I already had downloaded Condition One but it took an email from Jay to the Artists in the Cloud list to get me to spend a bit of time with it. It is an app that works as both a front end/shop front to journalistic video but also provides some viewer options that take advantage of some of the affordances of the iPad. The Guardian has played with it, with a series of short videos about Tokyo.
The stories are chunked up, so I can either get the entire Tokyo series (which includes bonus extras) or get four short episodes (between 1 and 3 minutes in length). They’re not small, the one I’m waiting to view is 1:39 in length and 250MB, that’s a shitload of video for less than two minutes of viewing, even at full screen on my iPad, and this Sunday evening things might be slow out there somewhere, but it is going to take quite a while to arrive. Not hours like in the old days (when you would start a download and come back the next morning…) but it’s looking like a good 10 minutes or so, which at the moment I’d have to say is getting in the way of the experience – though I don’t yet know what that experience will actually be.
While I’m waiting for that to happen what gets my goat up just a bit is the spruiking around “immersive” experiences. This is, of course, the pitch point, the point of difference, that which will make it not just different but great. Now, it might be, but immersive, as the work on flow has well and truly shown us, is not about technological ersatz similitude. Shit, novels have already taught us that. I read a novel, even on crappy paper with lousy typesetting, but if it is a good novel, it works. I might cry laugh, weep. I am immersed in my reading. Not because of the quality of the delivery technology. So this risks a techno determinism that thinks if we get it really really shiny (I’m still waiting for my 250MB and 1:39 of video to arrive) then it will be immersive, never mind I’ve twiddled my thumbs for over ten mintues already just waiting to be really really immersed. Immersion is a consequence of things like possible worlds, narrative voice, and how they intersect with my intention. If they intersect, it works, even at low rez. This is the same snake oil that virtual worlds people use to sell us their visions of the future. It is immersive because you get to move in it, as if this is a sufficient condition for what ‘immersive experience’ is actually trying to claim – verisimilitude and an experience that is, at least in some respects and aspects, somehow phenomenologically equivalent to how immersed I am right now sitting at a desk. But simply having to move something (my mouse, my avatar, my iPad) does not make something immersive in this sense, unless we really do just want ‘immersion’ to be more like, well I was going to say sitting in the bath, but that is much more immersive than what is on offer here. I can’t sit in it like I can in my bath, where I am literally immersed and water flows around and over me. In Second Life my avatar might sit, even swim, but I don’t, and in Condition One I’ve got a traditional cinematic perspective which I either swipe around, or move my iPad up down, left right. (I can’t see all the way round, it is more that I’ve shot wide and the default view in the app is narrower, hence I can move around it a bit.) it is sort of nice, and sets up big questions cinematically (how do I know I have not missed something important that happened not off off screen, but off screen, as it were?), with an off screen that is actually available I can now compose and narrate not only in depth (Bazin via Renoir here) but also by implicating and alluding to what is just out of frame, but can be in frame if the viewer moves the frame. But immersive? No. Immersion is a consequence of other modes of engagement, at the moment this is technologically cool, but that of itself is no guarantee of a good view.