Move over, McLuhan: the medium and the message are all mashed up

Will the new Nokia Research Center Hollywood prove that the media is the message in brave new ways

When made-for-movie-theater films were first shown on television, directors — excuse me, auteurs — wailed about the damage and disrespect the little screen did to films designed for the silver screen. What hope could there be for artistic integrity?

Little did they know about the smaller screen of the laptop and — and even more ominous — the tiny window in a mobile phone. It was all about control, and the auteurs saw they were losing it.

So who has the control now and who will have it? Maybe the heart of darkness lies in Hollywood, where Nokia is locating its newest research laboratory.

The Nokia Research Center (NRC) Hollywood promises to work with and bring together media and entertainment industry players, new technology companies, creative talent, and regional universities such as UCLA and USC. Nokia already collaborates with an international array of schools and research institutes: MIT, Stanford, Cambridge and China’s Tsinghua. It’s doing joint research with Switzerland’s Federal Institutes of Technology in Lausanne and Zurich and has a mini-lab on the Helsinki U campus.

Unlike the auteurs, sadly lagging behind a technology curve that would put their work in all kinds of new and — to them — strange places, Nokia means to stay out ahead of the multiplying convergence of Internet and mobility that will distribute the message — anyone’s message — anywhere.

“Hollywood has an enormous variety of academic institutions, innovative media businesses and unique creative talent,” said Rebecca Allen, laboratory director of NRC Hollywood. “It offers exactly the right ingredients for research into topics that will be vital for Nokia's business in the future. The link with the movie industry is naturally strong; however, the entertainment concepts we will be working on at the NRC Hollywood laboratory are even more diverse.”

How diverse can the medium get? The lab will examine a “mixed reality experience,” according to Allen.

“The laboratory will explore new entertainment experiences that combine the physical and digital worlds,” said Allen. “Our research work will focus on mixed reality experiences, with a strong community flavor. We will develop new user interfaces that fully explore the role of the human body and human motion for more natural forms of interaction. Mobile devices will play a central role in this.”

In plain English, that means that the new Nokia Research Center Hollywood lab will explore the many technologies surrounding the media industry: film, music, games, Web and TV to figure out how entertainment mashes up with how people experience it; including content creation, user interface experiences, and, yes, mixed reality.

So what’s that whirring sound? Just the spinning of Marshall McLuhan in his grave as he considers whether he can rewrite his books from the afterlife, while Nokia shocks and teases new forms of media into life within the converging worlds of Hollywood, the mobile space and the Internet.

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