Frank Rose: The Art of Immersion 12/04/11

Frank Rose is the author of soon-to-be-released bookThe Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation Is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories‘. He attended the Festival of Ideas at the Bristol Watershed to introduce the concepts in the book.

Frank led with a throw-away comment ‘Stories are to humans like algorithms are to machines‘. We use stories to make sense of our world and share that understanding with others. Our human instinct to find the story means that we’ll find the story even when there isn’t one – he showed us an experiment performed by Fritz Heifer and Marianne Simmel in 1944 where subjects were shown a video involving triangles and a circle, and asked to interpret them. Inevitably, the subjects humanised the shapes and created a narrative for them.

He took us through various examples of immersion – when the original media used isn’t the only place that people can interact with the story. He says that ‘digital’ gives everyone the opportunity to tell stories in many different ways, because the internet can be all types of media – video, text, audio, or all.  For example, Lost fans created Lostpedia to help them understand the story, Star Wars merchandising gave fans ways to create new sub-stories including comic books, Nintendo games and even fan movies.

He touched on co-creation too, and gave the example of Apple/Nike’s chipped running shoe where the brands don’t create the story – they give the users the tools to create and share their own.

When asked how immersion is affecting marketing and advertising, he said that the 30 second TV spot is dying and cited ‘rising costs, falling viewership, ever-proliferating ad clutter, and viewers’ TiVo-fueled power to zip through commercials‘ as reasons. But he also said that history shows us that cultures take 20 – 30 years to figure out how to use technology, and that we’re only part-way there. Examples like the Old Spice commercials, where co-creation was embraced to great viral success, and failures such as the Harry Potter Wars (where the studios failed to recognise and utilise/facilitate or allow co-creation attempts on a massive scale) show that we’re still learning, but also that the opportunities are endless.

Frank believes that advertising is another kind of story, and to be effective it should be non-linear, participatory and above all, immersive.

Personally, I found the talk quite hard going but definitely thought-provoking – Frank Rose is clearly a brilliant thinker and writer but the ideas presented were bigger than a 40 minute slot. I’ll be getting the book and adding it to the library once done!

  1. #1 by Mimi Etherington on April 14, 2011 - 10:51 am

    Interesting stuff Liz, I look forward to seeing that book adorning the EMO library’s shelf.

    I was re-reading John Berger’s ‘Ways of Seeing’ the other day. Published in 1972 it still has contemporary relevance – but the chapters on publicity have perhaps dated the most.

    Take this extract:

    “All publicity works upon anxiety. The sum of everything is money, to get money is to overcome anxiety. Alternatively the anxiety on which publicity plays is the fear that having nothing you will be nothing. Money is life. Not in the sense that without money you starve. Not in the sense that capital gives one class power over the entire lives of another class. But in the sense that money is the token of, and the key to, every human capacity. The power to spend money is the power to live.”

    I’d love to hear Berger’s take on immersion. Perhaps he’d say: The power to participate is the power to live more meaningfully – or at least to create a very good impression of it.

    Or something.

    • #2 by Liz Brock on April 14, 2011 - 12:17 pm

      Wow, that’s deep Mimi! I wonder how he’d perceive the principles of business openness brought about by social media too. I was about to say ‘rolling in his grave’ but he’s still around – perhaps he’s on Twitter and we could ask!

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