Priya’s Shakti, Ram Devineni’s new comic book, follows a mortal woman and the goddess Parvati as they fight gender-based sexual violence in India and around the world.
But the story isn’t just about its globetrotting superheroes—it’s also about the real-life heroes who face patriarchy, misogyny, and indifference every day. Their stories are told through what Devineni calls an “augmented reality comic book,” a digital supplement to its print counterpart featuring short animated documentaries.
“Certain panels are animated to feature real-life stories and voices of Indian women who have survived sexual assault and faced the ensuing trauma and social stigma,” Devineni says. “The project will help define the new frontier of integrating literary publications and exhibitions with AR technology.”
Priya’s Shakti is part of the growing trend of immersive literature, an emerging brand of storytelling that employs digital technology to tell stories in new and compelling ways.
Devineni is one of a dozen writers, artists, and producers who will discuss the future of the craft during the inaugural Innovative and Immersive Literature Symposium on December 4 and 5 at The New School’s Theresa Lang Community and Student Center, 55 West 12 Street, New York City.
Hosted by the MFA in Creative Writing Program at The New School, the symposium will feature some of today’s most innovative and revolutionary authors, poets, journalists, and multimedia producers in conversation about the effects of technology on traditional literature and new ways readers are engaging with and experiencing storytelling and the written word.
“The MFA in Creative Writing Program is distinguished by our long-standing focus on new and challenging voices,” said Luis Jaramillo, director of the program. “Through innovative coursework and hands-on experiences, our prose writers and poets are experimenting with the intersection of literature and technology, helping to determine the direction of literature in the 21st century.”
Devineni, a filmmaker, publisher, and founder of Rattapallax Films, a co-sponsor of the event, is one of the many writers, artists, and producers on the leading edge of new literature. After producing for the big and small screens (he’s directed the film The Human Tower, as well as a three-part travel documentary TV series, On the Road), he decided to try his hand at comic books. At the same time, he wanted to transcend the traditional print medium, creating a digital version of the book that uses an app to make animation and videos pop out of its pages.
“I think readers are expecting more; it’s no longer about just going to a website to read an article,” Devineni says. “They want a richer and fuller experience. The creation of the ‘experience’ is as important as the writing. I think the bar is higher than it was a few years ago.”
Never before have there been more tools with which writers and poets can experiment, engage, and interact with their readers. And Devineni, like many of his peers in the field of immersive journalism, is taking full advantage of them.
Says Devineni, “For me, the future is augmented reality and virtual reality—the intersection of the real world with the digital world.”
To learn more about the Innovative and Immersive Literature Symposium and featured artists, including media artist DJ Spooky, visit events.newschool.edu/event/innovative_immersive_literature_symposium_day_one.