So we’re all about Facebook these days. Twitter. Google+, anyone using that? They all eat up a lot of time but they’re fun and, at times, really useful. The speed at which news travels over Twitter is astounding and it’s not just that we’re there as readers – we’re participants. We’re involved. We add our views, they get retweeted and now we’re part of a growing story.
It’s audience participation.
In fact, it’s more. Because in many cases, the audience IS the content.
While much of this is relatively new, audience participation certainly isn’t new to entertainment. I’m a big games fan, for example. I remember many years ago watching a whole bunch of dull horror films in a row and thinking, these wouldn’t scare anyone. Then I played Silent Hill on the Playstation and it terrified me. I actually had to play it in short bursts because it creeped me out so much. And the reason? I was in control. I was the one leading that character through those hideous places. I made the decision to turn that corner.
Interactivity changes the entire experience. It is real personal involvement and very powerful.
And I liked that even back in the Pac-Man days. We’ve come a long way since then. It’s now not just games, it’s games with friends all being part of the experience. And now, with Facebook, Twitter and so on, it’s like life is this big interactive game.
It’s all about the audience participation.
The passive experience for me, like with those old horror films put against Silent Hill, often has a hard time comparing.
Applying that to children and, with Blue’s Clues and Dora, interactivity has became the standard across a lot of children’s television. It’s not real of course. It’s faux-interactivity but it does the job well enough that children can feel a part of it. Going back further to when I was a child in the ’70s, Playschool on BBC spoke directly to me and I was a part of that. Sesame Street too. And you only have to look at the tradition of pantomime and how much children enjoy that to see the power of audience participation has for kids. Like I wrote in a previous post, good children’s entertainment is not one-way communication. It is a conversation.
And now we create websites and apps that offer genuine interaction. Not the fake stuff. And while there are many questions that comes with that, it seems to me like such a natural step.
The current generation of children are being brought up with faux-interactivity all over their television screens and genuine interactivity on every other screen. From birth. They are connected to media, stories and each other in ways we never were. This is standard.
And I wonder, in fifteen or twenty years time, will those children be satisfied with passive media? A TV show that doesn’t talk back? A movie with a character you don’t control? When everything can be a pantomime with you as one of the stars, what place is there for just sitting down and watching or listening to a story?