“The medium is the message” - Marshall McLuhan


The medium is not the only message. It may very well be delivering an important message.

But each medium that we come up with also changes our world in ways that we need to pay as much attention to as the message it delivers.


medium - An intervening substance through which something else is transmitted or carried on.


What do we seek to transmit?


Story Telling

Written Word




Immersive Media


Each media is capable of delivering a message.  Yet, what makes one medium better than another?  What is the message that the medium is delivering itself?


Story Telling and the Written Word


These media deliver immersion to the listener.


Immerse - To engage wholly or deeply; absorb: scholars who immerse themselves in their subjects.


Immersion can be either mental or physical.  Story telling is a purely mental immersion.


Drawings and Sculpture


These media offload some of the burden from the imagination of the receiver.

Although we see them as white marble, Greek sculptures were painted and attempted to interject the subject into the physical presence of the observer.  Cave drawings were drawn inside the dark of the cave because the storyteller wanted to use them to create a physical immersion; to take the users from the world they know and immerse then in another reality.


Film and Immersive Media


Film uses moving imagery to create a much more complete sense of mental immersion, yet it does not completely succeed in creating a physical immersion because be remain aware that we are sitting in a theater chair.  It is only through suspension of disbelief that we find ourselves truly immersed in the movie.  Immersive media, from drawings in a cave to virtual environments, seek to accomplish the feat of bringing true physical immersion to the observer.


What is so appealing about escaping reality?


Our reality is full of limitations, boredom, and starkness.  Perhaps the most famous story about escaping the limitations of mortal life are the Greek Myths, specifically the story of Persius who’s mother was impregnated by a Zeus and who was sent to kill the Gorgon Medusa.




Man is well aware of his limitations; he is well aware of the physical realities of the world he lives in.  Books such as Angela’s Ashes remind us of why the average woman in 1800 had 8 children.  Although we talk of miracles and magic, our lives are dominated by the limitations of our ability to have agency in the world. 


agency – the ability to effect change in the world.


We struggle to change the world, and we often feel that it is the world and not ourselves that is directing the outcome of our lives.  We seek to escape our limitations; to be at the side of the one “pulling the levers” that direct our lives.




The teenage mind is terribly aware of the physical realities of the world; it is this awareness that drives young people to so many great lengths to escape the mendacity of their everyday lives.  Experimentation with drugs, seeking adventure, philosophical movements, cyberspace, sex addiction, all are escapes from the stark reality that we are only too aware of around us.




There is starkness that one feels when they fully understand the limitations and mendacity of everyday life.  People resist the reality that their lives have such limitations and, as such, entertain the idea that there is another reality beyond this one.  The idea that we alone are truly responsible for the world and all those that our lives touch is a truly burdensome realization.  It is comforting to believe that something more powerful than our limited singular selves is taking care of this awesome responsibility.  Perhaps as we realize the frailty of our own fathers and find we are now the ones in charge, the idea of a heavenly father becomes appealing.


How do we to create another reality?


Although we may suspend disbelief and enjoy the mental immersion of fantasy worlds, divine beings, or all-powerful extraterrestrials, we seek an intersection between the physical world we are so aware of an these alternate realities.  It is for this reason that divine healings and UFO sightings are such contentious subjects; these are attempts to bring these belief systems into the physical world we inhabit.


Yet, if we cannot convince ourselves that alternate realities where we are not confined within our mortal limits, where we can direct and control our lives with more agency, then perhaps we can escape to them if only momentarily.  And, if these worlds succeed in a convincing physical immersion then we may find comfort in that.  But short of full physical immersion there are a number of other media that we can engage in.


Immersive Media




Cyberspace is a world we can immerse ourselves in.  We have agency in that world.  We can be a person who is not limited by the way we look, the money we have, or our social or physical skills in cyberspace.  Cyberspace includes massive multiplayer worlds where people role play with characters, but it is not limited to this.  The world of cyberspace is a world were ideas flow, where groups and organizations exist, where change can be accomplished in a manner much different that the physical world we know.  Writers such as William Gibson and philosophers such as Pierre Levy argue that cyberspace is now a real world; that locations, organizations, and a whole system now exist in this realm that is more powerful than the physical world and may come to dominate it.


renaissance cathedrals


Cathedrals such as the famous Chartres in France were exercises in transporting the visitor into another world.  These cathedrals attempted to create a world so different from that of the mundane world outside that the spiritual becomes manifest in their lives.


interactive media


Early text based adventure games such as Kork helped to solidity the sense of immersion in the world suggested by the game.  Because we have agency in the game, and because agency is a salient feature of our everyday lives, we find feeling a greater sense of immersion within the world of the game.  Virtual Reality is the attempt to create complete physical immersion in another world through the use of computer graphics, robotics, sound and other technologies that deliver stimulus to our 5 senses.