Drinking from the Intellectual Firehose

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CoMotion Labs. What happens here is a lot more interesting than this boring photo.

Last night I had the pleasure of participating in an extraordinary conversation with a group that included two women pioneering mixed reality at Microsoft, an expert in artificial intelligence, a filmmaker just back from a trip to Cuba, an Amazon art director, an author, an editor, and an internationally renowned exonoree who advocates for the wrongfully imprisoned.

I threw together this immersive storytelling salon with Aileen McGraw, one of the MS mixed reality experts and all-around immersive storytelling maven. We convened in the front conference room at CoMotion Labs and spent two hours engaged in a free-range conversation that touched upon such topics as machine learning, publishing, character development, eugenics, narrative agency, and spatial audio.

Technology is evolving faster than we can keep up with in the fastest-growing city in America. My friend Christopher Robinson, a former computer science student turned poet turned novelist turned VR writer, commented that the media in which we’re seeking expression is changing so fast that scripts have to be written to anticipate the storytelling methods to come. We’re all racing to stay ahead of a wave with no beach in sight.

When you bring people together who exist at the intersections between art and technology, you hear variations on this theme a lot. It used to be that you found your art form, learned its traditions, and honed your craft. If you wanted to make a movie, you learned how to use a camera and edit film. If you wanted to write a novel you learned about setting, character, and dialogue and took a stab at a draft. Today, artists must contend with multiple, converging technologies that are destabilizing each other. What does it mean for narrative agency to create a virtual world populated by AIs? How will stories change when our platforms will arise from embedded nanotechnology? Are we entering an era when every work of art represents a singular genre?

Aileen and I are figuring out how we want to proceed with future salons, and we’re considering establishing various themes or posing questions at the outset. Last night was like drinking from an intellectual firehose, with so many huge topics to discuss in a short amount of time. Witnessing a brilliant, diverse collection of individuals throwing ideas around in the spirit of discovery is an extraordinary gift.

 

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