Virtual reality project preserves digital fiction

Sheffield Hallam researcher Professor Alice Bell is working with arts organisation One to One Development Trust to create an interactive storytelling experience.

The Digital Fiction Curios project explores three early Adobe Flash-based stories, designed and written by artists Andy Campbell and Judi Alston nearly twenty years ago.

Professor Bell will work with One to One Development Trust’s in-house digital storytelling studio Dreaming Methods to develop the project, using virtual reality to archive and re-imagine the three works before the technology used to create them becomes obsolete.

The three digital fiction stories will be re-created using virtual reality technology to build an interactive environment where users can explore immersively.

Digital fiction is written for and read from a digital screen, but does not include e-books or other works of converted print fiction.

The project is funded by the University’s creating knowledge Impact Acceleration Account.

For many years, digital fiction artists have used Adobe Flash software as a creative tool and published their works online. However, in 2020 Flash will be removed from web browsers, making the technology obsolete.

Professor Alice Bell said: “These digital fiction works are culturally and technologically significant and it’s really important that they are preserved. This project will provide a space for the public to experience these fictions and engage with why they are important, how they have been developed and how they use the affordances of digital media to create compelling stories.

“This project will work as a proof of concept for a much larger virtual exhibition which we plan to develop in the future, which will exhibit digital fiction dating from the 1980’s to the present day.”

Judi Alston, CEO and creative director at One to One Development Trust, said: “Working with Sheffield Hallam University on this project is a great opportunity for the arts and academia to work together and push the boundaries of digital storytelling.”

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