Rachel Grozanick

Innovative Storyteller Digital Media Strategist Educator


While the idea of virtual reality (VR) isn't new, the ways in which we craft narratives through VR, augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), and 360 video are. Never before have the concepts of spatial narrative and non-linear storytelling been so literal. I'm interested in the unique storytelling possibilities that new media like VR afford. Applying a structuralist approach to analyzing new media content can unlock the many ways that new technologies could be used, but aren't — yet. Grounding this approach in those of Marie-Laure Ryan, Espen Aarseth, and Janet Murray enables us to find the language to critique new media content as well as to create new media pieces that take better storytelling advantage of the technologies available.

I'm also particularly interested in how new media can express intangibles — like memories, dreams, traumas, folklore, and legends —to enable a deeper understanding of ourselves and others. Virtual reality is often touted as an empathy machine. While that might be overstating the case, there is evidence that the way the human brain and emotions respond to VR is different than other more traditional forms of media. Several applications of VR have been used to help treat those with PTSD from combat and sexual assault. I'm curious about the application of new media in overcoming biases, particularly around polarizing topics. For example, does immersing someone in the experience of another — a person they have implicit or explicit biases against — effectively dissolve the biases that he or she had before being immersed? Is it even ethical to do this? Can navigating one's own way through another's memoir grant us more insight into that person and ourselves than if we were reading the memoir in a linear fashion? Can the fissures between memories be restored when those memories are placed in a virtual space?

My teaching interests are closely aligned with my research interests: narratology, new media analysis and critique, new media practice, new media ethics, mass communication, strategic communication, and journalism — particularly journalism that covers social and systemic injustice and marginalized peoples and issues.