Exploring Old and New Immersive Media to Create a Sense of Presence in Portuguese Seascapes
TT Journal, ISSUE 4, 12th September 2022
By Célia Quico
How to create a sense of presence in past, present and future seascapes, using old and new immersive media? This core question was addressed in the transdisciplinary exploratory project “Nazaré Imersiva/ Nazaré Immersive: Portugal’s Maritime Landscapes and Immersive Media”, that aimed to develop and evaluate immersive experiences related with a particular stretch of the Portuguese coast.
One of the main goals was to build bridges between the tradition of stereoscopic photography and the innovation of 360º videos. The main piece of content is a 5-minute 360º video, which can be succinctly described as a time-travel experience taking place at Nazaré, covering 200 years.
In this article, besides describing the different components of “Nazaré Imersiva” and providing the broader contextualization of the project, the focus will be on the evaluation and comments provided by the participants in the first demonstration which was held during late October and early November 2020, regarding their experience of immersion and sense of presence in the seascapes displayed.
But first, a bit of a forking paths experience, if you wish:
A) if you want to keep reading this essay in a somehow more conventional format, please move forward to chapter 1a, then go to chapter 2, then chapter 3, then chapter 4a, then to chapter 5.
B) if you want to keep reading this essay in a somehow freer format, please move forward to chapter 0, then go to chapter 1b, then chapter 2, then chapter 3, then chapter 4b, then to chapter 5.
C) if you want to check what is “Nazaré Imersiva” first before moving forward, please go to https://nazareimersiva.ulusofona.pt – and after that, please return here, if you are still curious or somehow puzzled.
0. About attending: presence, absence, remembrance
1a. Introduction: about immersive media, old and new
1b. Introduction: about Nazaré, yesterday and today
2. “Nazaré Imersiva”: how it was done?
3. “Nazaré Imersiva”: what was/is like?
4a. “Nazaré Imersiva”: how it was evaluated by participants? (via survey)
4b. “Nazaré Imersiva”: how it was evaluated by participants? (via written report)
5. Conclusion: sense of the presence in future seascapes
0. About attending: presence, absence, remembrance
Attending, being present, then being absent, then remembering and also forgetting…
I remember growing up in the Portuguese coastal town Nazaré as a child and adolescent, leaving Nazaré as a young woman, and revisiting Nazaré as an adult. “Io mi ricordo” or “amarcord”, as in Federico Fellini’s movie premiered in 1973, in which he evokes his hometown, the Italian coastal town Rimini in 1930’s – a movie full of nostalgia and full of sense of humor.
So, let’s start with nostalgia, better said, let’s start with “saudades”, a Portuguese word similar in meaning to the word nostalgia, both trying to express the feeling of deep longing for someone in particular or deep longing for the past as a whole. Yet, “saudades” has a flavor of its own, bitter and sweet, perhaps one should just feel it, rather than attempting to describe it.
“Saudades” of my dear grandmother Irene, born in 1914 in Nazaré. “Saudades” of her gentle smile, of her brave attitude towards life, of her sharp intelligence. How was Nazaré during my grandmother’s childhood, back in 1920s? My grandmother Irene did not speak much about that period of her life, later we understood why, since she lost her mother and father as a young child, in both cases in tragic situations. So, I have to imagine Nazaré when my grandmother was a child, assembling disperse materials such as photos, films, paintings, drawings, poems, essays, novels, statical data, whatever I can get my hands on.
How was Nazaré during in my childhood, mid 1970s and early 1980s? That I do remember well, even if those early memories may be distorted, for good or for bad. I remember going with my grandmother to the beach, to join the collective effort of bringing the fishnets to shore – the traditional net-fishing art called “Arte Xávega”, no longer a part of the local culture, not even as reenactments for tourists.
I remember hearing the cries of devasted women on the beach, as they saw their loved ones struggling for their lives in the all-powerful waves of Nazaré, during the darkest of winter nights.
I remember my grandmother Irene taking me and my brother Nelson, when we were small children, through the amazing and magical maze of the narrow streets of Nazaré. And whenever I return to Nazaré, again, I do this magical tour, now with my child Miguel and, whenever possible, in company of friends, to share with them this sort of secret Nazaré.
I remember going with my grandmother Irene to the festivities of São Braz, held every 3 of February, a remnant of the ancient rituals announcing Springtime, like a soft Saturnalia, in which the people of Nazaré go on a profane pilgrimage to the pine forest near the mountain of São Braz. This festivity marks the beginning of Carnaval at Nazaré, which still takes place in the forest, with woodfires, lots of food and alcohol, loud music, people dressed up in traditional costumes of Nazaré – mostly men dressing as women of Nazaré, rather than women dressing as men.
What remains? What is lost? For my child, Miguel, what was the Nazaré of my childhood is more than a foreign country, as they did things differently there, perhaps closer to remnants of an ancient tribe. So, we travel through time, back and forth, immersing ourselves in a foreign country, emerging hopefully with a bit more of comprehension about the complex and contradictory dimensions which shape and reshape this territory and its people. The childhood of the grandmother for me is perhaps as foreign as my childhood for my Miguel, but still I trying to understand, still I try to immerse myself in that period of the past, to try to understand how did we get here – and how we are moving forward into the future.
1a. Introduction: about immersive media, old and new
To start, to build bridges between the tradition of stereoscopic photography and the innovation of 360º video was one of the main objectives of the “Nazaré Imersiva” project. Different means to reach the same end: the experience of immersion in another world, in another space-time, in another reality. Involving the user in a simulated environment, to the point of enabling the sensation of being in another world, with visual, auditory, even olfactory and tactile stimuli – this is what connects the new and old immersive media.
In the long history of immersive media – which could go back to the caves of Altamira or Lascaux (Grau, 2003), stereoscopic photography occupies a particular place: it can be considered one of the most advanced and popular technologies of visual representation of the mid 19th nineteenth century and early 20th century. The invention of the stereoscope is due to the scientist Charles Wheatstone, who in 1833 presented an instrument for viewing pairs of images with slightly different points of view: the illusion of an image with three-dimensional depth is created through mirrors, lenses or prisms. The demonstration of the first experimental techniques of stereoscopic photography dates back to the 1840s. In the following decade, specific photographic equipment, such as stereoscopes and respective photographic cards, were already on the market. Stereoscopic photography arrives today with a surprising vitality, still functional in the viewing equipment of the time – or its replicas -, thus resisting technological obsolescence.
In the current context of accelerated development of the most diverse representation technologies, immersive media seem to be once again at the forefront, as exemplified by the recent Metaverse proposals by Microsoft and Meta Quest by Meta/Facebook. Whether the effort to disseminate these new technologies will be accompanied by their enthusiastic adoption is still too early to say. However, revisiting the ancestors of current immersive media is of great interest, even to better understand the issues related to the adoption of this type of media.
Thus, the “Nazaré Imersiva” project recuperates and redeems stereoscopic photographs from the beginning of the 20th century, but also recreates and reinvents these images by using various techniques and technologies available at the beginning of the 21st century. The specific objectives of this project were the following: to digitize in high quality the collection of stereoscopic photographs of Nazaré by Álvaro Laborinho; remediate and innovate, giving new uses to stereoscopic photographs with about 100 years, in particular, producing an innovative set of immersive analogue and digital content; to develop and evaluate different ways of experiencing VR, in an analogue or digital format, individual or shared, linear or interactive, with emphasis on the production of a 360º video; develop and evaluate a low-cost, transportable, easy-to-assemble, reusable display solution that includes a virtual reality dome; demonstrations in at least three spaces, such as museums, educational institutions and libraries; produce and disseminate results in the academic context.
1b. Introduction: about Nazaré, yesterday and today
To start, Nazaré is a Portuguese coastal town located about 120 kilometers north of Lisbon, consisting of the three main neighborhoods of Praia, Sítio and Pederneira. The municipality to which it belongs is divided into the parishes of Nazaré, Famalicão and Valado dos Frades.
In 1920, 10,323 people lived in the Nazaré municipality. Of these, 33,6 % were children under the age of 15, while people over the age of 65 corresponded to 5,8 % of the population. The youth rate in Nazaré was 575,6: that is, for every 100 people over 65 years of age there were 575 people who were less than 15 years old. The aging rate corresponded to 17,3: to put it another way, for every 17 people over 65 years of age who were living in Nazaré, there were 100 children.
Currently, the Nazaré municipality has 14,885 permanent residents, according to 2021 census data. The maximum peak of the resident population was reached in 1980s. Since then, the trend has been for a slight decrease in the population. In particular, from 2011 to 2021, the municipality of Nazaré lost 273 people that is, in the last 10 years it lost 1,8% of its inhabitants.
In 2021, minors under the age of 15 corresponded to 12,5% of residents: in 1920, they were 33,6% of the population. In 2021, people over 65 years old correspond to 26,2% of the inhabitants in the municipality: in 1920, they were just 5,8% of the population of the Nazaré municipality. Thus, in 100 years, the youth index went from 575,6 to 47,7: in 2021, for every 48 children under 15 there are 100 people over 65 years of age. In turn, the aging index went from 17,3 in 1920 to 209,4 in 2011, which is above the Portuguese average, which stands at 182,1, according to the last census of 2021.
This is relevant demographic data, however, it is just data – surely to be interpreted, surely a solid base for reflection about the transformation processes taking place at Nazaré over the last century, but there is more to it. And if since 2011 Nazaré is mostly known for the big waves of Praia do Norte– now known as the “Mecca” for big wave surfers and respective entourage (Quico, 2016) -, this territory has a very rich cultural and natural heritage, that truly disserves to be known and to be cherished. While these facts may help to understand Nazaré from a certain perspective, they are not enough to convey a deep knowledge of this territory and its people.
To start again – “I fall asleep. I stand up. But however sooner I get up, the beach is already lively and alive. I stare at women straddling the floor, sitting in groups, or returning home with their index fingers in the mouth of the scaled rays and ready for supper. They are the life of this land” (Brandão, 1923). This lively description of Nazaré and its inhabitants was made by the Portuguese writer Raul Brandão in the book “Os Pescadores”/ “The Fishermen”, in which he poetically described several coastal communities of this end of Europe called Portugal.
Nazaré and its people have been a source of inspiration for writers, painters, photographers, filmmakers, particularly since the late 19th century up until mid 20th century (Santos, 2021; Santos, 2015; Quico, 2008). Writers like Raul Brandão, Alves Redol, Bernardo Santareno, Branquinho da Fonseca and Miguel Torga left us with vivid and intense descriptions of the deep impressions left in them by Nazaré and its inhabitants, particularly during early and mid 20th century. Guilherme Filipe, Lino António, Lázaro Lozano, Eduardo Malta, Raquel Roque Gameiro, Almada Negreiros, Stuart de Carvalhais, Abel Manta, Abílio Mattos e Silva were some of the visual artists who have chosen this territory and this community as a major theme of their works (Santos, 2021). In photography, Federico Patellani, Stanley Kubrik, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Edouard Boubat, Jean Dieuzaide, Sabine Weiss, Bill Perlmutter each recorded Nazaré in their own way, as did the Portuguese photographers Artur Pastor, Carlos Afonso Dias, Gérard Castello-Lopes and Eduardo Gageiro (Santos, 2021; Quico, 2008). However, in the first half of the 20th century, perhaps no other photographer captured more of and better Nazaré and those who lived here than Álvaro Laborinho (1879-1970), photos that represent a precious source of information about this community (Santos, 2015).
Álvaro Laborinho was born in Nazaré in 1879, in a family deeply connected to the sea. A renowned local merchant, Álvaro Laborinho also took an active part in local politics, having been one of the founders of the Portuguese Republican Center in Nazaré. The “true and constant passion for his land and its people” (Lúcio, 2002: 26) was evident in Álvaro Laborinho’s photographic work, which has been part of the collection of the Museum Dr. Joaquim Manso of Nazaré since 1980.
Amateur of photography, Álvaro Laborinho was also a Kodak representative in Nazaré, subscribed to several photography magazines, participating in photography salons in Lisbon and exchanging correspondence with other amateur photographers (Lúcio, 2002). His interest in the various photographic technologies and techniques led him to also experiment with stereoscopic photography, having acquired his own equipment for this purpose and having printed several cards for sale in his own store (David, 2002). The stereoscopic photographs by Álvaro Laborinho include glass plates and stereoscopic cards, dating from 1913 to 1932. For researcher Ana David (2002: 39), this immersion in the stereoscopic image is considered as “perhaps the most interesting aspect of the journey of Álvaro Laborinho”.
2. “Nazaré Imersiva”: how it was done?
In late 2017, several printed cards of stereoscopic photographs of Nazaré were identified during the production of the exhibition “Revisitar a Nazaré de Álvaro Laborinho” (Santos, 2018). These cards were part of a set of stereoscopic photographs – 49 pairs in total -, which belong to the collection of around 2,000 photographs by Álvaro Laborinho, belonging to the Museum Dr. Joaquim Manso of Nazaré. Some of these cards and the equipment used to photograph and view stereoscopic photos would be included in the aforementioned photography exhibition, which took place from April 21 to May 19, 2018, at the Paul Girol gallery in the Municipal Library of Nazaré, curated by Bernardo Lúcio and organization of the Museum Dr. Joaquim Manso and the municipality of Nazaré (Quico, 2020a; Quico, 2020b). After the exhibition was held, the motivation to bring out all this treasure remained, since Álvaro Laborinho’s stereoscopic photographs were lacking high quality digitization and proper treatment, for archiving, research, reproduction and subsequent dissemination to different publics.
Then, in early 2020, the opportunity arose to submit an application for an internal project competition promoted by the Center for Research in Applied Communication, Culture and New Technologies (CICANT) of the Lusófona University of Humanities and Technologies (ULHT). “Portuguese Seascapes and Immersive Media: Nazaré Immersive” was the title given to a transdisciplinary exploratory project that aimed to develop and evaluate immersive experiences inspired by this part of the Portuguese coast. The basis for the production of immersive experiences was the collection of stereoscopic photographs by Álvaro Laborinho, whose remediation – as defined by of Bolter & Grusin (1998) – would allow the project team to develop and demonstrate a diverse set of analog and digital materials.
Thus, in April 2020 the “Nazaré Imersiva” project was approved for support and funding by Lusófona University, also with the partnership of the Museum Dr. Joaquim Manso of Nazaré. The project started in May 2020 and was concluded in June 2021. Most of the production took place between June and October 2020, namely, the digitization of the stereoscopic plates, filming on-site the 360º video, the production of animations and visual effects, the production of the soundtrack of the different audio versions of the 360º video, the development of the responsive website and mobile application, the design and production of exhibition materials.
The project was ready for its first public demonstration six months after its launch – despite the constraints imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The first demonstration took place on October 29, 2020, within the scope of the 2nd muSEAum conference, in Lusófona University. However, before presenting the main results and findings from the “Nazaré Imersiva” evaluation study, it is necessary to first describe the main objectives and main features of this exploratory project.
3. “Nazaré Imersiva”: what was/is it like?
To revisit and recreate representations of the past to think critically about the present and, finally, to speculate about the future. These were the main goals of the transdisciplinary exploratory project “Nazaré Imersiva” in which immersive media experiences were developed and evaluated, inspired by Nazaré – a coastal town located in central Portugal. Based on the remediation of stereoscopic photos of Nazaré from early 20th century, the project team produced and demonstrated a package of analogue and digital materials, such as a 360º virtual reality (VR) video, a low-cost dome for shared VR experiences, exhibition materials, printed cards of stereoscopic photos, a mobile application and a responsive website.
The main content of “Nazaré Imersiva” is a 360º video lasting about 5 minutes, which can be succinctly described as a time-travel experience covering 200 years taking place in Nazaré. The 360º video integrates video captured on site – panoramic views of Nazaré and Praia do Norte – with motion graphics animation and three different soundtracks. The 360º video starts in 1920, presenting a poetic recreation of Nazaré from the stereoscopic photos of Álvaro Laborinho, shot between 1913 and 1932. Then, the video jumps to 2020, showing the main beach of Nazaré and Praia do Norte as they are today. The video ends in 2120 presenting a dystopian future, in which Nazaré is over-polluted, over-urbanized and over-touristified. However, the last few seconds of the video present a future alternative to this dystopia, concluding with a hopeful scenario.
The 360º video has three different soundtracks:
– the “ethos” version, with voiceover in Portuguese and English: quotes from literary works by Raúl Brandão (1923) and Jorge Louraço (2012);
– the “logos” version, with voiceover in Portuguese and English: informative text about Nazaré, with relevant demographic indicators, as well as references to significant audiovisual representations;
– the “pathos” version, with only music and sound effects, without voiceover.
However, all the soundtracks have in common the recreation of a traditional popular song from Nazaré “Ciúmes do Mar”, which is recreated in three different ways, to define a soundscape for each period, in the “pathos” version: the past in the 1920s, the present in the 2020s, and finally the future in the 2120s.
The website is the project’s central repository, containing all the different audio versions of the 360º video, access to the mobile application, a selection of Álvaro Laborinho’s stereoscopic photos, main results of the project, as well as information about the team, as well as the institutions and people that supported the project, as well as events and news associated with the project: http://nazareimersiva.ulusofona.pt .
The mobile application allows the user to access the different audio versions from the 360º video, in addition to offering an interactive version, which allows the user to view stereoscopic photos from the 360º video: the photo cards appear when the user focus the attention for a few seconds in the blue hotspots, which indicates that thar particular image is different from the others inserted in the 360º panorama.
For the dissemination of the project, three public demonstration events were planned, but due to the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the second and third demonstrations had to be postponed, taking place after the official closing date of the project, namely in late September 2021 and 3 November 2021. The exhibition materials and the low-cost dome were produced Lusófona University by LabTec – a digital fabrication laboratory located on the main campus of this institution.
The first public demonstration of the project took place in the lobby of the Lusófona University library from October 29 to November 4, 2020, as part of the program of the second muSEAum conference. The event was part of a research and training project in branding and digital marketing for maritime museums or with significant collections related to the sea, led by a team of researchers from CICANT at Lusófona University – more information here: http://www.museaum.pt. This conference was held in a hybrid model, face-to-face and virtual, in which most of the participants and speakers joined via the internet, due to the constrains imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Even so, it was possible to organize several demonstrations in small groups during the conference and in the following days: about 120 students from different Lusófona degrees were invited to try, and then evaluate, this demonstration, answering a quantitative survey and providing a written report in free format.
4a. “Nazaré Imersiva”: how it was evaluated by participants? (via survey)
During the first public demonstration of the project, which took place in Lusófona University library atrium during 29 October to 4 November 2020, about 120 undergraduate students from this university were asked to experience and then to evaluate this demonstration, replying to a quantitative survey online (n=112), plus providing a written report in free format (n=74).
The survey was applied during November 2020 and it was composed by 6 socio-demographic questions and 10 specific questions about the project. About age (QI1), the 112 participants were aged between 17 and 30 years old, from which 25% were 19 years old, 24,1% were 18 years old, 23% were 20 years, 8,9% were 21 years old, with the rest of the sample having between 22 to 30 years, with the exception of 2 students still 17 years old.
This sample of students was 52,3% female and 45,8% male (QI2), and it was composed by students from the following undergraduate degrees (QI3): Communication Sciences (39.3%), Sound Sciences and Technologies (27,7%), Design and Visual Arts (33%). About nationality (QI6), 89,3% were from Portugal, followed by Brazil (4,4%), Angola (4.4%), plus one student from Poland and one student from China.
Regarding the questions about the immersive experiences, to start, (QII1) the immersive experience which was more tested by these participants was the geodesic dome (83,9%), followed by the VR glasses/ googles (71,4%) and printed cards viewer (60,7%).
The favorite immersive experience for these students was the 360º video on Samsung VR glasses/ googles (50%), followed by the 360º video projection on the geodesic dome (25,9%) and the printed cards viewer (15,2%).
When asked to evaluate overall the immersive experiences provided by the project (QII3a), a cumulative 86,6% of these students considered it to be “very good” or “good”.
About the preferred audio version of the 360º VR video (QII6), the favorite for these participants was the Pathos version (full musical version, with no voice over) by 73,6%.
When asked if he/ she plans to use VR technologies in about 5 years (QII7), 79,5% of the students replied “more than today” and 15,2% “same as today”.
The last question (QII10) in the survey was an open one, asking students for suggestions and comments about the project: most of the comments were about improving the technical quality of the dome projection (12 in 39 comments).
4b. “Nazaré Imersiva”: how it was evaluated by participants? (via written report)
Besides replying to the survey, these students were asked provide a written report in free format, which was delivered before the survey was applied, shortly after their participated in the demonstration of the immersive experiences. A total of 74 written reports were produced and delivered by these same students, the vast majority of them from the Communication Sciences and Sound Science bachelor courses.
From these 74 reports, at least 37 participants spontaneously reported to have experienced a sense of presence at Nazaré – might it be in past, present or even future of this territory. Other findings from these students’ evaluation are to be further elaborated, particularly their own reflections on the issues raised by the project, such as pollution, climate change, touristification, over-urbanization, among others.
Here a selection of comments, which were divided in two main categories: “Nazaré Imersiva” immersive experiences as inducing mainly a sense of presence in another place/ space or as inducing mainly a sense of presence in another time. More about the written reports, to be published here: https://nazareimersiva.ulusofona.pt/resultados/
About the sense of presence – in another place/ space, a substantial number participants mentioned that the immersive experiences made them feel as if they were really in Nazaré – at least, 20 participants out of 74 – , not only the VR 360º video, but also the stereoscopic photos, even if the 360º video experienced via VR glasses was the most preferred – here a small selection of these comments:
“The VR glasses give us a spectacular degree of immersion that makes it seem like we are really in Nazaré and that everything that is happening is real, being able to live the moment intensely.”
(Bruno B., Lusófona University undergrad student – written report, November 2020)
“If I had to choose one word to sum up the whole experience, I would definitely choose “Immersive” (…) the VR glasses were amazing. I really felt like I was in Nazaré, and the image was so realistic that it felt like I could lift my arm and touch the sand on the beach, or the water in the sea.”
(Chindilene F.T., Lusófona University undergrad student – written report, November 2020)
“The most immersive experience I’ve had, the virtual reality glasses. This fully technologically advanced device allows the viewing of images or videos in 360º whose objective is to create the sensation of presence in an environment different from the real one.”
(Joana N., Lusófona University undergrad student – written report, November 2020)
“Of the whole experience what I liked the most were the VR glasses because they really manage to put us inside the reality of the videos. It feels like we are right at the location of the video.”
(João F., Lusófona University undergrad student – written report, November 2020)
“Through the VR glasses, we once again had access to a 360 degree view of Nazaré, which allowed us to really feel there.”
(Margarida A., Lusófona University undergrad student – written report, November 2020)
“Both the viewers for the 3D photographs and the geodesic dome, provided an experience with a very good degree of immersion. In addition to the dynamics given to the project, the experience made the presentation more interesting and captivated the attention of those present. The viewers for the 3D photographs gave a sense of presence as we were present in Nazaré at that time.”
(Margarida F., Lusófona University undergrad student – written report, November 2020)
“What I liked the most was, without a doubt, the stereoscopic photo cards and the VR glasses, which consequently, I had never tried and I liked a lot because they turned a “fictitious” sensation into a real sensation and in turn, conveyed a certain adrenaline, like if we were in Nazaré at that precise moment.”
(Margarida P., Lusófona University undergrad student – written report, November 2020)
About the sense of presence – in another time, this was also reported spontaneously by several participants, but with less frequency than the sense of presence in space/ place. In this case, at least, 13 participants out of a total of 74, mentioned to have experienced a sense of presence in another time, in the past as well in the future – here a small selection of these comments:
“Nazaré Imersiva is a project that really makes us think and “immerse” as soon as we have our first contact with it. (…) it introduces us to a territory (Nazaré in this case) that may be unknown to many and we quickly become familiar with it, even awakening a feeling of “nostalgia” for a space we have no memory of.”
(Diogo S., Lusófona University undergrad student – written report, November 2020)
“The Nazaré Imersiva experience brings me an urgency: to notice the environments as they were before and compare them with the present. (…) The frightening images of pollution are already a reality in many parts of the world, but they become more worrying and evident with the simulation of my presence there.”
(Felipe C., Lusófona University undergrad student – written report, November 2020)
“The use of old (such as stereoscopic photography) and new technologies (…) allows new generations to have contact with the past and future in the same place and to get to know the history of the place from a more interactive and immersive point of view.”
(Hélio L., Lusófona University undergrad student – written report, November 2020)
“What was quite interesting was the analysis of Nazaré through the 360º video because it seemed quite real and that from one moment to the next we travelled to the Nazaré of the past and we were following its development, over the years and we were able to observe how it can be the future if we don’t take care of this beautiful land.”
(Lara F., Lusófona University undergrad student – written report, November 2020)
“3D viewers and VR glasses was an excellent idea because it gives us the feeling of space and time that makes us go back many years and see how everything has changed over time.”
(Bernardo S., Lusófona University undergrad student – written report, November 2020)
“The project itself is very well done, the immersion of the video really works mainly with the narration, and future projection let’s say it’s realistic to a certain extent, but we noticed the hyperbolization of the content. (…) this future in fact is not that much impossible, not only in Nazaré but in other places similar to this.”
(Marco C.., Lusófona University undergrad student – written report, November 2020)
“The project became more impactful by joining stereoscopic photographs with the evolution of the world, leaving you to think about how scary the world will become. A completely terrifying and sinister futuristic idea, which we had the opportunity to experience virtually.”
(Marisa de O., Lusófona University undergrad student – written report, November 2020)
These comments, as well as the quantitative evaluation by these participants, may support further experimentation of immersive media as a tool to induce a sense of presence in past, present and future landscapes, as well a tool to engage people in critical thinking and as a tool to inspire speculation about the future.
5. Conclusion: sense of the presence in future seascapes
To create a sense of presence in past, present and future seascapes, using old and new immersive media was one of the main goals of the transdisciplinary exploratory project “Nazaré Imersiva”, developed and disseminated during 2020 and 2021 by a team of Lusófona University professors and students.
In this article, a broad contextualization of the project “Nazaré Imersiva” was given, starting with a brief characterization and overview of immersive media. A succinct presentation of Nazaré was provided, with relevant demographical data from 1920 and 2021, but also referring to the numerous writers, visual artists, filmmakers and photographers who were inspired by Nazaré and its people, particularly since late 19th century until mid 20th century, with a special attention to the work produced by the amateur photographer Álvaro Laborinho.
The “Nazaré Imersiva” scope and objectives were described, as well the overall developmental process, starting with the discovery of the stereoscopic photos collection from Álvaro Laborinho. The project’s main outputs were presented with some degree of detail, namely the 360º video, which is the main piece of content developed, to be experienced in VR glasses, projected in a geodesic dome, as well as via personal computer, smart phone and tablet.
Then, the focus was the evaluation and comments provided by the participants in the first demonstration of “Nazaré Imersiva”, held during late October and early November 2020, regarding their experience of immersion and sense of presence in the seascapes displayed. Overall, the participants provided positive feedback provided via the quantitative survey and the free format written reports, particularly regarding the immersive experience via VR glasses. The main findingsfrom this evaluation may support further experimentation of immersive media as a tool to induce a sense of presence in place/ space, as well as a sense of presence in the past and future.
“Nazaré Imersiva” aimed to build bridges between immersive media of the past and of the present, such as stereoscopic photography and 360º videos. Also, the project addressed current issues such as over-pollution, over-urbanization and touristification, challenging its participants to think critically about the transformation processes taking place in that territory, and also to speculate about possible scenarios for Nazaré, or other similar coastal towns.
Epilogue: Forward to 2120
And so let’s finish with nostalgia, or better still, let’s finish with “Saudades” of a dear grandmother called Celia, born in 1973 in Nazaré. “Saudades” of her gentle smile, of her brave attitude towards life, of her sharp intelligence. How was Nazaré during this grandmother’s childhood, back in 1970s and 1980s? Grandmother Celia spoke a lot about that period of her life, but also about other periods of time, going back and forth in History, as if we were amazing and amazed time travellers. She immersed us, literally and metaphorically, into Nazaré, showing us disparate material such as photos, films, paintings, drawings, poems, essays, novels, statical data, and so on, but also giving us full immersive experiences, such as that immersive audiovisual experience “Nazaré Imersiva”. The childhood of my grandmother for me is perhaps as foreign as my childhood must be to my own son Miguel (named after my father), but still I am trying to understand, still I am trying to immerse myself in that period of the past, to try to comprehend how we got here, to 2120 – and how we might move forward into the future.”
“Nazaré Imersiva” (UIDB/05260/2020) and “muSEAum” (PTDC/EGE-OGE/29755/2017) are financed by
FCT – Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, I.P., with support of CICANT – Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias.
Museum Dr. Joaquim Manso of Nazaré / Direção-Regional de Cultura do Centro – special thank you to
Dóris Santos (former coordinator of MDJMN, current director of the National Costume Museum/ Museu Nacional do Traje, in Lisbon)
Bolter, J. D: & Grusin, R. (1998). Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Brandão, R. (1923) Os Pescadores. Lisboa: Biblioteca Ulisseia de Autores Portugueses.
Grau, O. (2003). Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion. MIT Press.
Laborinho, A. L., David, A. & Nabais, A. (2002). O mar da Nazaré. Álvaro Laborinho. Álbum fotográfico. Nazaré: IPM-Museu Dr. Joaquim Manso / Câmara Municipal da Nazaré.
Louraço, J. (2012). Pequena História Tragico-Marítima.
Available online: https://jorgelouraco.wordpress.com/pecas/
Quico, C. (2021b). Nazaré and immersive media: New Approaches to Cultural Heritage through Mixing Old and New Media. The International Journal of Creative Media Research: Special Issue: Creative Industries and Emerging Technologies. Issue 7, Outubro 2021. https://doi.org/10.33008/IJCMR.2021.35
Quico, C. (2021a). Media Imersivos e Paisagens Marítimas: representações da Nazaré desde as fotografias estereoscópicas de inícios do século XX aos vídeos 360º de inícios do século XXI. In Torres, N.C. (Ed.). Transformação Digital em Museus: Experiência de Visitante e no Alcance do Brand. Lisboa: Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias. ISBN: 978-989-757-134-3
Quico, C. & Bakas, F. (2020b) A Nazaré é mais do que apenas “grandes ondas”: redescobrir e reinventar o património cultural através de workshops criativos. In Duxbury, N. & Silva, S. (Eds.) Creatour: catalizando o turismo criativo em cidades de pequena dimensão e em áreas rurais. Coimbra, Portugal: Coimbra University Press. ISBN: 978-989-26-2182-1.
Quico, C. (2020a). Nazaré Criativa: how can creative tourism initiatives contribute towards sustainable tourism?. In Gonçalves, A.R., Marques, J.F., Tavares M. & Moreira, S.M. (Eds.) Creative Tourism Dynamics: connecting travellers, communities, cultures and places. Faro, Portugal: Grácio Editor. ISBN: 978-989-54697-3-4.
Quico, C. (2016). “Cavalgar a Onda da Nazaré/ Riding the Nazaré Wave”. Web documentary: https://cavalgaraondanazare.ulusofona.pt/
Quico, C. (2008). “O “outro Portugal” visto pelos grandes fotojornalistas – o caso particular da Nazaré”. Acedido em 2022-07-06: http://nazare-portugal.blogspot.com/2008/06/o-outro-portugal-visto-pelos-grandes.html
Santos, D. (2021). Arte, Museus e Memória. A Imagem Marítima da Nazaré. Coleção Estudos de Museus. Lisboa: DGPC & Editora Caleidoscópio.
Santos, D. (2018). “Revisitar a Nazaré de Álvaro Laborinho – Texto da Folha de Sala”. Acedido em 2022-07-06: http://www.matriznet.dgpc.pt/MatrizNet/Eventos/EventosConsultar.aspx?IdReg=11502
Santos, D. (2015). “Photography and Memories from the Sea in Nazaré”. 1st International Conference of the UNESCO Chair in Intangible Heritage and Traditional Know-How: Linking Heritage 14-16 January 2015. Évora. Portugal.
Célia Quico is a professor and researcher at Lusófona University since 2009. She has a PhD in Communication Sciences from Universidade Nova de Lisboa. Her main areas of interest are immersive media, interactive media, media literacy, digital heritage, sustainable and creative tourism. Celia Quico teaches in the Cinema and Video, plus the Communication Sciences and Sound Sciences graduate courses, master degree course KinoEyes and also PhD courses Communications Sciences and Media Arts. Also, she is co-coordinator of MeLCi Lab: Media Literacy and Civic Cultures Lab, a laboratory of CICANT leaded by Maria José Brites. Currently, she participates in following research projects: LusofonAtiva (ILIND/2020), MuSEAum “Branding de ‘Museus de Mar’ de Portugal” (LISBOA-01-0145-FEDER-029755), FilmEU (101004047, EPP-EUR-UNIV-202), YouNDigital (PTDC/COM-OUT/0243/2021). Recent finished projects include Nazaré Imersiva (CICANT/ILIND/2019), in which she was Principal Investigator (PI).
Célia Quico’s article was originally presented as a paper during Ecstatic Truth VI, an annual symposium dedicated to expanded animation and documentary (conceptualised very broadly as non-fiction), with a particular interest in the questions raised by experimental and practitioner perspectives. The theme of the 2022 symposium, which took place in Prague and online, was To Attend. You can also see the full recording of the programme here: