Future Cinema

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

Reflections on ‘The Art of Immersion’ by Frank Rose

In his book The Art of Immersion, Frank Rose focuses and emphasizes on a new process and goal of storytelling and seems to question how stories are told across various media. The book is essentially about how the Internet is changing storytelling and altering how we tell stories. We are continuously going towards more non-linear ways of storytelling, often trying to be as immersive as possible.

His book is a glimpse of what’s currently happening as a result of digital media (internet) industry and he chooses to only highlight a few examples of immersive projects. Though, this is enough for us to be captivated and imagine what the full potential of this industry could be and realize how many of these projects and non-linear stories are actually occurring. Rose identifies the roots of non-linear storytelling in classic popular literature such a Dickens and the non-linear storytelling in movies such as Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction or Anderson’s Melancholia. He makes it clear that it was with the creation of the Internet and Hyperlinks that really changed the way we tell stories from linear-narrative storytelling to non-linear, multilayered stories.

Frank Rose believes that storytelling is a basic foundation of our everyday life and highlights how we have to realize that we are continuously submerged in stories. He discusses how many audiences enjoy multi-layered stories and a deep fractal experience. People enjoy stories that engage them and they want to look into them as much as their tools (i.e. technology) permit. With newer technology, people can be more immersed within the story than ever before. Some fans will just see the movie as the movie (on the surface), but other fans can look deeper and explore a world that the creators have constructed. This leads to questions of control. He questions who is telling the story. The creators make the story, and the audience controls the story – so who is telling the story? Is this a problem or not? He discusses fan fiction and how websites such as ‘Lostpedia’ was created so fans could discuss everything about the television show Lost. He points out how we must be aware that this increased immersion also leads to an increased superficiality and the idea that we are experiencing an authenticity crisis. “What is authenticity exactly? What is real?”

The book is about the digital transformation the world is going through and the impact and response it has had on its audiences and creators. Rose focuses on where we currently are, where we are going, what we have been doing recently (i.e. the last five years) and how we got to where we are. He acknowledges that there have been similar patterns of immersion whenever there has been new technology. He looks at how people were first immersed in books, then immersed in movies, then immersed in television, then immersed in games and now immersed in the Internet. He explains how audience participation has adjusted and thus affected the advertising and marketing industries. He points out that entertainment that includes problem solving and is story based (i.e. games) are quite successful because they are about engaging, connecting and linking people to one another.

As artists, this is an exciting time for us. There are endless possibilities of storytelling. So many games we can create. One reoccurring question is why is it so difficult for us to figure out exactly what kinds of stories are successful? Why has it taken us so long to figure out what to do with any new communications technology? Will we actually be able to develop a game that can read how a player is feeling and then the game changes accordingly? Will we have to create games that have one big rewarding payoff? Or should we be making games that never end with smaller, repeated unpredictable payoffs? What kind of games or stories can we create where there is this unpredictable payoff? How immersive will our world become? What will be the repercussions of such an immersive way of life? Will there be any?


Wed, January 30 2013 » digital cinema, digital storytelling, futurecinema2_2012, games, globalization, interactivity, narrative