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WEEK 6: Interactive Cinema

Week 6: February 12
interactive cinema

prepare Daley, Kristin. “Cinema 3.0: The Interactive-Image.” Cinema Journal. 50.1 (2010): 81-98.
Daley 

Veale, Kevin. “Interactive Cinema” Is an Oxymoron, but May Not Always Be.” Game Studies. 12.1 (2012).
Veale Interactive Cinema

Possibilia (2014) Daniels. https://helloeko.com/v/D3iXb9

The Wilderness Downtown (Chris Milk & Arcade Fire, 2010) http://www.thewildernessdowntown.com/

screening Kinoautomat (1967) Radúz Činčera 61 min.
team class 1 / activity  Caleb, Casey, Nicholas, Brooke / possible visit to SCA motion capture lab
activity  (if time) discuss interactive practice assignments

 

 

8 thoughts on “WEEK 6: Interactive Cinema

  1. Kristen Daly, stop trying to make viewsers happen! It’s not going to happen!
    While I like the heart of this argument, a push toward interactivity in film, the author’s microscopic look at the details of her examples shows a lack of fundamental understanding of the bigger picture. To make an analogy, it seems like she’s trying to fit the square block in the round hole. The most egregious set of examples would be the marketing campaign around movies such as Blair Witch and Cloverfield. She paints these examples as an immersive interactive experience that draws you into the story of the movie. In reality what the audience got was tricked by a marketing campaign into seeing a shitty movie. Another example of a clear misunderstanding is with Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. Where Daly makes the claim that the critics saying they felt confused was based on the fact that they didn’t take the time to invest in this masterpiece’s rich world outside the confines of the 3-hour film. Perhaps the critics just meant they were confused by the choice made in production. After all it was a bit of a mess of a movie.
    A third contention I have for this forced cinema 3.0 movement, this term alone invites umbrage, is the way she interprets time fracturing editing techniques for interactivity. In the case of Memento, Daly portrays the film as a puzzle with clues for the user to solve to figure out the mystery. Really this is meant to put us in the perspective of the main character, to help us connect with them. It seems as though Daly missed the end of the movie, because SPOILER ALERT there really isn’t a mystery here in the first place, the mystery was solved a long time ago.
    One recent example that offers a more interactive feel is the movie Get Out. Once again a bit of a SPOILER ALERT, the first viewing and second viewing offer significantly different experience for the audience. Understanding that white people inhabiting black bodies like avatars gives you a completely different impression of the events that unfold. This example does come a bit after the article was written, but there are other less impactful instances such as M. Night Shyamalan’s pinnacle of commercial success The Sixth Sense.
    Another omission from this article that would lend credence to this proposed movement. Both IMDB and Wikipedia offer a down the rabbit hole experience that extends any movie you watch. You want to know an actress in the movie you are watching, what other movie was she in, who else was in that movie. These interactive tools add a layer of interactivity and exploration similar to the game 7 steps to Kevin Bacon did. I was a little surprised that these weren’t mentioned given their ability to not only extend the movie experience, but also link it to all sorts of other media.

  2. I found “Cinema 3.0,” by Kristen Daley to be a compelling, if somewhat fractured, synthesis of modern film and media theory. Her conceptualization, borrowed from Deleuze, of formal cinematic aesthetics as historically determined seems to me to be accurate. Her formal analysis of the many varied case studies, while an astute synthesis of the theories of several influential modern theorists, was overshadowed and ultimately undone by her concluding reflection on what the political and ethical ramifications of these changing narrative forms found in the section entitled “Viewser: or Punishment?”, and it is this section that I will focus on in detail.

    Daley asks us to reflect on the possible consequences of changing narrative forms in the cinema when she writes, “The next question is, Why do people enjoy these movies? Why do they want to make the effort to think and link rather than just be passively entertained? Viewsers seem not to be able to avoid re-creating their world of everyday work in the cinema, much like the viewers Benjamin imagined in describing early cinema mimicking the mechanical work technology of industrial modernity” (97). For an answer she looks to Kracauer who investigated the link between the cinematic forms of pre-war Weimar Germany and the rise of Nazism and acknowledges that many of the theorist whose work she synthesized in the essay also see a link between the changing cinematic forms she categorizes as Cinema 3.0 and the changing political economy of late-capitalism.

    Interestingly she claims sympathy with these viewpoints, while simultaneously positing the interactive aspects of Cinema 3.0 “as a counter to commodification” (98). She goes on: “Cinema 3.0 makes us think, but also makes us interact—with the filmmakers, with the movie and other movie artifacts, and with communities of viewers. I think that this interaction has empowered us as viewsers, and that the new regime of Cinema 3.0, the interactive-image opens up exciting venues of expanded narrative, which energize the audience as co-collaborators.” I find this conclusion a curious, if not dangerous, contradiction. If we are to follow her logic then somehow interaction with filmmakers, movies and other related artifacts, and communities of viewers is somehow counter to commodification, and yet each of these categories is in themselves a commodified cultural artifact. The movie itself and its related artifacts are clearly commodities, but is not a filmmaker themselves routinely leveraged by studios and distribution companies as a commodity? Do they not put extensive resources into marketing campaigns to help these filmmakers win awards, which then in turn directly transform into increased sales? Do they not commodify the filmmakers’ reified authorial brilliance in the form of BluRay commentaries and special directors cuts? Do they not send them on press tours and media junkets? Clearly they do.

    Similarly “communities of viewers” is a problematic category when viewed as a bulwark against commodification. The technological mechanisms employed by late-capitalism to enable globalization are the very mechanisms which allow viewers to gather in the communities that she references, not to mention the vast majority of these communities are corporate controlled and monitored according to sophisticated algorithms whose sole function is to sell ultra-customized, micro-targeted advertising. To conceive of these spaces as counter to commodification is laughable.

    That these postmodern cultural aesthetic forms serve the interests of late-capitalism is no surprise, nor is it a new idea. Marxist critics like Fredric Jameson and Jean Baudrillard have been arguing this for decades. The simple fact is that while not entirely subordinate to economics, what Marx described as the superstructure (the cultural, technological, and political manifestations of a given economic system), is inextricably tied to the underlying economic base. Marx believed that without a fundamental change to the economic base, changes to the superstructure will always be reappropriated by the base in order to reproduce itself. To see these changing aesthetics as historically determined, and causally linked to changes in political economy is a valuable insight, but to then lapse into poorly argued, utopian fantasy about the potential of these new aesthetics to act as a bulwark against the very economics that brought them into being is naive and politically dangerous.

  3. “Interactive Cinema” is an Oxymoron. And I think it will always be. That’s how I feel after reading Kevin Veale’s article. You won’t call your latest iPhone XIII as A CAMERA with mobile phone function. But you call a game that plays a few video clips as an Interactive Cinema?

    The whole idea of using experience, engagement and negotiation of the text and so on and so forth theories to explain the middle area between game and cinema is so Wall Street style, that I almost shout aren’t you just trying to sell me some dog shit mortgage bonds and call them CDOs?

    The very simple notion that even the author himself mentioned multiple times in the article is the difference between watching and playing. Despite all the case studies, so-called ‘experiential storytelling’, in this article are actually all defined as games by scientific establishment (no, just kidding), common sense people. The ultimate conclusion of this whole article, I quote, ‘they are powerful because of what is experienced, and how it is experienced, rather than the skill required to overcome the challenges involved in the journey.’ is what I will call playing. Does some watching inside playing make the playing no longer playing?

    It is rather interesting that he mentioned the agency changes of films, comparing in the form of DVD to the cinema. But the real question is who cares? One of the most hateful things I feel when I use Vimeo is some arrogant film authors will write descriptions as ‘This video is meant to be watched with headphones and minimum distractions.’ Again, nobody gives a shit about your little master shit. Can’t you just make the story itself compelling instead of trying to force us to wear headphones? I can literally get so bored watching an IMAX 3D movie and walk away from the theatre but also get so involved watching a black and white silent movie with a computer screen made in the last century.

    Same thing with games. Nobody will say, ‘Oh, this is a great game because its agency is so incredible.’ The main argument that author makes why these case studies are different from just video games, I quote, ‘These texts present focused, linear experiences which lack variation,’ so-called alterbiography. To me, it is just a method that games can apply and films happen to use a lot.

    Back to two given examples of interactive films, Possibilia and The Wilderness Downtown. The former one is an over-elaborating online live-action short video that has a shitty story wrapped with formalism crap, ‘agency’, which is a false illusion, because no matter which way you choose, it all ends with the same ending. The later one is even worse. I didn’t even sense any creativity in a heavy-animation running music video.

    I guess in the end I will say each media has its own attribute. So far from what I can see, agency happens to be an element which is hard for films to work.

  4. If we look back to the history of the video game industry, we learn that the earliest video game was created by a bunch of engineers who were using very simple graphics to emulate space war mechanism. And the word “video game” itself is derived from “game”, which can represent non-digital forms of competitive sports and activities. Thus, the video game is a medium born with the nature of being competitive, whether it is real-time competition or a comparison between the score that players get. However, is being competitive the only way to create a satisfying gameplay experience? The birth of “interactive cinema” is challenging this claim.

    The attempt to use game as a medium for storytelling is somehow counter-intuitive. As Kevin Veale mentions, in the early days, the resemblance of game and film lies more on the visual component rather than the form of engagement. Today, since technology development grants both game developers and moviemakers more freedom to compose, people started to focus more on the difference between how players and audiences engage with the content. Kevin’s article provides a selection of games that have simple control systems yet tells linear and emotionally provoking stories. Is “interactive cinema” the best term to describe these works? Are these “games” or just playable experiences? The author points out that “interactive cinema” suggests a lack of interaction, but these works also embody linear narrative that only a predetermined story would have. Personally, I would name these works “immersive storytelling”. Just as Kevin mentions, the word “cinema” implies a passive spectatorship; the word “interactive” may mislead the viewers that the story will actually change according to what they did. These works are essentially storytelling by building an immersive world that the viewers can travel through. The best way to engage with the story is neither being a passive spectator nor being an active player, it is more like an experience possessing the body of the protagonist.

    I believe the emerging genre of “immersive storytelling” has great potential. Not to mention that the development of VR and AR will definitely provide story creators more powerful tool. This genre will attract a vast audience who is interested in less competitive gameplay and more engaging narrative. Just as Lewis Pulsipher argues, allowing the players to engage with the game with the option of “watching” will make games more popular and ubiquitous. Since most competitive games require an immense amount of time to practice in order to master the gameplay, “immersive storytelling” rather asks almost no preparation to enjoy. Thus its potential to become the next popular medium is even greater than the mainstream “games” at present.

  5. Responding to the Veale reading:

    I appreciate the effort that Veale puts into theorizing the experience of “interactive cinema” and locating that experience in a site that is neither cinema nor video game. However, I do think we could bring in some necessary complications to the theorizations that Veale puts forward.

    The general worry I had while reading this article was that I might run into a claim about how “because games are structures in a specific way, they produce a parallel specific experience,” similar to the idea of “the medium is the message.” While its somewhat useful to look at the kind of agency and interactivity that the different narrative structures of films versus games provides for us, we should be careful not to fall into a technologically determinist position. It’s not enough to say that one narrative structure provides more interactivity than the other, and therefore is able to produce a certain user experience that another differently structured narrative medium couldn’t. We also need to consider the social/historical/political position of the subjects interacting with that medium. Like Veale, I believe the concept of affect is a useful way to think about how these user experiences might occur. Unlike Veale, I believe affect is specifically useful for looking at how the embodied experiences and the social/historical/political positions of the user might interact with and rewrite the kind of user experience a narrative medium is “intended” to deliver.

    It’s necessary to look at how affect might interact with marginalized users to produce a certain experience because I find that the narrative experiences that Veale discusses tend to be modeled upon a user agency that is analogous to the kind of agency a cis, straight, middle class white man might experience in his everyday life. For example, Veale describes user agency in games as, “whatever you do, whether bungled or brilliant, affects the state of things on screen” (pdf page 6). In real life, your actions have a meaningful affect to various degrees, depending on factors such as your race, gender, class, sexuality, ability, etc. So, to be immersed in a medium in which your actions always affect something might not match up with real life agency for all users. This is not to say that games should always match game agency with real life agency for all users. Rather, I’m trying to point out that the difference between these agencies will vary for different users, depending on that users’ life experiences. The gap between those agencies is surely something that affects the overall experience that the user gets out of the narrative medium.

    Veale contrasts game agency to film agency, in which the user can’t do anything – but even that has to be qualified! Not only are you watching what is likely some white guy doing whatever he wants with a camera, but the user’s reaction to the film can be taken more or less seriously depending on that user’s subjectivity. This is not to mention that the film space and movement itself might reflect white guy agency. Consider films and games that might allow you to explore every corner of the world being presented to you. That kind of mobility might not be afforded to you in real life if you’re a minority. If you are a minority, the dissonance between your game or film mobility and your real life mobility might influence your overall experience from the medium.

    This is starting to get long, and I realize that I didn’t talk about agency as much as I wanted to, nor did I get to the other points I wanted to make. I have a lot more to say, but for the sake of space, I’ll sum up my last couple of thoughts. We can discuss more in class or on the blog if anyone is interested:

    We should also consider how affect might materialize differently for different people (also based on people’s life experiences and subjectivities), adding on to the differing narrative experiences produced from agency dissonance.

    I’m curious about how Veale’s discussion of narratively structured experiences might work with non-visual media and older media. Any thoughts?

  6. “That Moment When” Interactive Cinema Becomes a Reality- Critical Comment #3

    In today’s high tech environment, the ways in which consumers interact with media are rapidly changing. However, as Kristen Daly writes in “Cinema 3.0: The Interactive-Image” this kind of rapid technological change isn’t so unique after all. She begins by discussing Gilles Deleuze’s Cinema 2.0: The Time-Image as the last shift we experienced in cinema after World War 2. While we are experiencing large shifts in our viewing practices, Daly points to narrative as one mode of experiencing cinema which has remained somewhat constant- although the means through which we receive this narrative are becoming constantly more complex. Daly writes, “[f]or Cinema 3.0, a movie no longer exists as a cohesive, unchanging art piece but instead participates in a world of cross-media interaction, and that had enabled new forms of narrative requiring, as part of the enjoyment, interaction in the form of user participation and interpretation” (82). This discussion reminded me of an article I read by Marsha Kinder.
    Kinder begins her article, “Narrative Equivocations between Movies and Games,” by stating that the “equivocating insistence on the similarities and differences between games and movies is growing shriller, in both the popular press and cultural theory, as convergence between these two firms increasingly appears inevitable” (119). This observation leads us to ask the question, what is the difference between experiencing a game and experiencing a film? The next logical extension of this inquiry by asking, if there is a difference, how and when do the two intersect? Specifically, what are the differences between games and films and what role does the narrative have in defining these differences as well as our experiences? In order to answer this question it is also important to look at viewing and reading not as passive activities but as active sites of engagement for the audience. In contrast to the assumption that viewers simply let the images wash over them passively and absorb only what what’s passed on to them, watching a film is an active process in which the viewers watch take something unique from the viewing. By discussing a cultural studies approach for engaging with narratives, Kinder reminds us that experiencing any type of media is a personal process that can take on a variety of different forms and any kind of simplistic distinction between forms of narrative consumption, specifically “active game players and passive movie spectators” is a naïve and simplistic approach to this study (123).
    However, what if the act of watching and the act of playing were combined? The interactive series of short films, That Moment When, combines the two activities. Throughout the seven episodes of the first season viewers are introduced to Jill, a twenty-something whose life is really not going so great at the moment. In episode 1, “#TWM You Vaguely Remember Someone Who Totally Knows You,” viewers are asked to play along as Jill attempts to remember an old friend’s name. In each stage of the story viewers are provided a series of options each leading to a possible outcome for Jill. If you select the correct option, viewers are rewarded with a few letters in the mystery friend’s name. this new type of interactive viewing experience which bends the line between film and games can be described by understanding that, “[c]omputer and digital users have been trained by their immersion in digital culture to participate in/with what they consume. With the disappearance of the spectator, what becomes of the spectacle? Instead of world as picture we have world as game” (Daly 82). (Here is the website if anyone is interested in checking That Moment When out for your own. I thought it was funny and in a way reminded me of a digital Choose Your Own Adventure! https://helloeko.com/tmw/ )
    While we now understand the new media environment of one of complex narratives and game play, the question of why we care and are so invested in this media still looms. In her article Kinder describes the three functions of narrative within media, the first of which is the aesthetic function of narrative. Kinder writes, “aesthetically, the function of narrative is to arouse emotion or give pleasure; to create a simulacrum of the world or preserve one’s experience in the face of death” (121). This is important to our understanding of experiencing cinema, because as we know, one of the main areas in which we experience cinema is through personal engagement. In Camera Lucida, Barthes describes the personal importance of seeing his mother as a child in the Winter Garden Photograph. For Barthes this image held a great amount of significance, however for the causal viewer, the picture would not contain the same significance (Barthes 63-71). This connection to the images is what Kinder describes in this function of narrative. As she claims, the central question guiding this function is identifying “which stories arouse the greatest range and depth of response” for each of us personally (Kinder 121).
    However, as Kristen Daly writes, the depth of response each of us get out of a particular film or game relates to how engaged we are. This engagement is only enhanced through the expanded online and multi-media interactivity afforded fans in today’s media environment. Daly writes, “a movie like Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (Gore Verbinski, 2007) provides a good example of big-budget, tent-pole movie whose narrative required new modes of watching that left critics behind their ore digitally involved fan audiences” (84). Henry Jenkins also writes about the fan interactivity in At Worlds End in his blog Confessions of an Aca-Fan “The Pleasure of Pirates and What It Tells Us About World Building in Branded Entertainment.” For Jenkins, unlike many of the film critics who saw and immediately hated the film, much of the enjoyment of watching At Worlds End came from picking up on all the dense narrative information being thrown at the viewers. Jenkins writes, “for someone really engaged and watching this film, the result is epistemaphilia, a mad rush of information being brought together and being clicked into the right mental category.” However, this kind of viewing experience would have not been possible in earlier generations. Jenkins continues by saying,
    “I had this experience even though I saw Dead Man’s Chest almost a year ago. I can only imagine the pleasure that awaits us when we watch all three films back to back in a DVD marathon or all the telling details I will pick up on a second viewing—and that’s part of the point. The modes by which we consume these films have shifted. Most films don’t warrant a first look, let alone a second viewing, but for those films that do satisfy and engage us, a much higher percentage of the audience is engaged win what might once have seemed like cult viewing practices.”
    This understanding of the new media environment in which Convergence is King and Interactivity is the name of the game allows us to engage with media in ways we never dreamed possible just a few years before and I for one, am excited to see where what will come next!

    Works Cited
    Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. Translated by Richard Howard. New York: Hill and Wang, 1981.

    Daley, Kristin. “Cinema 3.0: The Interactive-Image.” Cinema Journal. 50.1 (2010): 81-98.

    Jenkins, Henry. “The Pleasures of Pirates and What It Tells Us About World Building in Branded Entertainment.” Confessions of an Aca-Fan. 13 June 2007. .

    Kinder, Marsha. “Narrative Equivocations between Movies and Games.” The New Media Book. Dan Harries, ed. London: British Film Institute, 2008. 119-132.

  7. I found Kristen Daly’s proposal of Cinema 3.0 as being a “cinema of the user” a persuasive argument. Netflix now has over a 110 million active subscribers consuming over a billion hours of video a week, and recommendations are at the core of the Netflix business model. The same is true of YouTube, where users are streaming over a billion hours of video a day. The consumption of media is increasingly done through interconnected, networked devices. Viewsers can go on the internet to search and find out more about the universe surrounding the content they consumed. Metadata attached to the videos they consume are analyzed to find patterns and suggest ‘relevant’ videos.

    Viewsers, in this capacity, find themselves in the same or similar narrative universes. As a result, they have a vastly enhanced literacy of the universe. This could be one of the reasons for intertextuality playing as important a role as it does today, and in effect becoming one of the parameters Daly outlines as a fundamental element of Cinema 3.0. This is a phenomenon that can already be observed in the cinema being consumed today. There are more than 11 cinematic universes currently in development.

    Daly draws parallels between the result of the industrial age resulting in a ‘conveyor belt’ rhythm of reception of films and a digital age resulting in a new cinema form having interactivity and non obvious relationships for the viewser. I would like to further this argument. The shift in focus from products designed to fit all sizes, to more personalized products is already having a huge impact on the modern viewer/user. This phenomenon is bound to become ever more personalized with the inevitable coming of the AI age. What would cinema be like if movies were being created by AI directors? I think such a cinema would be centered on the viewser, and would take as inputs the interactions of the viewer/user to not just recommend other videos, but instead to generate a completely new universe for this viewser alone.

  8. The interactive movie “The Wilderness Downtown” is an interesting piece, mainly as it was made specifically for one type of media, taking advantage of the unique possibilities that only a browser, internet-based movie could. I find it amusing when a work tries to explore the specificities and possibilities of its medium.
    The first interaction, inputting a geographical location – supposedly you hometown -, is only possible because of the enormous Google database of maps, satellite images and street view photos, and the fact that this database is searchable online. Without it, the concept of such a individually unique customization would be impossible. The access to those images, combined with transparent images and animations, also makes it possible for the scenes where the trees grew in the chosen town to exist.
    The user of the browser is an interesting editing option, as it enables the use of tabs to show more than one video at once. It also brings very interesting creative decisions to the table, like the composition and size of the tabs or which ones should be in the front when 2 or more share the same space.
    The other interactions take advantage of the procedural expression possible with computers. The birds are procedurally generated and react to the player’s mouse, introducing some playfulness to the experience. At a certain point, the viewer can input text – as a letter to their old self – and the birds will interact with it.
    More importantly, “The Wilderness Downtown” is supposed to be an individual experience. From choosing a town to interacting with the birds – all of this is supposed to be done by only one person. While people can watch it, it is distinctly different from the interactive cinema experiences that try to have the whole audience participation at the same time (usually through voting, or some points system).

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