From the Information Age to the Experience Age

During the Industrial Age, our culture was defined by access to goods.  When goods were no longer hand-made, they became ubiquitous and lost their inherent value.  This transition happened over the course of 200+ years.

Then, in the 1980s, we realized that access to information was the true measurement of culture.  Information as a concept had value, and we focused our efforts towards gathering and organizing that data.

Library Science merged with a flourishing tech industry and the personal computer was born.  Soon after, those computers were linked together via a world-wide web of networks.  Then, as a culture, we entered the Information Age.

But within one generation, our culture shifted again.  Information became so ubiquitous it lost its value.

All that precious data became digitized and easy to share.  So easy to share in fact that pirating became a way of life for the younger generation.  Due to stumbles in rights management software, it was oftentimes easier to steal a book, a song, an entire movie, than it was to pay for it.

The outlets that couldn’t compete were forced to close.  Those who were left devalued the media in the hopes that customers would “do the right thing” if it was cheap enough.

Suddenly, everything was 99¢.

The best seller that used to be $25?  It was now 99¢.  That new CD that just came out?  Well… now you could choose individual songs you wanted to pay for, and those were 99¢ each.  That movie that was just in theaters a week ago?  It’s 99¢ now, and you can watch it in bed.

As this was happening, the art world went crazy. 

What was the point of creating things if people were just going to steal them?  What had value anymore?

As it turns out, there was still something people paid money for.  They valued it because they couldn’t steal it or share it online.  It was “experiences.”

Immersive theater is a performance form emphasizing the importance of space and design; curating tangible, sensual environments; and focusing on personal, individual audience experience.
— Dr. Josephine Machon

Now, that’s a mouthful.  Let’s just say that the form has emerged over the past two decades as a major movement in performance and finds itself on the verge of becoming mainstream.

As a form which subverts conventional theater, its success is reflecting a larger need in today’s audiences.  With so much of today’s life taking place in ungrounded digital spaces, audiences long to exist as physical bodies in actual locations. 

When forced to live in a culture that is primarily on screen and two-dimensional, today’s audiences seek expansive, visceral stimuli.  And when forced to live in a world that lacks privacy, audiences find the prospect of an intimate and personal experience very alluring.

When an audience goes into a regular theater, they know what they’re getting – seats, a program, ice cream, a stage, two halves – and as a result they slump, switching off three quarters of their brains. I wanted to create productions where the audience is physically present, so that they are driven by a base, gut feeling and making instinctive decisions. That sort of show leaves a far larger imprint on you than just watching something.
— Felix Barrett, Punchdrunk


How are immersive experiences created?

Immersive experiences live at the intersection of art, storytelling, and magic.

The most important part is the connection between our guests and the worlds we create.  This is accomplished by designing a combination of stories, sets, characters, and rules that engage the audience and give them the feeling of agency.

Agency means their actions will evoke a realistic response from our sets and characters. The guests will feel as though all care was taken to not stretch or break their suspension of disbelief. The characters they meet will feel like real people (just turned up to theatrical levels) and guests will given the opportunity to become characters as well.

The worlds we build allow the audience to feel emotionally attached to the story.  This is done by creating archetypes of base emotions such as joy and excitement within the world, then finding ways to trigger those emotions in the audience. Throughout the experience, we give the audience reasons to feel and release those emotions, connecting them deeper to the story.

Finally, there's depth. Like a simple game that can be solved a hundred different ways, we want to keep the story simple enough to be understood but stimulating enough to drive discovery. Heightened awareness of the world is rewarded with an even deeper understanding of the experience. Multiple storylines, audience-driven endings, and surprises for individuals or VIPs are designed to drive repeat visits to the world.

The goal of immersive experience design is to create a story worth living in.

Let Séance Media bring your story to life.