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?
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.
Here are my 15 BEST BOOKS OF 2014-15 beginning with Jim Signorelli’s brilliantly inventive StoryBranding 2.0 to America’s master writer Laura Brown and How To Write Anything: A Complete Guide; to Thomas Nazario and Renée C. Byer’s searing stories and groundbreaking photojournalism in Living on a Dollar a Day, The Lives and Faces of The World’s Poor; to Kellmereit and Obodovski’s account of The Silent Intelligence: The Internet of Things; to Marc Gobe’s Emotional Branding; to Joey Reiman’s The Story of Purpose: The Path to Creating a Brighter Brand, a Greater Company, and a Lasting Legacy; to Kent Calder’s Asia in Washington: Exploring the Penumbra of Transnational Power; to Paul Taylor’s The Next America; to Jaron Lanier’s Who Owns the Future? to Charlotte Beyer’s Wealth Management Unwrapped, to Blyth’s Zen and Zen Classics; and Noah Horowitz’s Art of the Deal: Contemporary Art in a Global Financial Market.
Dr Hellmich is a specialist in the Middle East politics (especially Yemen and the Arab Gulf) with a particular research interest in Political Islam, International Security and Global Health. During fieldwork in Iraq and the Yemen she has conducted extensive research into the role of Islamic preaching in the process of radicalization as well as gender relations and women’s health. Her recent work examined the contested nature of Al-Qaeda and changing notions of the Pan-Islamic ideal.
Art of the Deal: Contemporary Art in a Global Financial Market
In Asia in Washington, longtime Asia analyst Kent Calder examines the concept of “global city” in the context of international affairs. The term typically has been used in an economic context, referring to centers of international finance and commerce such as New York, Tokyo, and London. But Calder extends the concept to political centers as well—particularly in this case, Washington, D.C.
Emotional Branding: The New Paradigm for Connecting Brands to People
Emotional Branding explores how effective consumer interaction needs to be about senses and feelings, emotions and sentiments. Not unlike the Greek culture that used philosophy, poetry, music, and the art of discussion and debate to stimulate the imagination, the concept of emotional branding establishes the forum in which people can convene and push the limits of their creativity.
How the Poor Can Save Capitalism: Rebuilding the Path to the Middle Class
Grounded in a common-sense approach, friendly and supportive, How to Write Anything is Internet-savvy, with advice throughout about choosing the most appropriate medium for your message: e-mail or pen and paper. At once a how-to, a reference book, and a pioneering guide for writing in a changing world, this is the only writing resource you’ll ever need.
Living on a Dollar a Day, The Lives and Faces of The World’s Poor
Living on a Dollar a Day shares the personal stories of some these poorest of the poor, honoring their lives, their struggles, and encouraging action in those who can help. In making this beautiful and moving book a team traveled to four continents, took thousands of photographs, conducted numerous interviews, and researched information on the agencies around the world that strive to help the destitute.
StoryBranding 2.0 (Second edition) Creating Stand-Out Brands Through the Purpose of Story
Drawing on Pew Research Center’s extensive archive of public opinion surveys and demographic data, The Next America is a rich portrait of where we are as a nation and where we’re headed—toward a future marked by the most striking social, racial, and economic shifts the country has seen in a century.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the interconnection of uniquely identifiable embedded computing devices within the existing Internet infrastructure. These devices are will usher-in automation in nearly all fields. The Silent Intelligence identifies and explores the ecosystem of Connected Cities, Connected Homes, Connected Health and Connected Cars.
The Story of Purpose: The Path to Creating a Brighter Brand, a Greater Company, and a Lasting Legacy
A proven methodology for building a purpose-powered organization
Some ideas are bigger than others, and the Master Idea—your company’s purpose—is the biggest. Whether addressing communication between leadership and associates, suppliers to manufacturers, sales force to customers, or brand to consumers, The Story of Purpose details a proven methodology for businesses, small to large, how to build a purpose-inspired organization to positively impact employees, customers, and the bottom line.
The Taliban Revival: Violence and Extremism on the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier
Abbas traces the roots of religious extremism in the area and analyzes the Taliban’s support base within Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas. In addition, he explores the roles that Western policies and military decision making— not to mention corruption and incompetence in Kabul—have played in enabling the Taliban’s resurgence.
In her new book, Wall Street veteran and Institute for Private Investors (IPI) founder Charlotte Beyer sheds light on the complex wealth management industry, outlines the responsibility that all investors have as ‘CEOs’ of their own wealth, and equips them with the tools to effectively manage their money.
Jaron Lanier is the father of virtual reality and one of the world’s most brilliant thinkers. Who Owns the Future? is his visionary reckoning with the most urgent economic and social trend of our age: the poisonous concentration of money and power in our digital networks.
Zen and Zen Classics, Vol. 5: Twenty-Four Zen Essays
This 5th volume of the series on Zen is a step forward in the direction of a universal Zen, a Zen which will include Chinese and Japanese Zen, and not omit that of Christian and Islamic mysticism, of Dante, Eckhart, Wordsworth, and Thoreau.
Click here to nominate your Book of the Year 2014.