Future Cinema

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

Some preliminary ideas on Frank Rose´s The Art of Immersion

The Art of Immersion is a cutting edge exploration of the way today´s Media is modifying some of the conventions on storytelling inherited from literature, film, theater and arts in general. By showing some of the attempts and strategies used by bright storytellers who want to experiment on this matter usually hired by big companies, Rose shows the success and failures of finding different ways of creating an immersive experience for people who wants to follow a story. Frank Rose talks about the anthropologic need for stories, which is important for human beings collectively and individually in different aspects; and then Rose brings to the table the way new media and technologies are affecting and re-defining the way stories are told by mainstream Media, and also the way they are not only being received by the readers/viewers but also how these stories are being fully experienced by them, getting the opportunity to re-narrate and re-formulate those stories.

I find that these transmedia and “Deep media” experiences that want to immerse the viewer/user into the universe of a story showed by Rose are all focused in commercial goals, all of them linked to the consumption of a product from the entertainment business; a movie, a videogame, a music recording, etc.  In that sense the potential of using these storytelling strategies in more artistic and socially relevant approaches is still to be developed, and I believe that that is somehow one of the main concerns of the Augmented Reality programs, like the one we are taking in this Future Cinema course.

Other point that I found interesting and that it has actually been on my mind from before is the hyperlink aspect that Rose mentions. How hyperlink is changing the way we approach to written text, and even to visual text, talking about images and text. Hyperlink representing a power conferred to the reader to decide to what part of the text he wants to go, as exposed or hidden doors to different parts of information within the story or the message that it is been told at that moment. I believe that this aspect has been so far unexplored, as rich as it is in its simplicity. It is the quantum leap inside the story arc for the reader; just a thought.

One final aspect that I want to point out is that I am lacking the discussion on how the immersion is becoming alienation. That is to say, Frank Rose’s exploration is concerned only in showing the effectiveness of the strategies followed by the different storytellers he studied, using hard numbers and public reactions as point of reference for failure or success, but he is not interested in considering the adverse points of the immersive experiences. Maybe a discussion on to what degree immersive is a synonym of escapism can be brought to the table, what are the considerations in this matter that storytellers need to think when designing one of these experiences. Or maybe storytellers are not supposed to make these questions to themselves; even when in these experiences the process of storytelling is completed by the best marketing team available.

Some of the questions that come to mind are:

How crucial is the economic aspect to the creation of an immersive experience in a way similar to the cases related by Frank Rose? Can one experience like this be created with minimal means?

How does the re-narration of the stories by the readers affect the flow of stories and storytelling?

Is new media crippling our perception of stories, making us to rely on technology to really enjoy stories?

Thu, January 31 2013 » futurecinema2_2012

2 Responses

  1. Morgan I.P. Fics January 31 2013 @ 4:28 am

    I tend to highly agree with your point at the end of your post Adonay. I really feel that a discussion concerning alienation and the topic of immersion is very important, especially in terms of social media sites like Twitter or Facebook. Yes these services keep us connected and yes they can serve a purposeful utility (i.e. up to date coverage of important topics), but is empathy really that positive of an action when not accompanied by physical communication as well? I suppose on a scientific level, this has been proven as such, but I feel as though online empathy is an outlet that is robbing physical reality of empathetic action. I worry that this pattern of online communication will actually hinder our ability to communicate on a physical level which is disturbing because it is the basic and most primal form of communication.

    On a completely different note, pertaining to your comment on the marketing aspects of transmedia advertising/storytelling, I somewhat find that the readings praise social networking via the internet almost like a marketing campaign itself. It very much reminds me of television history and America’s sale of their programming to as many countries as possible in an attempt to illuminate the positive aspects of American ideology on the world stage.

  2. Radojka February 2 2013 @ 6:02 pm

    To answer you third question, I will try answering one of my own questions in regard to the same topic. How did we change our view on what the story is?

    Before the expansion of the new mass-media technologies, we used to think that the story is a narrative that is being told to us by an agency other than us. In contrast, today, it seems that the narratives we make ourselves for ourselves are also being designated as stories. When we use Google, Youtube, video games and social websites, such as Twitter and Facebook, people like McGonial and Rose think that we create stories. If they are right about that, we can deduce that our lives can be designated as stories as well, the kind that we both create and consume. Relying on that thought, I have to say that the answer to your question whether technology is a necessary tool for storytelling, I must say that it isn’t. From that point, it also comes that I don’t believe that the enjoyment is enhanced when the story is being conveyed by a machine.

    Technology, even though it looks like something that is changing our basic perceptions and cognitive mechanisms, is still just a tool that we use for a variety of reasons, like any other tool invented before the computer and internet. While technology is only an artificial invention whose sole purpose is to be our servant, storytelling is an ontological part of our being. If our lives are stories that we create, consume and ‘enjoy’ (assuming the wide spectrum of what ‘enjoy’ means), it cannot happen that the technology is a crucial part of that ontological unity. To my perspective, which can be argued against, technology is a derivative of our biological needs. It does answer back to us, in a way that the whole of our environment does, but according to my humanist perspective on the relationship between us and technology – we give orders, machines obey. When we want to tell a story, we invent a tool that will realize our need. Therefore, technology is just a tool of our enjoyment that changed its shape from a piece of paper to a machine.