Zone 3: Weaving Mercury

A part of our mission is to investigate the emerging domain of experience that we provisionally call “post-cinema,” which stands to succeed the cinema of today.

What is post-cinema?

  • Post-cinema is the form of partially- or fully-immersive multimodal narrative that departs from the screen-based, two-dimensional cradle of moving picture and invades the temporally extended three-dimensionality of our lives.
  • Post-cinema is an inherently forking multi-threaded (“woven”) enterprise, open to many alternative “readings” by the active participant, who has the freedom to take different spatial paths through the narrative landscape on different occasions.
  • Post-cinema opens to the participant many ways to approach the narrative: from taking different spatial paths in the story space to following one of the many narrative threads.

Indeed, one of the most challenging areas of research in SPaCE is the unique freedom of “reading” the narrative given to the participant of the immersive experience. The freedom reduces the authority of the filmmaker, which has been long taken for granted in every genre of traditional cinema. We have identified several distinctive features of post-cinema, which we treat as research areas each in its own right, as the following.

The Bluebeard Problem

Traditional filmmaking fully control the cinematic frame. But post-cinema has no frame. The individuals immersed in post-cinematic experiences have the freedom to look in any direction. And they can traverse space along multiple trajectories, along which they will gain or lose access to parts of the narrative. These are spatial freedoms. They are incompatible with some of the century-old conventions of cinema, but they create many unprecedented opportunities for the post-cinematic designer.

We discover these opportunities and learn how to control them. One of the key questions is about the amount, or degree, of spatial freedom given to the participant. How closely can one approach the spatial focus of the narrative? Are there spatial regions that interfere with one’s ability to connect to the story? Should access to those regions be forbidden or merely complicated?

We call this the Bluebeard Problem of post-cinema, after a famed folktale character: the nobleman whose palace had many rooms, but who made some of the rooms inaccessible to his wives, for a good reason.


Harry Clarke. Bluebeard (1922). *

Multiple Discoverability

The spatial freedoms of post-cinematic space will allow the participant to discover new threads of the plot on different instances of entering the experience. Traditional cinema has famously toyed with alternate endings. In post-cinema, the alternate paths through the narrative - at any point in the narrative - will be the norm. The participant will feel compelled to revisit the experience in order to pull together the story from the threads of the plot.

This multiple discoverability of the post-cinematic story presents many fascinating challenges to the designer of experience. Along the way, the transition to post-cinema will convert many theoretical issues of narratology into most practical, sensory concerns on both ends of the process: in the mind of the creator of experience and in the mind of the participant.

Sharing Space

The Bluebeard Problem and multiple discoverability of post-cinema are not without precedent. For example, consider theater. Theater encases a continuous space that is shared between the audience and the actors. Parts of the shared space are not welcome to the spectator (with a few notable exceptions), but the actor has long learned to break the fourth wall: verbally and physically. This asymmetry is also found in circus and other performance arts.

This asymmetry is manifested in other ways. For example, theatrical spectators traditionally don’t move as much as the actor. Some of these limitations are relaxed in other spatial arts. For instance, video games add the element of dynamic spectator who takes active part in the narrative.

We investigate which codes and conventions of the shared space in performance arts and video games are suitable for post-cinema. Traditional cinema is certainly a part of this investigation. Some of the staple conventions of cinema are not transferable to the immersive space (such as zoom and close-up) but others are.

By and large, even though post-cinema will borrow certain techniques from the preceding arts, it is nevertheless bound to evolve into an unexampled form of experience: neither theater nor video game, but a new kind of branching storytelling in solid space.