The first really compelling “peripheral vision factoid” I encountered, the one which set me on the search for the true “added values” possible with immersive media, was given to me by Tom Caudell a few years ago. Tom is a professor in UNM’s EECE department. One of those folks who has led several lives, Tom was in “cognitive science” for awhile. In a water cooler discussion one day, he told me peripheral awareness is where we process “context.” We handle “what” in our forward focus, and “where” in our peripheral focus.

I had been mulling around the intuitive certainty that work done for the fulldome relates quite intriguingly to dream, distant memory, poetry. A poet friend, Mitch Rayes (Mitch created the poetry and sound for our fulldome piece Our turn to Dance), always gets this faraway look in a dome and says, “there’s something about the dome…” Tom’s remark set me to thinking about how often, when I am “telling” a dream, I find myself recounting a location and an action, and then quite comfortably realizing that although the action or focus has continued, the location has shifted. I will say, “and then we were at the…” Context seems to be quite fluid in a dreamstate, capable of changing in a blink without disturbing our focus.

Another intriguing offering from Tom is that we process this peripheral, contextual awareness, and vision in a different area of our brains from visual and forward focused awareness. And of course this harkens back to my Feb. 22, 2011 post in which I mentioned “blind sight” and the fact that there are many different parts of the brain handling different elements of vision and/or perception and awareness. And this makes me “wonder” about how our waking mind demands a steady context, (we’d freak out if we suddenly found ourselves transported to a different location or scale,) and yet we are usually quite comfortable with such an occurrence in our dream states. What can this imply about the waking and the dreaming mind?

I have long thought the immersive media far more kin to poetry than to linear narrative,  more deliciously suited to creating an emotional, physical, or dreamlike experience than to simply teaching facts or telling a direct story. I believe that in the arts those who are comfortable in the less linear, more experimental pursuits will find immmersive media a quite comfortable place to wander, while those based fully in “realism” and linear storytelling might be at once more bothered by the technical difficulties (where do you put the camera operator, etc. etc.), and more intrigued by the use of immersive to create virtual realities, a sense of place. I expect they  may find a whole new area of twists and turns in their explorations of  immersive media.

And as far as other uses of immersive media, artists, gamers, visualizers, educators, scientists and researchers will all inform each other in the coming years of creation of this new vocabulary.