaches represented, and fit with the overall theme.


Frederick “Derick” Ostrenko is a media artist and Assistant Professor at Louisiana State University (LSU). He holds a joint-appointment in the Digital Art concentration at the School of Art and the Cultural Computing research group at the Center for Computation and Technology (CCT). Derick creates physical and virtual systems that examine the intersections of media, culture, and technology. He employs custom hardware and software that use various interfaces such as mobile applications, brain waves, generative visualizations, video processing, animation, and games. His research focuses on pushing art and technology to reveal hidden networks between people by creating structures for innovative forms of expression and discovery. Derick received his MFA in Digital+Media from the Rhode Island School of Design. Derick is a member of the ACM SIGGRAPH Digital Arts Community Committee.

Victoria Szabo is a Research Professor of Visual and Media Studies at Duke University. She is also graduate faculty in the Computational Media, Arts & Cultures PhD program, directs the MA in Digital Art History/Computational Media, the Information Science + Studies certificate and lab, the Digital Humanities Initiative at the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute, and partners in the Wired Lab for Digital Art History & Visual Culture. She is a member of the international Visualizing Cities collaborative, and is a partner in the Psychasthenia Studio art collective. Her work focuses on digital archives, exhibitions, and immersive media, with special interests in augmented reality, digital storytelling, and games for cultural heritage and creative expression. She teaches courses in media history, digital places and spaces, digital humanities, and historical and cultural visualization. She has a PhD in English from the University of Rochester. Victoria is Chair of the ACM SIGGRAPH Digital Art Community Committee.


All presenters are asked to share a 3-5 minute lightning talk. Discussion and Q/A will take place after everyone has spoken.

Brooke Belisle

Aesthetics of Immersion

Prefacing the presentations of AR and VR projects that will follow, I offer a framework for thinking about the aesthetics of immersive media. By drawing on a range of historical examples, I show how immersive aesthetics communicate specific assumptions not only about the goals of representation, but also about how we are already sensuously embedded within a world that exceeds our senses.

See Art News – A History of Presence

Chanee Choi

I Am Not A Virus

Making ‘Pandemic’ the Art Game that Confronts Xenophobia and Bigotry Online and in Reality.


Recorded Video of Gameplay:

Rachel Clarke

Merging Spaces

My work intertwines themes of nature, culture and technology, with an eco-feminist slant. My work is about shifting consciousness; I use technology to visualize other ways of thinking, knowing, and understanding the world.

Robert Cosgrove, Nick Hwang, Margaret Schedel

RhumbLine: Plectrohyla Exquisita 

Portending a dystopic future in which acoustic ecology is encountered only through the mechanical reproduction of environmental sounds, the sounds of this installation are created by a chorus of robotic frogs—a recognition of the catastrophic global population declines amphibians are facing. The virtual environment the robotic frogs inhabit, divided into two web pages, invites visitors to become temporary members of this fragile ecosystem.

Margaret Dolinsky

Journeys in VR

My virtual reality, now extended reality, makes use of AR, VR, 3D prototyping, and stereoscopic photography. I will show the CAVE as it was in the 90s and how it looks today, a transition from the playfulness of early computer graphics and immersive presence to the seriousness of high resolution photography and its technoecological entanglements.

Sedimental Journey (excerpt) c.2020 on Vimeo  –

Ryan Edwards
Principal MASARY Studios
Sound Sculpture, A Location-Aware Musical Instrument

Sound Sculpture is an interactive sound and light instrument. 25 location-aware blocks comprise a massive, wireless midi controller. Each cube represents a note in spatial dimension and time, and the public’s interaction and placement of the cubes create musical structures.

Anna Gedal

How to Make Immersive Technologies More Equitable: Confronting the Medium’s Colonial Legacies 

At the intersection of cultural storytelling and immersive technologies, my research addresses the medium’s limitations and explores its possibilities. What are the ways emerging media offers us new spaces for community healing and historical justice? 

Portfolio Link:

Darcy Gerbarg

Darcy’s Painting and Sculpture Garden in AltspaceVR

Creating Art that’s digital from end to end: real and virtual. New ways to create and experience Art. Participants are welcome to visit the AltspaceVR site as avatars.

Elizabeth Leister

All Her Bodies

All Her Bodies, an experimental VR experience, uses volumetric filmmaking and gaze interaction to immerse you in the stories of five women recounting intimate and powerful memories of violence.

Heather Quinn

Challenging Technocratic Power: Trespassing in the Parallel Digital Universe

Mariah is a site-specific augmented reality experience involving social justice and the law

She re-augments history with the truth and speculates possible futures 

Read about Mariah on the Washington Post and Hyperallergic