We’re at an interesting crossroads in media right now, in terms of the multiplicity of formats and platforms available to publish stories on. That much I think everybody will agree with. Chat bots, virtual reality, augmented reality, live 360 degree streaming, podcast binging – you’d almost be forgiven for thinking text and video were done. OK, I jest. Text certainly isn’t done – it’s why this print ad above by Tate Britain seemed so engaging to me yesterday when I saw it in the local newspaper.
They’ve *described* a painting. It’s rather evocative. There are lots of Instagrammers whose best posts are actually text too, despite the fact that Instagram is, prima facie, a visual medium. People will hack things to do what they want it to, as long as it isn’t too complicated.
But before we get to users of a platform, we need to address the creators of the content (why Instagram isn’t tweaking features to incorporate some of these hacks is beyond me – no wait, it’s because their main focus now is making money; thanks Facebook). This is where what Jessica Brillhart, principal VR filmmaker at Google, said in this Motherboard piece makes a lot of sense:
If a VR film is trying to get people to look where they’re supposed to, it’s already asking the wrong question.
“It’s more, how do we craft an entirety of a world to be able to harness the agency of the viewer being able to look wherever they want to look,” Brillhart said. “To see it as world-building, instead of trying to put things in a box.”
And so we’re talking about the immense power that content creators now have (they have always had power; it is why publishing houses are so powerful) but technology makes this anyone’s game, and there is a real need for more diverse stories to be told at this emerging stage of this technology. It’s part of why Minecraft is so brilliant, and why No Man’s Sky is so anticipated – the power to create and explore is distributed, not concentrated.
From a creator’s perspective, one can either get bogged down by this, or we can focus on the future. As Joshua Topolsky says,
….if you want to make something really great, you can’t think about making it great for everyone. You have to make it great for someone.
So as with VR and the potential to forge a new world, content creators today can choose to get sucked in by the need for distribution (I’m not taking this lightly, but I tend towards leaving it to the professionals like Medium who seem to be on fire lately, or if you have tens of thousands or a few millions to spare, then the sky is your limit) or focus on telling stories that matter to people who want to listen.