The Art of Immersion (and other things)

This is a book about storytelling memory imagination and sharing. Rose takes us through many stories that outline the changes to media production and consumption following the digital revolution.

He does this well but telling stories about people: the movers and shakers involved in the early pioneering work of some of the internet’s biggest sites are identified and their stories told. For example William Gibson introduced the concept of cyberspace and it became popular through Neuromancer, the 1984 novel in which he describes it as a powerful electronic delusion, immersive and immaterial.

The contention
Rose begins by arguing that storytelling is universal but that up until now most have followed a sequential narrative. Now however a new type of narrative is emerging – the non-linear narrative where consumers become participants and immerse themselves into the media.

The context
Just as TV took over from the big screen in the 50s the Internet is taking over from TV now. The web was introduced in 1991 and began a transition from simple delivery mechanism to a cornucopia of participation known as web 2. Now another decade on we stand at the intersection of the and blur people want to be immersed.


  • new interactive forms of games are explained by the author and there uses are manifold: gamer enjoyment – viewers take on roles and affect the scenarios
        • eg god like and controlling the environment or soldier or task like person
  • marketing – eg spin off of TV on the net

But the interactivity isn’t just between consumer and producer but between types of media producers and types of consumers.

  • Mainstream producers of traditional mass media now work with writers and place added value items on the web.
  • Consumers tweet responses and even make up their own stories and so become participants. Eg Star Wars, Lost

But sometimes mass producers provide products that offer the illusion of interactivity and the Hive mind eg Lost

The nature of new products

  • Interactive
  • Shorter eg web based stories
  • Communication and social networking eg tweets and the hive mind (new communities – hypperconnected (eg Noah Brier) In January 2010, traffic on Twitter was clocked at 35 million messages per day

Technological change, originality and authorship

  • Computing power increase and have given rise to new forms of media rendering of imagery eg 3-D
  • The invention of hypertext—the links embedded within text that have become an everyday feature of the Web—means that linear progression is no longer required or even expected.
  • Digital media have created an authorship crisis. Once the audience is free to step out into the fiction and start directing events, the entire edifice of twentieth-century mass media begins to crumble.

I’m knackered. I need to think about the issues the book raises and so I took the day off with a drive through Kent and Sussex country lanes (wonderful) and a stop at Beachy Head. untitled-0298

Back to the book
This book is a must read for anyone interested in digital development. The description of how things have evolved – film and the added value of the webisodes, the rise of blogs and twitter, and how TV and companies have adapted – and what the author thinks the key issues are – eg the strength of narrative and interactivity and the tensions in-between are all researched and discussed in depth.

At points in the read I thought about how TV has become dominated by reality shows and voting and how that could be seen to represent an attempt at interactivity by the mainstream media and at other times I am reading about Lost and how I couldn’t get beyond the first episode. An enjoyable and informative read.

What does this mean for my work?
I think the book raises an important issue for my work in terms of consumption. I like interaction but think it has its place just as contemplation does. So the question is could I make my exhibit interactive? Interactive website? Interactive video? Would this enhance or detract from my aim?

I think that the nature of my work is one that aims to evoke thinking and contemplation. I hope the images trigger thoughts about aesthetics, beauty, normality, disability, impairment and illness and how these issues are experienced or thought about by the viewer. Thus the experience should be immersive rather than interactive as that would actually detract from this aim.


Rose, F., (2012), The Art of Immersion, Published by W.W. Norton and co.


About Pete

South Londoner struggling with life, art and photography.
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1 Response to The Art of Immersion (and other things)

  1. Pingback: What is “digital” | anomiepete

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