Future Cinema

Course Site for Future Cinema 1 (and sometimes Future Cinema 2: Applied Theory) at York University, Canada

Passive and Active Spectatorship

In The Art of Immersion, Frank Rose tries to understand how the development of new technologies changed the nature of storytelling. Before the internet and web based communication platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter, storytelling was a pre-constructed, one-way narrative form. However, according to Frank Rose, “new narratives encourage us not merely to watch, but to participate, often engaging us in the same way that games do. This is “deep media”: stories that are not just entertaining but immersive, that take you deeper than an hour-long TV drama or a two-hour movie or a 30-second spot will permit”.

What he is trying to argue is that the new technologies allowed a shift in spectatorial engagement, from ‘passive’ to ‘active’. The fact that the spectator was allowed to make a choice, gave him more power in creating a narrative according to his own intentions. Even though the idea of ‘active’ and ‘passive’ spectatorship could be argued against (especially from the Marxist perspective), Frank Rose tries not to go into the debate about passive-active spectatorial dynamic. Rather, he starts off from the presupposition that the new forms of non-linear, internet based narratives could create a ground for better business and marketing opportunities. However, he acknowledges the fact that the world of immersive narratives is still young and underdeveloped, but he hopes that they will evolve through time and eventually, show their true potential.

His business oriented views on narratives, give his writing a very clear perspective and practical aim. Even though, most of his arguments – such as bio-physical effects of immersive narratives on the spectator, for example – have a certain scientific credibility, there is still a question of the value of the immersive narrative for the future of artistic practices, and business models. His hope is that the immersive nature of the new narratives will change our understanding of our role in their creation. However, he is still aware that the has not yet happened.

I have several questions in that regard:

1. How do you see the future of immersive narratives? Will they become more powerful or will they keep their side role in the world of storytelling?
2. What is passive and what is active spectatorship?

Wed, January 30 2013 » futurecinema2_2012

2 Responses

  1. Nick January 30 2013 @ 9:52 pm

    I think to answer your first question, it is important to look backward in order to glimpse what possibly lies ahead. While Rose argues that the invention of a new media form also coincides with a new narrative strategy, it would be remiss to not acknowledge the increasing level of immersion that is also attained. In another way, if Rose unearths the refining art of immersion produced by new media forms, it is equally important to shed light on our cultural ideals of immersion. The genealogy of cinema alone can give us an idea of our progression towards the ideal immersive experience.

    But now to your question…
    I see the future of immersive narratives becoming more powerful provided that emerging technologies can further develop their epistemic values. That is, exploiting the potential of new media in order to develop its semiology; similar in the way editing and compositional innovation in early cinema opened up new ways of communication and understanding for the film medium and spectator.

  2. Sara S. January 31 2013 @ 9:20 am

    When i think of the future of immersive narratives, i think of it as  something along the line of the reality in films like  Matrix or Vanilla Sky, when one can be immersed completely into the narrative and live it as if it was his or her reality. I am thinking something similar to dream state where the body is not necessary for absorbing the experience. Perhaps one could take vacation and leave to imaginary places on different planets or so for a while. I think the desire for immersive narrative experience has less to do with its economy and technology and more comes from our desire to experience alternative states of ourself. Creating immersive narratives are elaborate forms of daydreaming so we can’t help our obsession with them. 
    If we consider this scenario as the possible future, i think we would have more passive experience than an active one. the complete disembodiment makes us less aware of our self and thus  makes us passive to what is happening in that space, despite the appearance of control on the surface.