Apps Are The Epic Poems Of Our Time [Future Of Entertainment]


Apps Are The Epic Poems Of Our Time [Future Of Entertainment]

As part of our ongoing Future of Entertainment series, we’re digging through the archives of Intel and Vice’s Creators Project to uncover real world examples of our entertainment trends in action. Over the next 10 weeks, we’ll be shining the spotlight on cool projects from artists who are helping to define what the next generation of entertainment experiences will look like.

A recent study by Google shows that 77% of TV viewers are using another device at the same time, a media phenomenon known as second screen behavior. This is part of a larger trend of Multi-Dimensional Entertainment that is seeing creators leverage the unique capabilities of multiple devices to create experimental forms of narrative that involve audiences more deeply in a story.

As we investigated this trend, we came across Scott Snibbe, an interactive artist who creates works that go beyond people merely looking at a screen. His haptic technology projects are creating a new interactive medium with the emotional impact of music and movies where participants play an active part in changing, creating, and exploring digital worlds. His work spans giant installations at the Olympics, interactive exhibits for museums and trade-shows, and apps that explore musicians’ new albums.

We spoke with Scott about his work, how apps and touchscreens have changed interactive art and his vision for the future of entertainment.


How did you first become interested in interactive digital art, and how does it differ from more traditional media?

I became interested in interactive digital art the first time I saw an Apple II computer when I was in middle school in 1981. We used Apple Logo to create interactive graphics in beautiful orange, green, and purple shades, and I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. What I came to see in digital creativity is that unlike other media like film or sculpture, you are limited only by your imagination – there are no physical limitations with software. And with interactive graphics and music, you can make the immaterial realms of light and sound more tangible and changeable, in a way that is not possible in the ordinary physical world.

You were one of the first artists in the interactive digital installation space. How have new technologies changed your craft?

I think that with the advent of the iPad and the App Store, all of a sudden the experimental things that we once called digital art are now “products.” Since there is now no gatekeeper between app customers and developers, new ideas like Instagram, Songify and Vine, become viable businesses. I think that now it may be more exciting to be the founder of a company than an artist, because you are able to do wilder things with more resources. Every age has its medium, and I think the medium of today is apps.

What are you working on now? What current trends in technology and media are most interesting to you?

I’m currently working on a social creative platform for people to easily create and share “visual music.” I’m channeling all of my team’s app energy right now into this one product to make something that can reach hundreds of millions of people. The trend that excites me the most is the move towards maker and remix cultures. It started with tweets, where once only professional writers fidgeted over crafting the perfect sentence, now we all do. And it’s moved to photos, and soon video and interactivity. Creativity is a nurturing positive force in humanity and we are entering an age where creativity becomes a common currency for everyone, not just the professionals.

In your work with Bjork, how did you blend music, a non-interactive art form, into an interactive experience?

Music is inherently interactive, as people compose, perform, dance, and tour together. It’s only in the last three hundred out of thirty-thousand years that music becomes one way, and then prerecorded. Interactive music is a return to music’s roots.

Björk conceived of her project as a more natural form of music, and a way of combining music with nature. For her, technology is the glue to make this connection. It was my impression that Björk looked into her own mind and out at the world, simply observing how reality itself is interactive, and then extended her imagination a bit beyond reality, like what if we could control lightning with our fingertips, touch a virus, play a melody with the moon, and so on. This is how a poet and artist thinks and you can find these same ideas on the pages of Shakespeare and Homer. Maybe interactive apps are the epic poems of our era.

We’ve found that a number of entertainment companies are embracing second screen behavior and releasing apps that are meant to be used alongside a movie, or video games that complement and explain an on-air TV show. Do you think this is the beginning of a new model of mass media or is it just indicative of the fragmentation of consumer attention?

I’m not a fan of things that increase distraction. Concentration and attention are pleasurable and beneficial states and that’s the kind of media I try to create. An app album, for example, is an attempt to give people something worth paying an hour’s attention to, the way we used to enjoy an album.

What do you think the future of entertainment will look like?

Despite everything I’ve said above, I believe the future of entertainment (really our present) is ‘quantum bits’ of creation: little photos and videos that start to pepper us all day. At least that’s the entertainment in our pockets. I also believe in the other end of the spectrum, basically the Holodeck, something that replaces movies and is worth going to a theatre for, but which is immersive, physical, social, and interactive, like the Avatar Exhibition and some of the other things we do at Snibbe Interactive. Maybe I’ll be involved in creating those platforms a few years from now.

Thanks Scott!

See some of his work in action in the video below.

Check out Scott’s websites here and here, where you can learn more about his apps with Björk on her Biophilia album, and his Philip Glass rework app album.

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