Faculty Seed Grant Report: Firetime

19 Apr, 2023

Faculty Seed Grant Report: Firetime

This semester, the Berkeley Center for New Media was thrilled to support two faculty members in their scholarship through seed grants that will help catalyze their research in new media. Greg Niemeyer and Lisa Wymore are spearheading a community-led VR immersive experience reflecting on the impact of recent California Wildfires on local Northern California communities - creating a space for mourning, learning and healing.

Their project Fire Time is not only an artistic Virtual Reality project utilizing the enormous amount of data collected during the Tubbs fire - from air quality, to fire speed and spread, to maps and images, and collected stories - it is also a community-led artistic process that will be used to address the fire from multiple perspectives.

The project has three chapters: before, during and after the fire. Viewers will be invited to move through a VR representation of Santa Rosa. As they navigate their way through the virtual landscape they can stop and hear stories from residents as the fire erupts, rampages through the area,and eventually subsides leaving behind scars and ongoing trauma, as well as glimmers of hope and new starts. Different stories come to the foreground, depending on where and when a viewer stops to listen. While the total duration of all stories will exceed over three hours, each time the viewer enters the space, he/she will choose a personal and unique path through the virtual space, and will therefore experience a subset of stories. After the immersive VR experience, viewers can compare their different paths with each other in person, emphasizing that no two people experience the fire in the same way, creating room for multiple truths to be experienced simultaneously within the project at the same time.

The project adds a lyrical and contemplative layer to the data, news and physics of the fire, and leads to a reflection about what it means to seek balance with the land we are responsible for stewarding.

See their Demo Here!