By Frank Rose, W.W. Norton & Company, $26.95, 386 pages
It used to be that a company made a product and we ate it because they told us to. It used to be that a network produced a TV show and we watched on their schedule. It used to be that we had to buy the whole album, that youth was “alienated,” and an audience watched. Not anymore: the Internet has changed everything. Buying and selling, author and consumer, movie or game, advertising or entertainment, original or remix — it’s all up in the air. Alienation has become overconnectedness, and the concept of a passive audience obsolete. Consumers no longer just consume, they participate. Readers don’t so much “read” as “navigate,” and websurfing is just another form of foraging.
Frank Rose, a contributing editor at Wired magazine, tells the stories of Web creators and creations, from Ted Nelson (hyperlink) to Evan Williams (Twitter). At the same time, there is the story of how the Web escaped corporate control to become a world made by users. Mixed in are university studies of social intelligence, the serial novels of Dickens, Borges’ Forking Paths, Philip K. Dick, The Dark Knight, Spinoza, and Doctor Who. It’s a wild ride, and although Rose doesn’t prognosticate on the effects of virtual reality blur, the stories are so entertaining and unpredictable that readers / navigators / foragers of The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue and the Way We Tell Stories can’t help but feel like participants in the greatest story-telling adventure ever.
Reviewed by Heather Shaw