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Will Renny (M)
London, UK
Immortal since Sep 27, 2010
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all about everyone
My name is Will, and I am a creative geek. I work as a freelance digital creative strategist. Sometimes I design things.
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    From allabouteveryone
    Fictional Futures: The New...
    Now playing SpaceCollective
    Where forward thinking terrestrials share ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction. Introduction
    Featuring Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, based on an idea by Kees Boeke.
    From allabouteveryone's personal cargo

    Fictional Futures: The New Realities Of Immersion


    If my experience of culture has proven anything to me it is that we have an insatiable desire to escape our own realities and create new ones. It also points to a fundamental psychological reliance upon fiction as a way to understand the world and our place within it. Idealisation relies upon fantasy. We could not plan for the future without fiction. Fiction is embedded into our everyday lives, in a hidden way, amongst the folds of the mundane and banal. Our brains are hardwired to be fictional. We incorporate the unreal into the real in a seamless way.



    We constantly create a simulacrum - a simulation of the real - through a kind of constant, inner storytelling. But this simulacrum, something the French social theorist Jean Baudrillard argues is not a copy of the real, but becomes truth in its own right: the hyperreal, is inflected with fiction, in order to idealise the future and place ourselves within a navigable position in the rich socio-political cultural context of human life.

    Music and psychotropic drugs may have been the first real immersive forms of media, but the printed press provided the means to the first mass immersion medium. Books arguably illicit more imaginative work on our part, compared to more visual mediums, in order to realise ourselves within their fantasies, but it has been cinema that has proven the most compelling mass immersion medium.



    When cinema was first shown to audiences, at the turn of the twentieth century, the film was silent and shot in black and white. Even so, the initial sight of moving celluloid were so compelling that the audiences in some cases believed them utterly real. The first publicly screened film was of a stream locomotive pulling into a station. The sight of the train coming down the tracks directly toward the audience caused mass hysteria and the audience fled their seats in terror.

    The tangible immediacy of film - it’s seemingly real mimicry of the real, together with it’s effective sublimation of the audience (darkened theatres, surround sound and nothing to do but watch), means cinema manages to immerse us more completely than other fictional media consumption. I have talked before about how the way film editing techniques sample the way we subconsciously montage the world around us into sequences of images in order to create meaning – dreams being the most vivid example. This echo of our visual mentation further subsumes us into the story-worlds cinema places us in.



    Technology has been fast laying the tracks upon which we can build the next seemingly-real locomotive with which to throw us out of our seats again. VR is a concept that has been around for over two decades, but the technologies required to create realities that seem as real as film are yet to be developed to such an extent that they are compelling enough for us to engage with as a mass immersive medium. I have no doubt though that this is not far off. It is the natural progression from cinema and gaming. A fully immersive story-verse. Part pre-made fiction, part reactive-fiction – where the alternate realities you are immersed in are partly reliant and determined by yours and others actions.

    In lots of ways, the signs of our desire for the next stage of fictional immersion are planted all around us. AR (Augmented Reality), which has struggled to find relevancy and value in both desktop and mobile applications has still managed to ignite our imaginations and has fueled many uses of the technology. But like Virtual Reality, AR is yet to find it’s true value.



    Although VR is still the holy grail for full-body immersion, AR could well become the semi-immersion of the every day. AR provides a skin of technology across our view of the world. A digital filter. It’s something that can potentially be dialed up or down to control how augmented our experience of reality is. This will surely be a largely service-oriented domain, with hyperlocal information and commercial services being plugged into the space around us. It’s the mobile capabilities of AR (and I don’t mean on mobiles, because that current use is incredibly limited) that will push forward our use of tech as a lens through which we make sense of our experiences.

    Augmented reality could be seen as one step removed from full immersion, but it perhaps best describes the lowest level of immersion we can expect to inhabit in the near future. We increasingly choose to augment our lives with a film of technology.



    3D cinema is also another sign of our desire to be pulled further into the realms of fiction. When Avatar was released, some newspapers reported fans getting withdrawal symptoms from the film, so real was the sense of immersion to a place deliberately created to feel like Elysium. The film was very purposefully created to make us want to escape to it. And now we have 3D TV, an altogether less immersive experience but one that demonstrates again the desire people have to augment and immerse themselves within fictional realities.

    What would the future look like with increased immersion? How would the ability to immerse ourselves manifest itself culturally? Entertainment will undoubtedly continue to be the major growth area for immersive media but as I mentioned before, fantasy is integral to the understanding of things, so I expect to see immersion media being used for education as well as remote access and connectivity.



    One of the oldest forms of immersive media has to be psychotropic drugs. In terms of entertainment, technology is not the only thing that continues to be developed for immersive escapism. Acid, E and more recently developed psychotropic drugs, are used in their millions. It is a mass, albeit illegal, market and it’s thriving more so today than ever before. I think that technology and drugs are going to go hand in hand in the future and can see whole new clubs being created to house very immersive, psychotropic experiences. As I write this, I feel like I sound like a cheap Ray Kurzweil clone, but I really do think this is something that will happen. Whether this is chemically or technologically induced, or both together, is up for grabs. There's a lot of development around

    Gaming is already becoming the new cinema, the new immersion medium of choice for audiences more used to playing an active role in fictional story-verses, and this is the area that will lead development into fictional immersion. Storytelling is already developing into a participative format through gaming. Aside from console gaming, ARGs, participation dramas and particularly MMO gaming is increasingly popular and from increasingly younger audiences. These relatively new forms of multi-participation entertainment are on an evolutionary collision course with mainstream cinema immersion, and I expect to see a lot of development in more immersive forms of participative, fictional storytelling.



    A greater degree of fictional immersion in our consumption of entertainment will surely also bring with it a greater blurring to our understanding of what ‘real’ is. I’m not sure that the problems will be necessarily any different to those we currently face with reality and the level to which we allow fantasy into our understanding. It will surely have a magnifying effect on those issues though.

    What will constitute the real in a world of multiple, very real feeling, realities? Maybe multi-dimensional immersive realism will become our new reality, enabling us to fracture our lives in ways that free us from constraints and will usher in a new renaissance and then again, maybe it will just be a total head fuck. It will most likely be both.

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    gamma     Wed, Sep 29, 2010  Permanent link
    Today I enjoyed the 3D video from Samsung at the technology exibition. They played Monsters vs. Aliens. I dreamt of having a better communication... by immersing myself into the Android phone, and picking up two of the hostesses and their boss and taking them... home.

    I recall that Castaneda wrote in his books how having the experience of an alternative reality is safe. "The power will take care of the warrior", so that he can worry only about the alternative reality while the power will take care of where he actually was in this reality during his experience. I suspected that you would continue from that point and make a daring assurance regarding the reality shifts.

    Given the emphasis on the danger and the critical difference between the experiences of an ordinary and an alternative reality, I think that we can skim the message from the situation. When the alternative reality is happening, it is replacing the ordinary reality. I think that by knowing that, stating that clearly, we know how it is done or what it is like better. The alternative would be to prepare a very narrow door for ourselves to peer into another world.
    allabouteveryone     Thu, Sep 30, 2010  Permanent link
    If I understand you correctly you feel there is little danger in immersing ourselves in fictional, or quasi-fictional, realities, as long as we are aware of the fact that they are unreal, in comparison to the empirical, physical reality we perceive as our one true reality.

    My point is that the effect of immersing our psyches into very believable 'other' realities, or even a high degree of augmentation of the physical reality we see as our true reality, is unknown. I point out that fantasy and fiction are part of our everyday experience and therefore we immerse ourselves in alternate realities already. I also wanted to ponder a little on where a greater degree of immersion might lead us. The idea of reality itself will become questionable perhaps, which is neither good nor bad, just a realignment of perception.

    On the subject of whether greater immersion into a metaverse of infinite, alternate realities is either positive or negative, I would say it is likely to be both. On the negative side, to immerse ourselves in our dreams or super egos (or even our ids) may be something we do not wish to leave, similarly, it may create a space for rampant abuse (after all, it isn't real), the effects of which would be psychologically real in whichever reality you wish to allude to.

    On the positive side, whole new ways of realisation and understanding about ourselves, communication with one another and exploring and defining what it means to be human may well be envisioned. Certainly, the idea of a more flexible description of reality, one that accepts our reliance upon fiction as a means of reading the world I can see having many possible benefits.

    Ultimately though, the ability to immerse ourselves in believable, fictional realities will be as much a manifestation of our fears as much as it is a manifestation of our hopes. The human psyche is a complex and fragile thing, and dreams of elysium are seldom realised without some sort of related purgatory; we create our own heavens, but only in relation to our own hells. Boldly assuring ourselves of utopia negates a history of human experience which, I for one, find compellingly real.
    gamma     Thu, Sep 30, 2010  Permanent link
    If I understand you correctly you feel there is little danger in immersing ourselves in fictional, or quasi-fictional, realities, as long as we are aware of the fact that they are unreal, in comparison to the empirical, physical reality we perceive as our one true reality.

    I specifically say that the alternative reality replaces the ordinary reality completely. There is nothing safe about it. The value will not be judged in general or discussed. The evaluation is stupid, because it is only theoretical and not concrete, actual and complete. The alternative reality is not unreal, it is reality. Being aware of the alternative reality is not "being aware" that it is all a lie. Being safe in the alternative reality means that you interact with it and see how it goes.

    When I watch a movie, I wonder what will the movie do to me if it is scary or ugly. Things that are coming at me are made of the portions of my brain. Therefore, there is a triangle comprised of the state of being cool, the state of exhilaration and the attentiveness. They are the portions of the alternative me in the alternative reality.

    I point out that fantasy and fiction are part of our everyday experience and therefore we immerse ourselves in alternate realities already. I

    Well, if I had an enlightenment, I would know that the ordinary reality was like that, like a fantasy with a special emphasis and importance that grabbed all the attention. Then I would fantasize better and be free from the ordinary reality. But I wish at the moment, the respect for the plans that I have and my focus on things, perhaps taste, because they could represent me better socially. There should be more respect for other people's plans, because the story of experience starts with what they focus on.


    My point is that the effect of immersing our psyches into very believable 'other' realities, or even a high degree of augmentation of the physical reality we see as our true reality, is unknown.


    Well, I think that the alternative reality that looks like tits would mean nothing to you unless you adapt to it.

    Certainly, the idea of a more flexible description of reality, one that accepts our reliance upon fiction as a means of reading the world I can see having many possible benefits.

    Culture is fiction and its useful energy.

     
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