Future Cinema

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

Art of Immersion

Posted on | January 29, 2014 | No Comments

The Rose book, the Art of Immersion, and to some degree, Building Imaginary Worlds were very different from what I assumed they would be about.  I had assumed that The Art of Immersion would be much more about immersive technological experiences, such as 3D cinema, and immersion goggles, so I was quite surprised with how little these entered into the book.  In a sense what is being discussed is not so much about immersing the viewer into the imaginary world of the story, so much as it is about extending the story out into the real world.  Often the ways this is done are fairly low tech, or the technology is incidental, as in the example of the way the television show, Lost, organically extended into the real world as people turned to the internet, initially to discuss, and try to collectively solve the conundrums created by the show, then later to participate in viewer initiated Lostopedias, in which the world of the show was given exhaustive encyclopedic treatment, and finally to participate in a game initiated by the show’s producers.

It seems surprising how long it took content producers to realize that audiences would want complete feeling worlds that would extend across different platforms, and would retain a consistent logic, and history throughout.  I can recall as a teenager reading books like The Lord of The Rings, or seeing films like Star Wars, that put you into a complete imaginary world.  When my friends and I tried to emulate them with our own creations, it was never the story we imagined, and only rarely the characters.  It was a unique world we would dream up, with its own laws and languages, history, and geography.  I can also well remember the disappointment when you would buy a toy or comic from a franchise that seemed to have been designed by someone who hadn’t concerned themselves with any other creation made for that franchise, so I know that audiences desired consistent, logical imaginary worlds.

The case study of Star Wars was particularly interesting, because it has two very strong opposing forces at work that have somehow managed to coexist, enabling them to succeed in creating a huge following for that universe.  On the one hand, (if the book is to believed) the public taste for Star Wars merchandise was fading fast, and was revived by placing a strong hand of control over anything produced in any form with the name Star Wars on it, with the purpose of ensuring that everything produced was consistent with the existing storylines, and the rules of the universe.  This allowed viewers to really lose themselves in the infinite possibilities of this imaginary place, which seemed somehow real.  On the other hand, Star Wars has really removed the hand of control, allowing the viewers virtually free rein to exercise their creative urges with the characters and places of the universe.  This allowed the audience to become active citizens in the universe, rather than just passive tourists.

I also thought it was interesting how much weight Rose placed on hyperlinks as a transformative innovation.  They are the sort of thing that are so ubiquitous that we hardly even notice them, it had never occurred to me that they needed to be invented.  It is interesting to think that something so quotidian might have changed the way we think and structure information.  I’m not sure it beats the digital watch as best invention ever, but still…hyperlinks.


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