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Total Cinema: Or, “What is VR?" Senses of cinema

journal contribution
posted on 2021-01-16, 04:04 authored by Raqi SyedRaqi Syed
In the late 1980s, throughout the ‘90s, and well into the 2000s, MIT Principle Research Scientist, Gloriana Davenport investigated the idea that movies had begun to operate as a kind of new “elastic” media. She wrote, “Interactive cinema reflects the longing of cinema to become something new, something more complex, something more intimate, as if in conversation with an audience.” The cultural artefacts informing this shift were in Davenport’s opinion as disparate as interactive TV, video games, large format simulation rides, and experimental VR. Between 1987 and 2004, her Interactive Cinema Lab at MIT designed multi-threaded movies, multiplayer VR experiences, previsualization tools for visual effects, documentary platforms, and “smart” VR characters driven by story databases. When asked in a 1995 interview with American Cinematographer, what kind of filmmaker would adopt the radical new tools she was building, Davenport replied that the current generation of 30-year old filmmakers steeped in the culture of video games were already deploying them.


A Media Archeology of Visual Effects: Technical and Artistic Practices in the la | Funder: VP RESEARCH


Preferred citation

Syed, R. (n.d.). Total Cinema: Or, “What is VR?" Senses of cinema. Senses of Cinema, (90).

Journal title

Senses of Cinema



Publication status

Published online

Contribution type


Online publication date