Lockdown Silver Linings: When Digital Participatory Filmmaking and Virtual Reality Came Together to Tell the Story of The Irish Border

Laura Aguiar (Artist)

Research output: Non-textual formDigital or Visual Products


An invisible border runs for 310 miles separating Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland. Created in 1921, its 208 public road crossings touch on every aspect of daily life.

The 11-minute VR film Border Sounds takes the viewer on a journey across this invisible line through haikus and sounds by those who live near or on the border.
These stories were captured during a collaborative outreach programme I delivered while working with the official archive for Northern Ireland, PRONI (Public Record Office of Northern Ireland), and the creative media hub Nerve Centre.

Over the course of three weeks during the Covid-19 Lockdown, Border Sounds brought 21 people from border communities together on Zoom to share the sights, sounds, and stories of life on the border. They were also introduced to virtual reality filmmaking and received training in haiku writing and recording and editing sound on their smartphones.

This paper offers a reflexive analysis of this practice work and its aim is threefold:
(1) to provide a brief overview of how the Irish border has been represented on screen – how can Border Sounds complement current depictions?

(2) to examine the process of making Border Sounds, particularly how digital technology was used to engage with people remotely and make a film in a participatory way – to what extent can digital technology, such as Zoom, make filmmaking more accessible to rural people? What are the strengths and limitations of remote engagement? And what role can participatory filmmaking play in representing people’s life stories more adequately?

(3) discuss the strengths and limitations of virtual reality as a storytelling format – does it really offer a more immersive experience? Are their any access barriers? Is it the most adequate medium to tell stories about the border?

I argue here that while VR technology enabled Border Sounds to offer a unique on-screen experience of the Irish Border, it has also brought limitations in terms of audience reach and long-term preservation and access.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationYoutube
Media of outputOnline
Publication statusPublished online - 22 May 2023
Event#IFM2023Conference - Online, Toronto, Canada
Duration: 7 Jun 20239 Jun 2023


  • border
  • ireland
  • virtual reality
  • Filmmaking
  • community engagement


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