Future Cinema

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

The Art of Immersion: A New Business Model

Posted on | January 29, 2014 | 1 Comment

This text (The Art of Immersion) has many insightful thoughts on the changing mediascape that exists today. In an attempt to understand and question the information within this text I have decided to highlight and discuss some of the entries that captured my attention in this regard.

“…our roles have shifted and expanded. The role of the broadcaster is not just to speak but to listen; the role of the audience is not just to listen but to speak.” (Frank Rose)

In many ways this seems to be the most significant shift in our ‘immersion’ into new media texts. It is this participatory aspect, not in the game playing, but in the actual creation of the narrative and the world of the narrative by unregulated and unpaid multiple authors. The ‘hive mind’ so to speak of creative license. I can’t help but think of the ‘Borg’ from Star Trek when I read the discussion of how quickly the ‘hive’ could solve puzzles. However, narratives aren’t puzzles – they can be but they are not singularily or partially defined by this quality. Stories are a way of organizing information. In Building Imaginary World Lev Manovich is noted for discussing how stories are now databases. True they are bigger databases (in the way he discusses it) but maybe they always were. At its core a database is an information storage system that allows users to access information. Isn’t this also what a story is? Are stories becoming more like databases or are databases becoming more like stories? Either way our expanded roles as users and creators is changing the role of authorship. It will be interesting to see how hegemonic forces will use this more malleable platform to maintain their ideological positions.

“We use stories to make sense of our world and to share that understanding with others. They are the signal within the noise.” (Rose)

This begs the question what happens when story IS the noise?

“There is something about having a professional storyteller with a unique vision telling you a well-crafted story. But I’ve never wanted to tell a story in a game. I’ve always wanted to support the user’s story, because I think that’s the value of games—that the user is telling the story.” (Will Wright/ Simms Inventor)

This is a problematic statement for me. What defines telling your own story – especially a simulated one? While it is evident that we do want to do this, through games like the Simms, it isn’t clearly defined what the ‘value’ is of this user telling the story. If the value is in creating a gigantic paying user base then yes there is value, but what is the value beyond that? It is apparent that the role of the ‘author’ is becoming one of ‘world creator’ and less of storywriter. Authors are becoming designers of ‘platforms’ that users manipulate into stories of their choosing. Is this good, bad or neither? I have no idea. It does seem clear that the author when designing the ‘world’ does have major input into the overall narrative arc. Without this defining characteristic it is likely more difficult to ‘sell’ the world as a complete or interesting one. Is there value in Mulholand Drive? A cancelled TV series turned into a film? Is the value created from the user or the author? What role does wisdom play in creating stories (and now ‘worlds’ or platforms) to learn new information about the world?

“Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing” – (Phlip K. Dick)

I read this quote and think of Lost. Lost is a very successful series. I’m late on the bus and just finished watching the pilot episode. However, the more I read about its creation and manufacture the more I wonder what is really going on here while I watch it I can’t help but think of a quote from Dallas Smythe who states that “…by watching TV, viewers inadvertently ‘worked’ for TV Networks…”. In essence what he’s saying is that TV sells eyeballs to corporations. That in fact you the user of TV are the commodity. TV isn’t selling you Pepsi, it is selling YOU (your attention) to Pepsi. That is their business model. I can’t help but feel that something similar is happening on the web with all of this unpaid content creation and consumption. Imagine the lifespan and cost savings incurred by any imagined media world that once created has the traction to maintain a life of its own. It sounds like the perfect business model.


One Response to “The Art of Immersion: A New Business Model”

  1. nburns
    January 30th, 2014 @ 12:12 am

    When you are a filmmaker, it is a rather provocative idea, that you would let the viewer write the story themselves. On the one hand, as an animator, I’m a control freak, so I wouldn’t want to let go, but on the other hand, as an animator I’m eager to farm out any of the work I can, If I could get the viewer to move the characters around to, I would probably do so.

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