The Next big thing
The Storyverse ranks among the most ambitious of our initiatives.
Remember the piece of land that Rudbeck dissected from the globe?
Imagine there were a way to freely explore the thoughtscape behind this world. A browser-based 3D-interface that opens up stories connected to rivers, mountains, lakes, or curious objects by placing them at your fingertips.
This is what The Storyverse is about: a home for 21st-century encounters with landscapes and the historic layers behind them. Together we are creating a prototype for a new kind of Transmedia Storytelling experience – stories from the world of the Atlantica, told critically through video, prose, photography, art, or poetry.
The Storyverse can be described as an attempt to lead avenues of approach into the world as presented by a book that has virtually become unreadable.
Already for contemporary readers, the Atlantica was an overwhelming experience. With its thousands of pages, its digressive style and unclosed brackets, hundreds of illustrations, cross-references, and curious side-tabs, it posed a challenge to anyone who tried to tackle its four volumes from beginning to the end.
And still, Rudbeck had drawn on the best medial possibilities at hands in the 1670s to publish his vision of Scandinavia and its deeper history.
With the help of the illustrations, he brought distant places and objects together. Through an overarching narrative, he made them holdings in a virtual museum – a printed wunderkammer in which each exhibit illustrated each other in harmonic meaning.
The Storyverse is the next step in our journey to create critical forms of access to Rudbeck’s enchanted world. As itself, it tells no lesser story than that of creating an entirely new world to tell this story.
It is a fact that for our generation, the Atlantica has virtually become unreadable. How can we convey what still is fascinating about this work in the 21st-century?
We believe that we can do better than writing just another book.
The Atlantica had a considerable impact on Sweden’s self-image in the seventeenth century. Much of this has to do with the meaning it brought to places all across the north.
Like a commentary to a cabinet of curiosities, it can be seen as a guide to the tangible world, rendering a web of meaning visible that waited at our doorstep.
At Frozen Atlantis, we want to rekindle a sense of the emotional power such an enterprise had and still has in the 21st century. At the same time, The Storyverse stands for a major shift in paradigms in how we work as academics – and for whom.
As a project in Public History, we operate in media into which our users long have migrated. We integrate forms of storytelling that feel native to entire generations.
The Storyverse leaves the linear and non-personal narratives associated with academic writing behind. It allows our users to explore a piece of digital art that was created by a team instead of one person – a world that at the same time remains safely linked to the solid ground of academic research that nourishes our work.
What you can expect is a world in which a click on a mountain, a river, a lake, or a stone can launch you deep into the interconnected web of stories – a universe of meaning that is yours to explore.
Our declared goal is to keep The Storyverse as accessible as possible. From early on, we have therefore used state-of-the-art technologies that enjoy broad browser support.
The core of the application we develop together with AppBase is based on a compressed React JS solution (state management using Redux). This solution relies on the Babylon JS framework to render the 3D world. By using WebGL, we thus ensure near-native performance.
At the same time, we want to produce a prototype that is easy to fill with stories. In order to connect the content with the 3D-world as flexibly as possible, we use a static JSON API which is integrated into a WordPress surrounding.
How to combine the visual style of Rudbeck’s woodcuts and engravings with a Metaverse-feel?
Together with our 3D-artist Tobias Wüstefeld we are creating a digital world with a unique look. Tobi came up with the idea of using natural materials and textures such as wood and stone for key elements placed in The Storyverse. Their out-of-scale dimensions intuitively communicate that the user has entered an artistic representation of Scandinavia.
For first ideas and sketches we made use of AI-driven image-generation. This technique produced exciting impulses and raw material in the case of storytelling-elements like the dragon (see the illustration).
In addition to artworks created in 3D-editors, we also use 3D-scans produced from actual objects in The Storyverse. These can be created conveniently on site by using the LIDAR scanner integrated in modern cell-phones (see The Stone in the Green Valley).
In classical mythology, there is the story of a dragon guarding the access to the Garden of the Hesperides. It was one of the labours of Hercules to slay the beast and retrieve the Golden Apples that he guarded.
In Rudbeck’s interpretation, the Garden of the Hesperides was just another of the paradisiac places described in ancient myth that his home could claim.
But what do you make of the dragon guarding this region, critics of his Nordic revelation may have asked?
Just look at my maps of the Baltic Sea, Rudbeck answered – you’ll find the form of the dragon outlined by its coastlines.
The dragon is a great example of finding ways together to visualize a fascinating line of thought from the Atlantica. The animation on the left was an early stage in finding a way to communicate Rudbeck’s key idea: The dragon actually is the Baltic Sea.