The Phenomenological Experience of Story Immersion is a multi-disciplinary PhD in philosophy and creative writing, by Jamie Rhodes.
The interaction between a person and the stories they immerse themselves in can have far-reaching real-world consequences. My research explores the impact of stories on a person’s experience of reality and their sense of being.
Why study the phenomenological experience of stories?
Stories influence behaviours in many ways, subtly and overtly. From overcoming strife or confronting bullies like heroes in fiction, to political narratives that gain our allegiance, and brand stories that impact on buying decisions and customer loyalty – life is a mesh of interconnected stories. The stories we immerse ourselves in shape who we are and continually flavour our reality anew.
On a scale unprecedented in human history, we witness the power of stories augmented and amplified by a globally unified online world. Geographically disparate populations can quickly become ideologically aligned. Communities across multiple countries mirror each other, being galvanised or divided by the same global issues.
What is a multi-disciplinary PhD in creative writing and philosophy?
Hopefully, a harmonious union of academic theory and creative storytelling. Perhaps it will feel like this:
What are the aims of a creative and phenomenological investigation of story immersion?
- To investigate the ontological transformation that human beings undergo while immersed in a story and how story influence impinges upon lived reality.
- By producing a thesis that examines and describes how phenomenological experiences of Being, Perception and Time, exist for individuals when immersed in a story. Including how narrative experiences continue to influence a person even after they cease direct immersion in them.
- To use creative writing to enable active audience engagement with the theoretical, enhancing the depth, originality and accessibility of the overall project.
- By devising a body of creative writing that unlocks a means for creative practice to partake in and develop the theoretical work, using creative writing to give metaphorical character embodiment to facets of the theoretical pursuit.
What can the final outcome of a Creative Writing PhD be?
It seems the final piece of work in a Creative Writing PhD can be as varied and original as the craft of writing itself. Importantly, there must be a useful bi-directional relationship between theory and practice. I will alternate writing chapters from each thread of the project. This will also allow me to use my creative practice to put the theory to the test as I develop it.
I intend to recreate elements of the theory work, as living engage-able entities within a story world. I will build an interactive, playable and readable story world, encouraging diverse audiences to immerse themselves in that world. This will offer a vehicle to explicitly adopt the role of an active agent within a story world. To immerse oneself in story immersion.
Short story collection
These collections of short stories feature overlapping characters and settings. The chapters and stories within each function together as one piece of work. In doing this, they are able to enhance the breadth and depth of a much wider story world.
Structuring work like this offers numerous “access points” to a world. The audience may wade into the depths from any shoreline and never find the water quite the same.
My first book, Dead Men’s Teeth, is a collection of stories in this style, with each underpinned by philosophical concepts and reflection on human nature. I’d like to continue my body of work in this vein, honing my authorial style and voice.
Playable interactive world
This arm of the creative practice will see me create a “World Guide” for a fictional parallel of the phenomenological experience of stories. The world will be fully furnished with locations, objects and characters, including those that feature in the short stories. It will also create space for the central character of this world, the driving-force behind a story developed therein, to embrace the role of an immersed party. The references here are either:
- Globally popular and so have the potential to engage the greatest audience using their mechanic.
- Have fairly simple mechanics that can be quickly grasped by a large audience.
What is the PhD research impact?
Never before has the power of stories to trigger ontological shifts in individuals, and consequently the societies they partake in, had such great an impact on such large populations. In striving to offer a contribution to world knowledge, I believe the phenomenological method could hold tantalising insights into why stories can be so influential and describe how they appear to alter our fundamental experience of reality.
“We are aware that there are increasing number of practitioners in different fields who have found in phenomenology an approach that is useful to their work. We are also aware that there are academics across a whole range of disciplines who are working on phenomenology issues that have a bearing on many practical professions and activities: health, law, education, to name but a few.”
I believe that a PhD in the phenomenological experience of story immersion will be a piece of work with useful real-world contemporary relevance. Through its creative practice outcomes, the project will have the capacity to reach mass audiences outside of academia. It will use the arts to permit immersive audience engagement and accessibility. Simultaneously, the theoretical academic thesis will give the project a weight of intellectual rigour that supports and enhances the creative practice. There is immense potential in gaining greater understanding of the power of story experiences to trigger real-world behaviours and collective action .
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