III. Zip-Scene Conference on Immersive Storytelling

Proposed dates:

30 September – 2 October, 2021


Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, Budapest, Hungary
(The conference is planned to be organized offline in Budapest)


Interactive Speculative Narratives – the Speculative Forms of Storytelling and Immersion online, mixed reality mediums, performing arts – during and after COVID-19

Nicholas Taleb considers the pandemic a “white swan event” - something that has been predicted (e.g. that major pandemics will happen), but whose exact form is unforeseeable and that results in major changes (In contrast he takes ‘black swan events’ as equally influential, but unpredictable). The COVID 19 pandemic is such a ‘white swan event’ and one of its consequences is that it made online interactive digital storytelling productions more prevalent, especially, since it was the only form of expression and dialogue with the audience for many creators.

The lockdown period stopped all events that required physical presence pushing artists to use the available tools of digital communication in novel and exciting ways, but also motivating the development of new tools to allow various types of virtual interactions. Examples for the former include the use of the Together Mode in MS Teams to create playful forms of interaction, examples of the latter are e.g. Online Syndicate Platform that was adapted by the company Fast Familiar.

For this year’s conference, we are asking what these changes mean for creators and scholars of interactive digital narratives:

  • Are there limits to the adaptation of existing stories from physical environments to online experiences?
  • Do online platforms force a reduction of narrative meaning and are they thus a challenge to complex representations?

Previously virtual environments were understood as fragmented (see Jenkins, 2006) does this notion still hold (Jenkins himself more recently modified his earlier predictions), or do we understand VE as a specific “new normal” with its own characteristics? In particular, do VE enable what Murray (2018) has called a “kaleidoscopic habit of thinking” that can help us “envision a more integrated transformational future” and “open up the possibility of expanding our understanding of the world and our cognitive capacity” (Murray, 2018:17). In that sense, VE could also be described as interactive design fictions (Sterling, 2012), virtual sandboxes to try out novel ways of communicating, interacting and expressing in the sense of “Playful Utopias” (Koenitz 2019). This notion connects VEs to the long tradition of literary and cinematic utopias and their effect on reality (cf Shedroff et. al. 2012) and positions VEs as a more democratic, participatory form of speculative narratives.

To better grasp the shifting world and the complexity of the changes, it is important to enhance emerging artistic practices to enable critical reflection while acknowledging the changed relationship between creators and audiences.The Zip-Scene Conference aims to take tools/XR/extended reality (VR/AR/MR) works seriously and treat them on equal footing to film and performing arts. On this basis, we are looking forward to papers that address narrative experiences enabled by digital platforms, especially online and XR.

Papers should address either one or several of the following questions:

Late-breaking developments

  • What effect did the COVID-19 pandemic have on interactive digital narrative artefacts?
  • What kind of narratives were prevalent in online digital productions in the last one year?
  • What is specific to the medium in the latest developments?
  • How is speculative design/future studies influencing interactive digital narratives?
  • How can IDN’s present the complexity of infodemics? Are there existing or novel practices that can offer a new approach to grasp the complexity of issues such as global warming or migration?
  • What novel disciplines can be studied with the help of IDN’s?
  • How can physical interactive installations or production be adapted for online versions?
  • What design strategies created the experience of full immersivity and presence for their users-turned-participants especially in the last year’s productions (see 2018/4 issue of the journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media).
  • What kind of principles of video game design do online/XR productions make use of (e.g. puzzle dependency charts and plot-shaped level design – see Short, 2019)?
  • How can we explore free-form play and rule-based gaming as different types of performances within mixed-reality theatre and immersive theatre?

Future applications

  • Are IDNs a suitable tool for studying the brain or for understanding consciousness?
  • What is the overlap between immersive productions and magic shows? What can the field of immersive storytelling learn from the science of magic?
  • How can we overcome dominant notions of established storytelling strategies in order to focus on engaging experiences in scholarship and practice?

Fundamentals of IDN

  • What engagement with and control over the narrative path is desirable for the audience turned participants when interacting with IDNs?
  • What does immersion mean in virtual productions? What is the audience’s expectation of a sensorial or virtual immersive event?
  • What practices can be found that encourage audience participation and co-creation?
  • What kind of design strategies can we use to provide a satisfying level of agency to participant audiences and provide opportunities for co-creation?
  • What can we learn from a comparison of site-specific live arts productions with those of online projects or VR projects?
  • Are interactive digital narrative experiences a media of attraction (see Rouse, 2016) or does the development differ in important ways from that of early film?

Conference themes:

  • Interactive storytelling methods
  • Interactive videos
  • Video games
  • Location-based technology (with augmented reality)
  • Virtual reality experiences & movies
  • Augmented reality in interactive storytelling
  • Games-based performing arts practices using new technology tools
  • Interactive Museums
  • Immersive environments (media archeology and phenomenological approach)
  • Transmedia storytelling

Proposals may be for a paper or a panel and should be related to at least one of the conference themes. Deadline for submitting the proposals is May 27, 2021. Please send us your abstract (max 350 words) and a short bio (max. 300 words) to the address: zipscene@mome.hu and please in CC: bakk@mome.hu. The papers will be reviewed by the conference committee. If your proposal will be accepted you will be given 20 minutes for your presentation.

We aim to carry out this conference preferably as an offline event based in Budapest, should the circumstances of the current pandemic permit. The organizer reserves the right to make changes to the event program.

Registration fee: EUR 65 (physical attendance) - for online presenters we will offer a lower fee proposal
More information about visitor tickets in September.

The organizers cannot cover travel, accommodation and lodging costs. Upon request we can provide you with an invitation letter.

For Whom

The conference addresses scientific researchers, game professionals, programmers, artists, scholars and professionals from the field of performing arts, game studies, interactive storytellers, experience designers, narrative designers, VR-professionals and philosophers concerned with the conference topics. The conference aims to bring together emerging scholars, professionals and creators in order to create a joint platform which would later help individuals to understand and to develop these types of productions.

Organised by:

Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design Budapest
ARDIN – Association for Research in Digital Interactive Narratives

Strategic partner:

  1. Interactive Digital Narratives for Complexity Representations – INDCOR Cost Action indcor.eu
  2. Code and Soda Company codeandsoda.com
  3. Random Error Studio randomerror.studio

Supported by:

International Visegrad Fund
Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, Budapest – Innovation Center

Consultant on behalf of ARDIN/INDCOR:

Hartmut Koenitz


Benford S. & Giannachi, G. Performing Mixed Reality. 2011, MIT Press, Massachusetts

Jenkins. H. (2006). Convergence Culture. New York, University Press.

Koenitz, H. (2015). Towards a Specific Theory of Interactive Digital Narrative. In H. Koenitz, G. Ferri, M. Haahr, D. Sezen, & T. I. Sezen (Eds.), Interactive Digital Narrative (pp. 91–105). New York: Routledge.

Murray, J. Research into Interactive Digital Narrative: A Kaleidoscopic View. In: Rouse R., Koenitz H., Haahr M. (eds) Interactive Storytelling. ICIDS 2017. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol. 11318. Springer, Cham, 2018. 17

Rouse, R. (2016). Media of attraction: a media archeology approach to panoramas, kinematography, mixed reality and beyond. In: Nack, F., Gordon, A.S. (eds.) ICIDS 2016. LNCS, vol. 10045, Springer, Cham, 97–107.

Shedroff N. & Noessel Ch, (2012). Make It So. Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction. Berlin: Rosenfeld Media.

Short, E. (2019) Mailbag: Self-Training in Narrative Design. https://emshort.blog/2019/01/08/mailbag-self-training-in-narrative-design/?fbclid=IwAR2PgubIPnP69Pw-1UyBkBqlyh1_D2SxfGmDtnIiuk1rDITSQEAnVmiE9Js. Accessed 31 January 2021.

Taleb, N.T. (2020) Corporate Socialism: The Government is Bailing Out Investors & Managers Not You. https://medium.com/incerto/corporate-socialism-the-government-is-bailing-out-investors-managers-not-you-3b31a67bff4a Accessed 31 January, 2021.

INDCOR COST Action Special Track

Special call for the members of INDCOR

Call for extended abstracts

Deadline: 15 June, 2021

A comprehensive view of Interactive Digital Narratives (IDNs) as a field of study and a design discipline is developing, including work on a shared vocabulary, authoring tools, conceptual underpinnings, a shared body of design principles, and methods for evaluation. The INDCOR project (Interactive Narrative Design for COmplexity Representations) addresses this challenge by means of a coordinated effort in establishing a shared conceptual framework, an understanding of societal impact, empirical evaluation methods and by analyzing and generalizing design and production methods of stand-out IDN works with a particular focus on the representation of complex issues.

The call invites contributions to the interdisciplinary study of IDNs as a means to address complexity as a societal challenge by representing, experiencing and comprehending complex phenomena. This Research Topic is focused on the application of IDNs in its various forms (XR experiences, Narrative-focused games, interactive documentaries, journalistic interactives, installation pieces, narrative interfaces to big data, etc) for the representation of complex issues. Such issues may include: the COVID 19 global pandemic, migration, war and conflict, global climate change as well as complex social and interpersonal issues around issues such as mental health, diversity and inclusion and gender representation. Due to its systemic, procedural and participatory nature IDNs have several advantages for representing such topics. IDNs allow audiences to experience the consequences of a series of choices (e.g. in terms of environmental impact) and then to reconsider these choices though replay. In addition, IDNs can contain multiple competing perspectives that enable audiences to experience them within a single comprehensive space. With a focus on participatory forms (e.g. integrated discussion fora, organized co-creative activities, or multiple authorship), IDNs can also coordinate and organize the discourse on a complex topic to accommodate mny voices and perspectives. So far, the potential of IDNs has been applied in diverse projects and with different conceptual frameworks. The challenge therefore is to change IDNs current status from ‘singular achievement’ of small groups of ‘initiated’ practitioners to ‘general practice’ of many media companies.

For this Research Topic, we invite contributions related to the representation of complex issues using IDN from a range of transdisciplinary engagements and methods, including theoretical and critical perspectives, design approaches, evaluation methods, and societal impact.

Some potential topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Implementation of IDNs by XR technologies creating Immersive media experiences
  • Theory and discussions on definition of IDNs
  • Authoring tools for IDNs
  • Evaluation methodology for IDNs
  • Exploring the use of IDN for encouraging Involvement and engagement in complex social issues
  • Application of IDNs addressing societal impact
  • Recent case studies and relevant experiments

If you wish to apply please send your extended abstract (max 1500 words) by June 15, 2021 to bakk@mome.hu and zipscene@mome.hu.
Please mention in the e-mail subject that you apply for the special track.

The aim of the special track is to discuss each presentation on this research topic and to give feedback that can serve as a solid base for further developing the submissions. Those who wish can submit the same abstract by 9th of August to FrontiersIn call (find the call for papers here) that is edited by members of INDCOR CoreGroup.


Mika Johnson

Mika Johnson is a multimedia artist interested in dream-like narratives, mythos, ritual, and biodiversity. While his concentration is designing XR experiences, Johnson also works in many other mediums, including as a director for fiction and documentary projects. Present works include The Republic of Dreams: a website and traveling installation produced by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute in Warsaw, which adapts the work of Bruno Schulz, and The Infinite Library: a virtual library, produced by the Goethe-Institut, New Delhi, which uses nature and evolution to weave together various knowledge systems from around the world. Projects in production include the companion pieces Lost Forms and Found Forms. Produced by Expanded Focus in Leipzig, the former will allow users to interact with a fully scanned iceberg off the eastern coast of Greenland. Its companion piece, Found Forms, will allow users to travel beneath a virtual point cloud forest, where users can interact with the complex relationships formed between mushrooms, trees, plants, and the mycorrhizal network. Together with Marcel Karnapke, Johnson is also the creator of Sonic Feather: a feature on the Dawn Chorus phone application which allows users to create visual art using bird songs.

The Remythologization of Nature through art, science, and immersive storytelling

Shringi Kumari

Shringi Kumari is a seasoned game designer with 14 years of experience in games, making games for companies including EA, Zynga, Bigpoint, and Wooga. Shringi turned researcher four years ago, wondering how game designers can take inspiration from other creative fields like stage magic. She has recently finished her PhD in the IGGI Centre for Doctoral Training in Intelligent Games and Game Intelligence and awaiting formal confirmations. She is now lecturing at University of East London and continuing her research on how stage magic can be translated to games for creating believable illusions of choice and moments of surprise. Being a poet and artist, Shringi has keen interest in transdisciplinary aspects of game design and development. In addition to that, she constantly works towards finding innovative ways to reduce entry-barrier in game development and craft cross-disciplinary knowledge exchange kits in a way that challenges perspectives. Her latest projects are exploring how game mechanics can foster inclusivity in the society and are being made in collaboration with creative writers, performance artists and film-makers.

Shringi has talked about her practice and research at several respected industry and academic conferences and wants to continue to work knowledge transfer in different fields of design.

Magician's Tools and Techniques for Game Designers


Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design

Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design Budapest (MOME) is one of the most significant European institutions of visual culture due to its traditions and intellectual background. In its effort to visualize its professional concepts MOME compounds its own character and traditions with the most up-to-date trends. Its educational structure comprises architecture, design, media, as well as theory. Therefore, MOME has a great international potential considering its broad field of education and synthesis of students. The three-cycle study structure (BA/MA/DLA) provides adequate flexibility and mobility for its students. MOME’s definite ambition is to further broaden its international relations. It welcomes every professional co-operation which inspires its educational and artistic work. MOME on the one hand is a university which educates professional designers, and on the other hand an intellectual workshop with the aim of setting up creative process in order to enhance design consciousness in Hungary.



The Association for Research in Digital Interactive Narratives, a community of academics and practitioners concerned with the advancement of all forms of interactive narrative – including narrative video games, interactive documentaries & video, journalistic interactives, artistic installations, XR (VR, AR, MR) pieces and further emerging forms.


Main organizer:

Ágnes Karolina BAKK (1986), researcher at Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design. She is the founder of the immersive storytelling conference and magazine Zip-Scene (zip-scene.com and zip-scene.mome.hu); the cofounder of Random Error Studio, a lab that supports various VR productions; curator of Vektor VR. She was previously a research fellow at Sapientia – Hungarian University of Transylvania. She is teaching escape room design, immersive&VR- storytelling and speculative design and she is also a board member of the COST Action INDCOR. Bakk presented her research on immersive theatre, science of magic and VR at various conferences and platforms from Moscow (CILECT, 2019) to Montreal (SQUET, 2019). She was also a participant of 5th Wall Forum in 2020-2021.

Design by:

Katinka CSENGE


Zip-Scene Conference and Vektor Festival in Visegrad region

The organizers of Zip-Scene Conference and Vektor VR-section 2021 are planning to organize a special section dedicated for professionals from the Visegrad region where the work and the research of cca. 40 international researchers and creators can be presented. Our goal is to organize the conference for the third time, and with this edition we propose to offer a special focus on our region. The conference and the VR-section will be a unique scientific and artistic event in Visegrad region and in Central Eastern Europe. The event will bring together practitioners from Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine and Austria by offering them space to present their work in the frame of the conference and the VR-section. This way they can meet personally and exchange their practice, expertise and best practices especially related to how to fund their work. This is also a good opportunity for networking and starting new collaborations (as it happened at the previous edition as well). By presenting these works in one section we can prove that our region can "also be put on the map" of immersive storytelling and we can also generate more visibility for them. In order to enhance their visibility we are also conducting and publishing English interviews online (on zip-scene.com) with the invited guests. At the VR-focused event there will be a showcase of interactive works including productions by the artists who are delegated by the partner NGO's. This will be a unique event in the region: It is the only artistic/entertainment VR-focused event that has a scientific framework offered by the conference.


The program is funded by:

International Visegrad Grant


Causa Creations (AU)
Institute of Documentary Film (CZ)
Digital Stories Lab / Total Immersion Foundation (PL)
Art Optimists

On the behalf of the organizers:

Artopolis Association / PLACCC Festival (HU)