There have been a few concepts that have consistently been described and argued as immersive in the responses before mine: the internet, story-telling, movies, and the most noted, video games. The issue isn’t whether or not these things are immersive – in fact, it’s hard to argue that they aren’t – but that there is disagreement between what is “complete immersion” and what is only “partially” immersive (as Alex argues).
Alex labeled the internet as something that’s merely a mock of true immersion, using Deanna’s argument that on the internet our attention spans are so short that we rapidly move from one thing to the next. This is true – “tweets” on Twitter are limited to only 140 characters (which only takes seconds to read and write), no one actually reads full news articles online unless they have to, and typically, we lose interest watching a YouTube video after the first minute or so. We exist in a generation that wants things now, and if we can’t process it quick enough, it’s not worth processing.
Furthermore, Jonathan and Val both use video games as solid example of immersion, saying that it tends to recreate real life experiences and builds on them by giving us the power of God. Jonathan stretches this further by saying that our five senses are at the “height of immersion” (Nicole).
With this established, I pondered on this simple fact – why are we all so addicted to the internet? If Alex labels it as something that can only be partially immersive, and Jonathan argues that our five senses must be involved, then why do we spend hours of our lives each day staring at a computer screen?
PBS’ Frontline did a video on today’s youth and their immersive experiences with the web, titled “Growing up Online”. Just by watching the first seven minutes (which I encourage you to do), you can see how blatantly obvious the internet controls many of our lives – it is a social platform; a second world that at times we are more comfortable to live in than the first.
I don’t need to explain how much our lives typically circle around the Internet. We all know it. But wouldn’t this be a great example of immersion – in fact, wouldn’t it be the example of immersion for our generation? Unfortunately, it doesn’t generally encompass all five of our senses – unless of course, you count that we see the words and videos on screen, we hear the sounds that are played, and we touch the keys on our keyboard. Unfortunately, the Internet hasn’t gone as far as to let us smell or taste it. But maybe that’s a good thing.
And another unfortunate thing, the Internet is only a “partial” immersion if we go by Alex’s argument. Regardless of if she is right or wrong on this front, it is pretty evident that the Internet is immersive enough to greatly replace much of our work and recreational lives. Instant messaging, online multi-player games…TurnItIn.com?
I’d say that the Internet will be the platform for all immersive environments now and in the near future.
“FRONTLINE: growing up online.” PBS. Web. 29 Oct. 2009. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/kidsonline/view/>.