Individual Work
Cardamom, or Everybody at This Party Is Dead

Caitlin Fisher’s "Cardamom, or Evey Everybody at This Party is Dead" is a virtual reality work for Oculus Rift, the first literary work in this particular kind of technology. The work is experienced best when the user is wearing the OR (Oculus Rift), a virtual reality headset that allows 360 degrees eye movement. Fisher has also made available a web version of "Cardamom" that does not require the headset in order to operate.

In contrast to the fully immersive version of the OR, the web version is narrowed down to a square in the middle of the interface placed within a white frame. Once the page is loaded the user is found at the center of a garden, which is actually a menu with different buildings and sets pinned with pink diamonds above them. Since "Cardamom" is written in the game engine Unity, the user comes across graphics usually found in a computer game, and it is operated as if it were one. The diamonds that have already been accessed turn red. In the initial menu, an audio file plays which constitutes an authentic piece, since it is a documentation of Fisher’s 21st birthday party.

Each place that is adorned with a diamond constitutes a gateway to another room, where the user listens to a narrative fragment. The idea that each room contains a different story has already been explored in Fisher’s augmented reality work "200 Castles." In "Cardamom," Fisher brings it into virtual reality environment and makes the experience much more immersive. While in "200 Castles" the number of stories is a small one, in Cardamom the number of narrative fragments is bigger and the wandering around in the sandbox is juxtaposed to the turning of the pages in the book object of "200 Castles." One would argue that "Cardamom" comes closer to the first version of "200 Castles" as the user explores the interface spatially.

Immersion in virtual reality is much more successful than in augmented reality, yet Fisher brings into "Cardamom" familiar pieces of graphics that were found in her previous augmented reality pieces, such as the moon with the face, and the walking figure of a girl. As in Fisher’s previous projects, "Cardamom" is filled with Fisher’s personal photographs and her family archive, representations of small hand held objects that have appeared also in "Circle," lots of handwritten notes and old photographs. Against the perfect immersion of virtual reality, Fisher reminds her readers of her imperfect immersive augmented reality pieces. She carries in other words the same aesthetics of augmented reality into some instances of the virtual reality environment.

Although with its graphics "Cardamom" raises video gaming expectations, it does not set particular goals to the reader. It comes closer to the hypertext reading of the early hypertext novels of the 1990s. The difference, however, lies in the fact that those hypertexts were purely textual, whereas "Cardamom" is a multimedia project, where the textual exists only very faintly and does not carry the weight of the narrative. It is actually the voice of the narrator, Fisher that takes us into the stories.