Rethinking Immersive Audio

Conference presentation


Parkinson, A. and Randell, J. (2023). Rethinking Immersive Audio. eXtending Reality: Immersive Design, Production and Technology . University of Portsmouth 11 - 11 Sep 2023
AuthorsParkinson, A. and Randell, J.
TypeConference presentation
Abstract

Musical experiences are often described as or aspire to be immersive. Immersive audio is seen as an innovative frontier of music, sometimes encompassing other cutting edge technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Dolby Atmos. However, conceptions of immersion remain reductive and simplistic. Through exploring how immersion is conceptualised in other domains, I interrogate the limits of immersive audio, and argue for a model of immersion that critically considers interactivity and participation. This draws on Small’s concept of musicking (1998) and Csikszentmihalyi’s notion of flow (2013).

Immersive audio generally means multichannel audio, involving multiple speakers (or rendered through headphones to appear as such). Immersion becomes a technical challenge solved by more or better configured speakers and ever more realistic spatialising algorithms. Historically, discourses dating back to the very earliest days of stereophonic and multichannel audio have often privileged a “sweet spot” for an immobile but attentive listener (Grajeda, 2015). However, I argue that immersion emerges not from being in an idealised listener position but through being an active participant.

Immersive experiences are not limited to sound, and within fields including heritage studies, gaming and theatre, experiences are often sold as being immersive. Scholarly literature in these domains interrogates the nature of this immersion and brings forth valuable perspectives. In her discussion of immersive heritage experiences, Kidd (2018) detaches immersion from technology and notes that “any and all heritage might potentially be understood as immersive.” For Kidd, key characteristics of immersive experiences include being “story-led, audience and participation centered, multimodal, multisensory and attuned to its environment.” Discussing immersion in video games, Collins (2013, p. 141) argues that rather than viewing the game as a separate space that players enter and are immersed in - as when one enters a concert hall - immersion emerges from interaction with the game. Van Elferen’s (2016) ALI model for analysing immersion in game music reveals how musical affect, literacy and interaction all play roles. As Bucher (2017) writes, immersion is “less about telling the viewer a story and more about letting the viewer discover the story.”

Through exploring varying ideas of immersion we problematise this oft-used phrase and propose a model for immersion that considers interaction, affect and participation.

References

Bucher, J. 2017. Storytelling for Virtual Reality: Methods and Principles. New York and Oxon: Routledge.
Collins, K., 2013. Playing with sound: a theory of interacting with sound and music in video games. MIT press.
Csikszentmihalyi, M., 2013. Flow: The psychology of happiness. Random House.
Grajeda, T. 2015. “The “Sweet Spot”: The Technology of Stereo and the Field of Auditorship” in Théberge, P., Devine, K., and Everrett, T (eds.) Living Stereo : Histories and Cultures of Multichannel Sound. Bloomsbury Academic.
Kidd, J., 2018.” 'Immersive' heritage encounters”. The Museum Review, 3(1).
Small, C. 1998. Musicking: The meanings of performing and listening. Wesleyan University
Press.
Van Elferen, I. 2016 "Analyzing game musical immersion: the ALI model." in Kamp, M., Summers, T., and Sweeney, M. (eds.) Ludomusicology: approaches to video game music. Equinox.

Keywordsimmersive audio, XR, immersive technologies
Year2023
Accepted author manuscript
License
File Access Level
Open
Publication dates
Print11 Sep 2023
Publication process dates
Deposited12 Mar 2024
Permalink -

https://openresearch.lsbu.ac.uk/item/96594

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Accepted author manuscript
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License: CC BY 4.0
File access level: Open

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