Frank Rose is simply the most extraordinary expert in the entertainment and marketing fields and my most favorite thought leader on new forms of narrative.
Rose, a Senior Fellow at Columbia University School of the Arts, a member of the Columbia Digital Storytelling Lab, and faculty co-leader of its executive education seminar on digital storytelling strategy is also a longtime writer for Wired, strategy+business and author of The Art of Immersion.
Rose allows that every new digital medium has disrupted the grammar of narrative.
Frank’s seminal work on immersive storytelling and his new focus on The Science of Story, unlock the future for every brand to deliver today’s business value.
Follow FR if you want to know where your brand narrative should be heading, assuming you are leading your company toward transformational innovation and engaging people in these digitally disruptive times.
MARY OLSON: I often wonder where your appetite for new knowledge has taken you since 2012. What are your thoughts as you look back on the four years since publishing The Art of Immersion? How have your views changed?
FRANK ROSE: Well, obviously many of the TV shows I wrote about—Lost and The Office and Mad Men, among others—are no longer on the air, although their impact is still felt and their place in pop culture is pretty well assured.
Entertainment and marketing are if anything even more game-like and participatory than when I wrote the book.
Social media is more important than ever.
The big change is virtual reality and the incredible excitement it’s generated, even though most people still don’t even know it exists. Newspapers are jumping in— The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today.
Advertisers are jumping in. And it seems to be generating, even more, excitement for its storytelling possibilities than for games.
Obviously, VR is extremely immersive—that’s its appeal. But in other ways, it runs entirely against the grain of digital media as we’ve known it to date.
Yes, you can tweet about it, but there’s nothing inherently social about having your head encased in goggles. And unlike conventional video, it breaks completely with the grammar of cinema that was developed at the dawn of the motion picture industry. Cuts, pans, fades—none of these work in 360 videos.
There are some great pioneers at work—people like Eugene Chung at Penrose and Edward Saatchi at Oculus. I suspect it’ll be awhile—and to the extent that it’s adopted, will take us in a direction most people haven’t thought about.
MO: Your chapter, How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart includes philosophical and Zen-like views. Social culture and media narratives seem more and more delusional these days. How do you feel about the way the world is emerging?
FR: When I wrote that, I imagined the world of Disney and the world of Philip K. Dick [the American science fiction writer whose novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was the basis for Blade Runner] as opposites, in style if not necessarily in substance.
But the Walt Disney Company has evolved far beyond Walt himself, and the world is growing closer and closer to the highly disconcerting visions of PKD. A crypto-fascist reality TV star for president.
I suspect the purchase of Lucasfilm and the revival of the Star Wars franchise are going to bring these two closer together than ever. The differences in style will be minimized. And digital technology and the thirst for immersive experiences are only going to accelerate the process.
As I wrote in the book, digital technology blurs dividing lines that were considered sacrosanct in the industrial era—between author and audience, story and game, content and advertising, fiction and reality.
Who can tell the difference any more? That’s why we hunger for authenticity.
MO: The way businesses need to communicate is changing. Where is your journey taking you next?
FR: I’m very excited about my projects at the Columbia Digital Storytelling Lab — both the semi-annual executive education seminar Digital Storytelling Strategy, coming up on April 21, and the first annual Digital Dozen: Breakthroughs in Storytelling, which we announced in late January and followed up with a live event at Lincoln Center last month.
There’s also my blog, Deep Media, which chronicles new developments in storytelling, including some of my projects. Next up will be the DSS seminar focusing on “The Science of Story”. The first segment is titled, “Why Stories? Why Now?” and explains how stories are changing in response to digital technology and how immersion is more sought-after than ever.
“The Science of Story” follows up with an account of recent neuroscience and cognitive psychology research that demonstrates how compelling stories are at changing people’s beliefs and explains why that might be.
MO: Thank you, Frank. Your insights inform not only corporate strategists but watchful adopters, too. We all benefit from your futurist insights about how authentic stories transform people’s behaviors and inform digital marketing and transformative business models.
Download a PDF of The Power of Immersive Media
The most successful advertising today convincingly takes on the qualities of real experience. By Frank Rose. Publisher: strategy + business on February 9, 2015.
Feel free to get in touch with Mary Olson or Frank Rose for further information.
Website: The Art of Immersion – artofimmersion.com/
Member: Columbia Digital Storytelling Lab
Digital Dozen: Breakthroughs in Storytelling
Senior Fellow: Columbia University School of the Arts