Brain Pickings

The Art of Immersion: Dissecting the Future of Storytelling

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Groping our way into next-gen entertainment, or how the original Star Wars trilogy birthed Lost.

Audiences expect more from their entertainment in 2011. Twenty years into our collective online experience, every genre of traditional popular art — books, film, television — is undergoing profound changes in form and function. A new book from Wired contributor Frank Rose called The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories assembles case studies that both analyze the past and predict the future of fun.

We stand now at the intersection of lure and blur. The future beckons, but we’re only partway through inventing it. We can see the outlines of a new art form, but its grammar is as tenuous and elusive as the grammar of cinema a century ago.

Through interviews with the co-creators of Lost, über-director James Cameron, Sims creator Will Wright and others, Rose describes the new narratives enabled by the interactive possibilities of the Internet. Call it transmedia, gameification, cross-platform convergence, or any other cringe-worthy neologism coined by marketers, we do participate in our pastimes more than ever before. And Rose’s book also contains the critical heft, historical scope, and recent research into brain science that take it beyond these trendy tropes.

[E]very new medium that’s been invented, from print to film to television to cyberspace, has increased the transporting power of narrative. And every new medium has aroused fear and even hostility as a result.

For an authoritative tour of the frontiers of amusement, read the just published The Art of Immersion. Perhaps the 3-D game version is forthcoming?

Kirstin Butler is writing an adaptation of Gogol for the Google era called Dead SULs, but when not working spends far, far too much time on Twitter. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA.

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