In Partnership with Art*VR Festival


2-4 November, 2023, Prague, DOX Centre for Contemporary Art


Prague, Czech Republic; DOX: Centre For Contemporary Art, Poupětova 1, 170 00 Praha 7-Holešovice


Dimensions of Empathy. How Empathy and the Concept of Ethics Changed between the Holodeck and the Metaverse?
How our trust and sense of criticism shapes the ways we understand old and novel interactive digital narratives?

The concept of the Metaverse embodies a boundless and interconnected sense of compatibility and engagement, which amplifies our expectations for immersive forms of media. In the early days, visionaries already envisioned fully realized immersive environments akin to those depicted in the Star Trek: The Next Generation TV series and described in Janet H. Murray's influential book, Hamlet on the Holodeck. Social VR platforms - by allowing creators to adapt theatrical performances to their platforms - have ventured into exploring shared experiences and collective activities that influence both our physical and virtual realms. Productions designed to be experienced in VR HMD’s  are experimenting with diverse narrative structures, while the announcement of each new AR headset generates additional anticipation. The growing integration between the physical and digital domains holds the potential to create experiences resembling those depicted in the Holodeck, characterized by enhanced visual fidelity, expanded interaction possibilities, and greater individual agency. However, the emergence of new publicly available text, image, and video generators that rely on existing content raises concerns about the originality of artistic expression. Furthermore, it raises crucial questions about data security and the ethical handling of user-provided information. Hence, it becomes imperative to reimagine the concept of empathy—how it is fostered—and establish ethical guidelines for utilizing these technologies in the creation of artworks or practical applications.

There are various interpretations of empathy, such as the target of our empathetic feelings. Madary and Metzinger (2016) introduced the concept of a code of conduct for VR research, suggesting that it could potentially manipulate behavior significantly, particularly when "illusions of embodiment are misused" (ibid.). They raise broader ethical concerns about research, including the limitations of a code of conduct and the boundaries of experimental environments. But should we consider a similar approach for artistic interactive digital narratives or VR productions?

For instance, Fisher (2019) argues that the experiencer empathizes more with the VR production creators rather than with the people affected. However, should we explore and implement new ethical practices when presenting interactive and immersive artworks, especially if they are contrasting old and new creative practices? While Fisher questions the direction of empathy, both e.g. Camilleri et al. (2017) and Owais and Yaacoub (2020) contend that the experiencer can indeed feel a sense of empathy. The key question is how this empathetic experience can be ethically harnessed in VR productions that tackle pressing issues like war or mental health.

Another pressing concern regarding ethical perspectives arises in the context of social VR platforms, where community management and moderation raise further questions about interpersonal empathy.

How can we effectively convey complex subjects such as history using cultural heritage in immersive productions? How can we ensure transparency regarding the “the existence of intersectional regimes of oppression” (see Koenitz et al. 2023)? Moreover, how do we establish a framework for the ethical responsibilities of both the creators and participants of these experiences? While authors may have more stringent guidelines to follow, as suggested by Koenitz et al. (2023), the responsibilities of experiencers can also be a debatable point, as it can either impede or encourage active involvement based on the experience's design or technical limitations. Nonetheless, certain theater performances already address this ethical aspect of audience interactivity, but there may be instances where creators or organizers fail to provide room for civic engagement, as highlighted by Mühlfoff (2018). It is crucial that this issue is promptly addressed.

To better grasp the changing world and the complexity of the changes, it is important to improve emerging artistic and scientific practices to enable critical reflection. Virtual Environments and the Metaverse provide particular opportunities in this regard, provided we embrace the changing relations between creators, audiences and scientists they bring about. Virtual Environments could also be described as interactive design fictions (Sterling, 2012), virtual sandboxes to try out novel ways of communicating, interacting and expressing, in the sense of “Playful Utopias” (Koenitz 2019). This notion connects VEs to the long tradition of literary and cinematic utopias and their effect on reality (cf Shedroff et. al. 2012) and positions VEs as a more democratic, participatory form of speculative narratives, especially in the realm of Metaverse-like environments. In this year’s conference, we aim to have a special emphasis on how IDN’s and related applications can guide us to a more peaceful future and/or also guide us for taking better care of each other.

The Zip-Scene Conference takes XR/extended reality (VR/AR/MR) and Metaverse-related works seriously and treats them on equal footing to film and performing arts, and wishes to expand its scientific treatment and reflection. On this basis, we are inviting papers that address narrative experiences enabled by digital platforms, especially online and XR or related to the Metaverse. We are also looking for IDN practices and prototypes from medical and mental healthcare practices that could offer new approaches on how storytelling can be embedded in scientific practices. Papers should address either one or several of the following topics:


Ágnes Karolina Bakk, PhD: narrative designer and researcher at the Innovation Center of Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design. She focuses on immersive storytelling & the science of magic, and currently leads two research projects: 1. on romantic relationships in Metaverse-like environments 2. psychological restoration in a specific VR prototype. She is the founder of the Zip-Scene conference; cofounder of Random Error Studio; co-curator of Vektor VR section. She teaches immersive storytelling, speculative design and offers talks at various conferences from Moscow to Montreal including festivals (Stereopsia, DokLeipzig). She is currently involved in several video games and creates on her own artistic VR production.

Daniela Hanusová has an academic background in film and gender studies (Charles University, Prague) and 7 years of experience working for film festivals as a guest service coordinator (East Doc Platform, Ji.hlava IDFF, One World Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, Mezipatra Queer Film Festival, Marienbad Film Festival, etc.). In 2022/2023, she was a Blue Book Trainee for the European Commission, working on a research of sustainability and gender equality, inclusion and diversity strategies of European film festivals at the Creative Europe MEDIA unit. Her fascination with the artistic and transformative potential of the medium of virtual reality has lead her to become an Executive Director of Art∗VR Festival in 2023.

Ondřej Morávec is an independent director, screenwriter and producer. He closely collaborates with Brainz Studios independent creative group. He worked on his first feature film and VR project Darkening from 2019 to 2022. The world premiere of Darkening was at the Venice Film Festival in 2022 and later it was nominated for the Czech Lion Award in the animated movie category. His new project Fresh Memories: The Look premiered at South by Southwest festival. Since 2014 he has worked as an independent dramaturgist for multiple Czech film festivals. He curates VR movies categories at Anifilm, Letní filmová škola, Febiofest and Zlín film fest festivals.

Hartmut Koenitz is a Professor in Media Technology at Södertörn University in Sweden, a visiting researcher at the University of Amsterdam, and a visiting research fellow at Trinity College Dublin. His latest book “Understanding Interactive Digital Narratives” was published by Routledge in April 2023. His research is concerned with the theory, practice, education and societal impact of interactive narratives and games and he has published over 70 scholarly publications on these topics including the co-edited volume Interactive Digital Narrative – history, theory and practice (Routledge 2015). Koenitz is the chair of the EU COST Action 18230 INDCOR (Interactive Narrative Design for Complexity Representations – and the president of ARDIN, the Association for Research in Digital Interactive Narratives ( which runs the International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling (ICIDS), and is a partner of the Zip-Scene conference. He is also a visual artist, and his works have been shown in Atlanta, Paris, Istanbul, Seoul, Copenhagen and Porto

Conference themes:

  • Interactive storytelling methods and authoring
  • Video games
  • Virtual reality experiences & movies
  • Augmented reality in interactive storytelling
  • Interactive performing arts practices
  • Interactive museums and archives
  • Immersive environments (media archeology and phenomenological approach)
  • Special track #1: Empathy in VR creations
  • Special track #2: Ethical measures and their application possibilities

General information

The conference is intended as an in-person event in Prague, barring complications caused by the pandemic. The organizer reserves the right to make changes to the event program.

Registration fee

Both for papers and workshop leaders: 100 EUR (physical attendance)

(Reduced registration fee is available upon request)

More information about visitor tickets in September.

The organizers cannot cover travel and accommodation costs. Upon request we can provide you with an invitation letter.

For Whom

The conference addresses scientific researchers, game professionals, programmers, artists, scholars and professionals from the fields of performing arts and game studies, as well as interactive storytellers, experience designers, narrative designers, VR-professionals and philosophers and others concerned with the conference topics. The conference aims to bring together emerging scholars, professionals and creators in order to create a joint platform which would help individuals to understand and to develop these types of productions.

This year the conference is organized in cooperation with ART*VR festival. This is the first festival in the territory of the Czech Republic to focus conceptually on the format of art projects in virtual reality (VR). The carefully curated programme aims to present the best in the field of artistic VR creation and immerse the audience in unique, immersive virtual worlds. The programme will showcase the latest projects presented at major festivals such as the Venice Film Biennale, Sundance, Tribeca and SXSW in the USA, and IDFA in Amsterdam. The event also aims to present several projects in international or world premieres.

The festival will have a competitive and non-competitive part and will aim to present VR projects set in physical art installations. The event will take place in the exhibition space of Centre of Contemporary Art: DOX. An important part of the programme is an industry programme for film professionals, a series of lectures on VR and an accompanying programme. A special programme for primary and secondary schools will also take place in the morning of the festival.

Organised by:

Art*VR Festival
ARDIN – Association for Research in Digital Interactive Narratives

Strategic partner:

  1. Interactive Digital Narratives for Complexity Representations – INDCOR Cost Action
  2. Code and Soda Company
  3. Random Error Studio

Supported by:


Consultant on behalf of ARDIN/INDCOR:

Hartmut Koenitz


Camilleri, M. Montebello, A. Dingli, and V. Briffa, “Walking in small shoes: Investigating the power of vr on empathising with children’s difficulties,” in 2017 23rd International Conference on Virtual System & Multimedia (VSMM). IEEE, 2017, pp. 1–6.

J. A. Fisher, “Empathic actualities: Toward a taxonomy of empathy in virtual reality,” in International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling. Springer, 2017, pp. 233–244.

Jenkins. H. (2006). Convergence Culture. New York, University Press.

Koenitz, H. (2015). Towards a Specific Theory of Interactive Digital Narrative. In H. Koenitz, G. Ferri, M. Haahr, D. Sezen, & T. I. Sezen (Eds.), Interactive Digital Narrative (pp. 91–105). New York: Routledge.

Koenitz, H. (2019). Playful Utopias. Sandboxes for the Future. In Beil, B. et al. Clash of Realities, transcript Verlag, Bielefeld,

Murray, J. Research into Interactive Digital Narrative: A Kaleidoscopic View. In: Rouse R., Koenitz H., Haahr M. (eds) Interactive Storytelling. ICIDS 2017. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol. 11318. Springer, Cham, 2018.

Mühlhoff, Rainer. "Dark immersion: Some thoughts on SIGNA’s Wir Hunde/Us Dogs." Staging Spectators in Immersive Performances. Routledge, 2019. 198-204.

W. B. Owais and E. Yaacoub, "Quantifying Empathy in Virtual Reality: An Outline," 2020 IEEE International Conference on Informatics, IoT, and Enabling Technologies (ICIoT), Doha, Qatar, 2020, pp. 457-462, doi: 10.1109/ICIoT48696.2020.9089565.

Rouse, R. (2016). Media of attraction: a media archeology approach to panoramas, kinematography, mixed reality and beyond. In: Nack, F., Gordon, A.S. (eds.) ICIDS 2016. LNCS, vol. 10045, Springer, Cham, 97–107.

Shedroff N. & Noessel Ch, (2012). Make It So. Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction. Berlin: Rosenfeld Media.

Short, E. (2019) Mailbag: Self-Training in Narrative Design. Accessed 30 April 2022.


DAY 1 2 November, 2023, Thursday

  • 09.55 - 10.00
  • 1st Panel - Education & Empathy with immersive storytelling

  • 10.00 - 10.15
    Ethical Guidelines for Developing Meaningful VR Content for Social Impact
    Shadrick Addy
  • 10.15 - 10.30
    Attentiveness or/and Empathy? Encountering the Orher(s) in Non-Fiction Virtual Reality Experiences
    Monika Górska-Olesińska
  • 10.30 - 10.45
    Experience, Empathy and Ethics of Documentary VR
    Florian Mundhenke
  • 11.45 - 11.00
    Immersive empathy between VR, TV, and Theatre: a comparison through performative aesthetics
    Francesco Melchiorri
  • 11.00 - 11.10
  • 11.10 - 11.30
  • 2nd Panel - Research & ethics including VR

  • 11.30 - 11.45
    How virtually real is virtual reality?
    Borbála Tölgyesi - Ágnes Karolina Bakk
  • 11.45 - 12.00
    Miss Turing’s Kissing Booth - Human-Human vs AI-Human Interaction
    Aste Amundsen
  • 12.00 - 12.15
    Rethinking the principles of hybrid reality and the concept of ethics.
    Pola Borkiewicz - Piotr Maj
  • 12.15 - 12.30
  • 12.30 - 13.45
    Lunch Break
  • 3rd Panel - Documentary Formats using Immersive Storytelling

  • 13.45 - 13.50
    Frederic Dubois
  • 13.50 - 14.00
    The Room of Resonance
    Laurien Michiels
  • 14.00 - 14.10
    Immersive Exploration of the Historical and Cultural Significance of Portuguese Trade on the Swahili Coast through VR
    Gwamaka Mwabuka
  • 14.10 - 14.20
    Menopause: An immersive installation into the transformational phase of a woman’s life.
    Samar Nahas
  • 14.20 - 14.30
    A Pool With Two Figures
    Media Haqshenas
  • 14.30 - 14.45
    Immersive audio to represent collective memory of violent events
    Jimena Aguilar
  • 14.45 - 15.00
    (XR)' s Irrealist Tunnels, Allegory Through the Looking Glass: The Role of Speculative Fiction in Political and Moralist Immersive Storytelling
    Jim Osman
  • 15.00 - 15.10
  • 15.10 - 15.20
  • 4th Panel - Case studies

  • 15.20 - 15.35
    Presenting female rulers of Medieval Balkans countries using VR and AR technologies
    Selma Rizvic
  • 15.35 - 15.50
    How do you want me to get attached to this guy?' Affordances and obstacles for historical empathy via WW1 digital games (presentation)
    Jakub Šindelář
  • 15.50 - 16.05
    Exploring Empathy through Interactive Storytelling in gold extra´s Docuscape Experience "Once upon unsteady Grounds"
    Reinhold Bidner
  • 16.05 - 16.20
    Watched From the Wings as the Scenes Were Replaying: Immersion and Distance in Sam Barlow’s “Immortality” (2022) (PRESENTATION)
    Giorgio Chiappa
  • 16.20 - 16.30
  • 16.30 - 17.00
  • 17.00 - 18.00
    Authors’ Panel No. 1: Empathy, Impact, and Documentary
    Cameron Kostopoulos (Body of Mine), Joanne Popińska (The Choice), Michał Stankiewicz (Wish You Were Here), Krisztina Meggyes (Missing 10 Hours), Thierry Loa (21-22 China)
  • 18.00 - 18.15
  • 18.15 - 19.00
    Three leading developers on XR field in the Czech Republic will talk about their projects connected with the topic of empathy in XR.
    Brainz Immersive, 3dsense/Comguide, Infinite

DAY 2 3 November, 2023, Friday

  • 5th Panel - Immersive Remediation

  • 10.00 - 10.15
    Brecht into the Metaverse
    Katharina Haverich
  • 10.15 - 10.30
    Newer Faster Quicker... Better? Reframing the Holodeck Exploiting the legacy of pre-existing technology in a narrative driven context
    Sharon Clark - Tom Abba
  • 10.30 - 10.45
    Embodied Encounters of the 19th Century
    Martha Kicsiny
  • 10.45 - 11.00
    LudoKonst: Intimate, Immersive, & Interactive Performance Play for Public Culture
    Rebecca Rouse - Lars Kristensen
  • 11.00 - 11.15
    Smoked Out: Lessons from a Multimodal Documentary Project
    Carl Erez
  • 11.15 - 11.25
  • 11.25 - 11.35
  • 6th Panel - Memory in immersive spaces

  • 11.35 - 11.50
    Empathy through a War Museum
    Jain Maulika
  • 11.50 - 12.05
    Second life of VR: how metaverse saved film festivals and brought new perspective to once single player "offline" experiences
    Georgii Molodtsov
  • 12.05 - 12.20
    The terrible narrative of the war or ethical responsibility is a difficult dilemma for the Ukrainian VR developers of museums about the war.
    Victoria Lopukhina
  • 12.20 - 12.25
  • 12.25 - 13.45
    Lunch Break
  • 13.45 - 14.45
    Authors’ Panel No. 2: Immersive Anthropocene
    Mihai Grecu (Sol-Air), Jacco Kooistra (Let Nature Heal), Emilia Sánchez Chiquetti (Origen), Jenny Qinya Guo (Once a Glacier), Jan Kerhart, Felix Gaedtke, Gayatri Parameswaran (Berlin 2037)
  • 7th Panel - Affective relations: empathy, imagination and care in immersive experiences

  • 14.45 - 15.00
  • 15.00 - 15.15
    (Re)imagining Utopias through VR
    Francesco Bentivegna
  • 15.15 - 15.30
    Participatory Futuring Through Performance and Augmented Reality
    Paul Clarke
  • 15.30 - 15.40
    VR Dancing Postcards: imagining new ways to move through the city
    Jess McCormack
  • 15.40 - 15.50
  • 15.50 - 16.05
  • 8th Panel - Access to the virtual 'other'

  • 16.05 - 16.20
    Sylleptic “you” protagonists, ontological resonance and empathy in XR narrative experiences
    Agnieszka Przybyszewska
  • 16.20 - 16.35
    GAMETHERAPY: Gamified Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy
    Martin Polák
  • 16.35 - 16.50
    'Come, Fur(r)ies, Dance!': White masculinity and the ethics of ritual in Virtual Reality
    Rory Willats
  • 16.50 - 17.05
    Mu Mu: Designing Beyond the Human in VR
    Ash Eliza Smith
  • 17.05 - 17.15
  • 17.15 - 18.00
  • 18.00 - 19.00
    Authors’ Panel No. 3: Fragile Inner Worlds
    Aron Fels (Eurydice, a Descent into Infinity), Chloé Lee (Temporal World), Maciej Czuchryta + Marta Wieczorek (Simple Songs about Death), Steye Hallema (The Imaginary Friend), Zoe Roellin (Perennials)

DAY 3 4 November, 2023, Saturday

  • 10.00-10.10
  • 10.10 - 10.20
    Demo pitch 1: Jacobs Journey
    Joanne Popinska
  • 10.20 - 10.30
    Demo pitch 2: Mrs. Houdini
    Ágnes Karolina Bakk
  • 10.30 - 10.40
    Demo pitch 3: Tent
    Lou Doye + Rory Mitchell (online)
  • 10.40 - 10.50
    Demo pitch 4: Fragile Home
    Ondřej Moravec, Volo Kolbasa
  • 10.50 - 11.00
    Demo pitch 5: Panel Story
    András Szabó
  • 11.00 - 11.10
    Demo pitch 6: Na Sera
    Mimi Harmer
  • 11.10 - 11.20
    Demo pitch 7: Dream Screen
    Johannes Krell
  • 11.20 - 11.30
    Demo pitch 8: Care
    Thomas Villepoux
  • 11.30 - 12.00
  • 12.00 - 13.00
    Lunch Break
  • 13.00 - 14.00
    Authors’ Panel No. 4: Welcome to My Fantasy
    Thomas Villepoux (Jailbirds), Suling Yeh (Over the Rainbow), Flow (Adriaan Lokman), Clément Deneux (Missing Pictures: Naomi Kawase)
  • 14.00 - 14.15
  • 14.15 - 17.30
  • 13.30 - 16.30
    Francesco Bentivegna
    Watering a Flower - (re)imagining utopian technologies for immersive worlds
  • 14.30 - 17.30
    Dimitar Uzunov & David Bassuk
    Creating Sci-Fi and Fantasy Transmedia Storyworlds
  • 17.30 - 19.00
  • 19.00
    Award ceremony (open to all)


  • 13.30 - 16.30
    Watering a Flower - (re)imagining utopian technologies for immersive worlds
    Francesco Bentivegna
    Part 1 – introduction (utopian technologies, concept ‘clinic’, narrative styles)
    Part 2 – How to adapt a story?
    Part 3 – Make your own story!
    This workshop offers a targeted exploration of adapting short stories into VR worlds while reimagining utopian technologies to enhance empathy. By integrating storytelling with imaginative approaches to creative technologies, participants will be inspired to craft immersive experiences that foster positive connections and empathy within their audiences.
  • 14.30 - 17.30
    Dimitar Uzunov & David Bassuk
    Creating SCi-Fi and Fantasy Transmedia Storyworlds
    Part 1 (Facilitated by Dimitar Uzunov) SCI-FI & FANTASY WORLDBUILDING Introduction to SCI-FI & Fantasy genres and their subgenres. Elements and principles of SCI-FI & Fantasy storyworlds. Design of SCI-FI & Fantasy Storyworlds (through games & exercises)
    Part 2 (Facilitated by David Bassuk) SCI-FI IMMERSIVE TRANSMEDIA JOURNEYS An introduction to conceiving a science fiction storyworld using transmedia. In group exercises, participants will determine pathways among narrative elements generating a transmedia approach to building their storyworlds.


The organizers of Zip-Scene Conference 2024 (2-4 November, 2023) are planning to organize a special section dedicated for professionals from the Visegrad region where the work and the research of cca. 40 international researchers and creators can be presented. Our goal is to organize the conference for the fifth time, and with this edition we propose to offer a special focus on our region as moving the conference to Prague (Czech Republic). The conference will be a unique scientific and artistic event in Visegrad region, Central Eastern Europe and Western Balkans region. The event will bring together practitioners from Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Serbia, North Macedonia, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina by offering them space to present their work in the frame of the conference. This way they can meet personally and exchange their practice, expertise and best practices especially related to how to fund their work. This is also a good opportunity for networking and starting new collaborations (as it happened at the previous edition as well). By presenting these research outputs we can prove that our region can "also be put on the map" of immersive storytelling and we can also generate more visibility for them. In order to enhance their visibility we are also conducting and publishing English interviews online (on with the invited guests. The conference is the only event focusing on interactive digital storytelling in the region that has a scientific framework offered by the conference.


Funded by:

International Visegrad Fund

The project is co-financed by the Governments of Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia through Visegrad Grants from International Visegrad Fund. The mission of the fund is to advance ideas for sustainable regional cooperation in Central Europe.


Speakers' registration fee (100 Euro)
Tickets for audience members will be available at DOX.
  1. 180 CZK (7,5 EUR) - entrance to Art* VR exhibition and Zip-Scene Conference (not valid for other exhibitions in DOX)
  2. 380 CZK (15,5 EUR) - entrance to Art* VR exhibition and Zip-Scene Conference (including all exhibitions at DOX exhibitions)