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We’re going towards this era of spatial computing, there’s no doubt about that. We’re going to start to make our world our computer, but that means that we need to reconnect with the world. We need to build these systems with the world in mind.  

Jessica Brillhart

Jessica Brillhart
The director of the Mixed Reality Lab at USC ICT shares stories about the highs and lows of working with emerging technology and takes a look at the past, present, and future of VR cinematography.
Sam Barlow
The acclaimed writer, director, and innovator in the world of narrative gaming talks about making games that break the mold and experimenting with new avenues for the form.
The Power of Our New Pop Myths
// The Wall Street Journal
Narrative universes—the likes of Star Wars, Marvel, and Harry Potter—are always expanding. The typical take is that these branching stories are rooted in basic financial logic from movie studios: the films are box office hits. In this essay, Adam Kirsch meditates on the more interesting question of demand: what imaginative appetite or cultural need keeps us coming back for more? We know the arc of a Spider-Man story, and yet we’ll pay to watch Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, or Tom Holland play out the same hero’s journey as if Spider-Man exists outside of the throes of time. Kirsch wisely positions narrative universes as 21st-century myths, a perspective bound to enhance your next Marvel moviegoing experience. As ancient epics do, these megafranchise parables help us make sense of life's complications. The difference is, these movie enterprises are often removed from the religious strife or historical accuracy that can cast controversy over traditional tales. In a narrative universe, storytellers can experiment with values and ideas more freely, building characters and inventing actions that reveal new implications of the core story. What’s more, Kirsch relaxes the pressure of originality, and instead prizes the value of universality. No matter how much the world changes, what we need from our stories is constant.
How Crypto Is Evolving the Future of Books and Publishing 
// Esquire

Several startups believe that web3 technologies will upend how authors make a living—and how we define who owns a story. In this piece, Elle Griffin surveys the companies that are enlisting blockchain technology in the book business. Their strategies differ, but the goal is the same: facilitate a mutualistic financial relationship between authors and their readers, and translate fan bases into crowdfunding communities. Practically, an author would plan on minting an exclusive edition of their next book project as an NFT. The writer would then crowdfund the print/digital publishing of the book by attracting crypto investors—most likely, their existing fans or readership. Anyone who wants to see the book succeed would contribute some ETH in return for a share of the book’s future royalties—an investment they hope would pay dividends whenever the one-of-a-kind NFT edition is sold or the IP is repurposed. The tenuous viability of this model hinges on the same question that haunts the larger NFT market: does a singular, rare digital edition of a book have value?
Going Live and Immersive Is the Next Frontier for Musicians, Movies, Artists, and More
// Forbes

The growth of immersive entertainment is no secret: the success of FoST friends like Culturespaces, Meow Wolf, and Secret Cinema indicates a widespread market for “living stories“ that invite exploration and empower interactivity. David Bloom pieces together the cultural causes of this phenomenon. The Arcane, Peaky Blinders, or Stranger Things immersive experiences respond to a palpable demand among fans. As Peaky Blinders producer Caryn Mandabach shares, “You get the sense of how meaningful [the story] is to people” and then create a space where they can connect and dive deeper into the narrative universe together. Spotify’s Head of Innovation Mauhan Zonoozy adds: “What that next generation of creators does is about not just fan to artist, but fan to fan.” As stories are licensed and reimagined into interactive experiences, the industry gains critical learnings about what kinds of existing narratives are conducive to this form—and what sort of original storytelling might emerge as it develops. 
Why Brands Are Obsessed with Building Community
// Vox

Terry Nguyen dives into the newest “golden child of marketing”: community building. This fantastic piece explores the delicate art of the branded community, which blurs the lines between a customer help center, fan base, and social network. Brands like Disney, Peloton, Glossier, and Victoria’s Secret are doubling down on the communal strategy, and the corporate urge is understandable: like storytelling at-large, the age of passive consumerism is over. Dependable customers today are active, enthusiastic, and engaged. They are loyal to the brand, its products, and, in the best case scenario, to other like-minded customers. The shared emotional connection between members is a secret ingredient of a branded community, and by far the hardest to organically facilitate. You can create anything from a Discord server to a fully functioning residential city (Cotino: Storyliving by Disney), but these spaces depend on authentic intentionality to be successful. The customer needs something specific and substantive from participating in this “privatized third space,” otherwise, why spend their limited attentional capital? Nguyen’s incisive analysis points to the frontier beyond facilitating interaction: the challenge of cultivating belonging.

 Stephanie Dinkins has opened a new exhibition at the Queens Museum. The On Love and Data show is the first survey of the renowned transmedia artist, who creates platforms for dialogue about artificial intelligence as it intersects race, gender, aging, and our future histories. Visit before August 14 and listen to Stephanie on the FoST Podcast.

 Philipp Engelhorn is an Executive Producer of the new film Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, which has earned critical praise (99% on Rotten Tomatoes) and become an indie hit in the box office, where it reached the Top 10 in North America.

• 3DAR’s beautiful VR film Paper Birds will be featured as part of this year’s VR Theater Program at SIGGRAPH, the leading conference on computer graphics and interactive techniques. The in-person event will take place August 8–11 in Vancouver. Experience Paper Birds on your VR headset
Cosm and Felix & Paul Studios are collaborating on a first-of-its-kind immersive live feed of the Artemis I mission launch. Artemis Ascending is a one-hour 360⁰ live immersive full-dome experience, focused on on humanity’s historic return to the moon and distributed to planetarium domes worldwide. 

 Bestselling author Kwame Alexander is presenting a new reality show called America's Next Great Author, in which finalists are challenged to write an entire novel in 30 days. The show is dedicated to including writers who aren’t normally given a seat at the table in mainstream publishing. Listen to Kwame's interview on the FoST Podcast.

• Entrepreneur Bimma Williams has launched Season 3 of his podcast Claima Stories—in which he interviews leading and emerging creatives and entrepreneurs of color about their career stories. The cultural entertainment company’s podcast was the No. 1 careers podcast on Apple.

Want to join a dynamic, creative team that is inventing the future of storytelling? FoST is currently seeking applicants for three roles:

Acquisitions Editor (Illustrated Books)
Curator and Experiential Producer (Events) 

Multimedia Producer (Films / Podcast / Websites) 

Find more info here.

Below, find a list of some of the storytelling experiences and events we recommend this month. Shoot us an email if you come across anything that should be included next month!

Play Moss: Book II — “A New Standard for VR Storytelling”
Moss: Book II from developer Polyarc is the sequel to the celebrated narrative puzzle game that focuses on the adorable protagonist, Quill. The VR player (known as the “Reader”) needs to help Quill avoid her hunters and defeat the merciless rule of the Arcane to restore peace to Moss once more. It’s a touching story as fantastical and poignant as any fairy tale, says Inversefeaturing puzzles and creative user interactions that deepen immersion in the story and attachment to the main character. Play it on your Meta Quest 2.

Step into Yayoi Kusama’s Mirror Rooms in Montréal
In celebration of its 15th anniversary, the PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art in Montréal is presenting Yayoi Kusama: DANCING LIGHTS THAT FLEW UP TO THE UNIVERSE. This exhibition will introduce visitors to the spiritual and philosophical depth of the artist’s celebrated seven-decade career. While admission is free, a reservation for timed entry will be required. Open until January 15, get tickets here.

Watch the Documentary We Met in Virtual Reality on HBO Max
Filmed entirely inside the world of virtual reality, this immersive and revealing documentary roots itself in several unique communities within VR Chat, a burgeoning virtual reality platform. Through observational scenes captured in real-time, in true documentary style, the film reveals the growing power and intimacy of several relationships formed in the virtual world, many of which began during the COVID-19 lockdown. Starting July 27th, We Met in Virtual Reality is available for streaming on HBO Max.

Tumble Down the Rabbit Hole in Atlanta
Our FoST friends at Secret Location have opened a new immersive entertainment experience at the Illuminarium in Atlanta, GA. Waking Wonderland is an interactive adventure that invites you on a dreamlike journey, inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland, to encounter surreal settings and colorful characters. Find tickets here.
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