I've been thinking about this a lot lately. And when Souris posted to a mailing list about it, I tried to put my rather vague thoughts into more coherent terms. I realized that I had been noticing four big trends that are already shifting the tectonic plates of the vast entertainment industry. I need to do some more thinking in these areas but my initial thoughts are that the futures of entertainment will be shaped by:
1. Tension between Immersion and Transparency.
What I think of as Big Media -- giant, big-budget movies, games, TV Shows -- seek to really *immerse* people in a spectacle of scale and sensation. And we say that we love that feeling of being utterly transported -- but at a My Bloody Valentine show I went to recently, what did I see? People were texting on their phones! Taking video of the band! Twittering! I was doing it too. We were *layering* these ambient communications transparently on top of what was supposed to be this overwhelmingly big experience, because we wanted to *share* this experience with others, we wanted to record it for ourselves. This has to do with what Linda Stone calls "continuous partial attention." I call this "transparent" because I don't believe it in any way diminishes the experience of, say, a rock show; it's simply a new way of experiencing it.
Future entertainment will find clever ways to accommodate, even encourage, this behavior.
2. Asynchronous Instant Communication.
Most of my friends have embraced Twittering, text messaging, Facebook, and the like. One of the things that is really new and intriguing about these forms of communication is that they are simultaneously instant and asynchronous. The update happens instantly--and the recipient can read or answer at her leisure. Or not. Facebook status updates are absolutely brilliant ways for expressing an immediate state, and allowing someone else to browse the "immediate states" of friends. Entertainment will increasingly make use of these styles of communication in the backbone of the product itself.
3. Credible Advertising with Integrity.
For a child of the 80's like me, this seems like a ludicrous notion. Advertising in that decade was so transparently slick and false that we quickly grew inured to it and scorned it. It seems designed to trick people into buying things they didn't need. Arguably that is still, at base, the aim of advertising. But it doesn't have to be that way. With targeted ads there is a chance to serve the consumer with something that she actually *wants* to see. The ad becomes both a form of entertainment and a service to the consumer.
Media companies that accept advertising should become increasingly picky about the ads they accept. They will accept ads that align with their values and their mission.
As an example, look at Penny-Arcade: the creators of the popular web comic have stated that they will only accept advertising for products that they themselves believe in. That endorsement is a HUGE win for both the consumer, who is a fan of Penny-Arcade and of their values, and for the advertiser.
4. Tools *are* the Content.
"Content is king." Well, there's about to be a revolution and some regicide. The consumers of tomorrow want content for free. And they will make their own content. That is potentially more fun and more interesting than consuming carefully planned, carefully made, well-mannered content from a professional. Films and TV are already at that point where they are consumed and remixed freely by consumers. Music was there long ago. Games will be there soon.
The content of the future will be in tools. Tools like the ones shipped with Little Big Planet (although I suspect it's still too early for that game to start a true paradigm shift.) Tools that will let consumers engage directly with the content.
Actually, this is the tipping point when "consumers" become "users". Consumers are passive. Users, active.
So, these are my initial thoughts. I need to work on them some more and flesh them out, but I think there is something to think about here.