Future Cinema

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

Reflections on Frank Rose’s ‘The Art of Immersion’

Posted on | January 30, 2013 | No Comments

Frank Rose’s book The Art of Immersion addresses new, developing modes of storytelling that he terms ‘deep mediums’: emerging formats of communication that are constructing narratives with the objective of immersing their audience. Like the Bolter reading on the aesthetics of catharsis and flow, Rose examines the impact digital media is having on storytelling and spectatorship. Rose asserts that the digital era has witnessed the emergence of new forms of narratives: stories that are not just entertaining, but immersive. Furthermore, Rose reveals through numerous examples of media forms in his book that these new ‘deep mediums’ produce new spectators. Consumers of mass media are now encouraged to actively participate and engage in new, immersive, narrative experiences. The user/spectator in the realm of social media for example, is encouraged to assume multiple (and possibly simultaneous) roles as producer, curator, author, and consumer; all taking place in a more fluid, digital environment.

Writing about stereoscopic 3D cinema for my major research paper naturally drew me to the third chapter in Rose’s book entitled Deeper. In this chapter, Rose not only presents an account of his experience on set of the 3D blockbuster Avatar, but also provides an illuminating interview with director and co-developer of the 3D Fusion camera system, James Cameron. Cameron articulates his objective of providing his audience with a ‘fractal experience’—an overwhelming spectacle that aims to blur the line between the audience and the film. While Cameron’s account of Avatar’s origins and production process provides substantial insight, I found Rose’s placement of 3D cinema within his framework of ‘deep mediums’ particularly interesting. Rose’s book provides an interesting vantage point for the current 3D renaissance, viewing the digital 3D experience as representative of the current emergence of immersive modes of storytelling. From this perspective, the affects of the digital 3D experience are evaluated in relation to other emerging narrative forms such as cross-platform convergence, video games and interactive Internet applications rather than restricted to comparisons that only include 2D cinema.

In Rose’s discussion of the lure and blur of deep mediums, he points to several examples of the way in which digital media is obscuring the distinctions that were clearly defined throughout the 20th century: the blurring between story and game, fiction and reality, entertainment and marketing, for example. The blurred relation between author and audience is another example that I find particularly interesting. While auteur theories have incited debate in the arena of film criticism since the mid-fifties, I believe that the subject of authorship is applicable to the blurring relation between author and audience in new, emerging media forms.

With audience participation becoming an integral component in digital media forms, whom can we accredit as creator and/or author?

Furthermore, how are authors supposed to accommodate the immersion-craving participant?

Lastly, do contemporary digital media forms further demonstrate that the quest for immersive experience is cultural topos? How?



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