Mode shifting is perhaps one of the most interesting
miximal schools in that it is such a new and unique artifact that began in the mid-1990s
and has only recently fully realized itself.
Adaptations of books into film or vice versa do not change the mode of audience participation—both are passive experiences of a narrative work. Mode shifting changes the passive experience into an active experience or an interactive experience into a passive experience that profoundly alters the nature of the core audience experience, as well as the work itself.
Although mode shifting can be categorized as a content type, the introduction of behavioral aspects into the mix radically distinguishes it from its content-centric peers, culture jamming and derivatives. Just as in culture jamming and derivative works, mode shifting also contains defined subgenres or stylistic treatments that cross over into other popular memes.
Leaning one way or the other.
Traditional media experiences are categorized into one of two types: lean forward and lean back. Lean-forward experiences are experiences that require user interaction, such as video gaming, while lean-back experiences are noninteractive experiences, such as passively watching a movie or television show.
Mode shifting is the practice of changing the nature of a mode-specific experience from one mode to another. For example, creating a feature film based on a video game that alters the user experience from a lean-forward game play mode to a lean-back movie watching mode or, in the case of fantasy football, changing the lean-back viewing experience of watching a football game into a lean-forward, or interactive, experience.
Mainstream media brands are struggling (and, some might say, desperate) to add new relevance for a growing multichannel viewing audience. The fractionalization of the audience across so many new types of screens (e.g., mobile, PC) is disrupting the business-as-usual approach of mainstream media and demanding new innovation and change to what was a traditionally passive (lean-back) viewing experience.
Mainstream media brands are attempting to engage viewers in a variety of new forms of interactive offerings in hopes of retaining viewers and motivating them to care about network television. If you ask most teenagers, their TV is found online at Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube, and “Oh yea, that big screen in Dad’s living room.” According to Nielsen's Fourth-Quarter 2012 Cross-Platform Report, "the U.S. has more than five million Zero-TV households in 2013...This group, as a whole, is generally under the age of 35."
The lean-forward revolution can be seen everywhere you look. The simple concept of karaoke allowed listeners to participate in the content of the song, not just passively listening to a song. Guitar Hero is a hugely popular video game that turned the practice of playing air guitar into a fully interactive and engaging way to place oneself directly into the experience of a musical performance. New set-top television boxes have various technologies that allow viewers to interact with the mainstream-media experience through simple quizzes or voting and, in some cases, more-complex lean-forward experiences, such as fantasy football.
Fantasy football is a popular fantasy sports game that allows you to draft real-life players onto your “virtual team” and then track your fantasy team using points based on your players’ real-life statistical on-the-field performances. DirecTV has created NFL Sunday Ticket, an interactive experience that allows the avid football fan to trace up to eighteen players each week and track scores and stats of other games without missing the game currently selected. Additionally, the Game Mix channel shows four video windows with eight games playing at once, along with the game’s score, time left in the game, and other game stats.
Not a sports fan? No problem. Turn the channel to any competition-theme show, from Ru Paul's Drag Race to American Idol. For many years, American Idol has allowed viewers to participate in the voting process via telephone and text messaging to choose the winners and even participate directly in the American Idol experience by playing the Karaoke Revolution Presents American Idol Encore 2 game available on PlayStation 3, Wii, and Xbox 360.
More and more, interactivity is becoming more than an option (and even a big draw) for television properties, but the technology associated with conventional television distribution is a giant limiting factor. Interactive TV comes in two primary forms: one-screen and two-screen experiences. Typically, a one-screen experience uses a Smart TV or cable set-top device to create an interactive experience directly on the television screen using specialized features found on the remote control, or full blown "Apps" just like your smartphone.
Another rapidly growing form of one-screen is web-based television, an exploding phenomenon that allows for a much more robust interactive on-demand one-screen experience such as HBOGO or broadcast TV via Aereo by offering video on the computer screen rather than being subject to the limitations of the available functions within a television.
Along with the one-screen experiences are the two-screen experiences geared to incorporate both a television screen and another screen, such as a personal computer or tablet operating within the same environment—specifically, with both screens viewable at the same time. Typically, two-screen experiences allow the user to participate with the broadcast in either real time (synchronized TV) or non–real time (enhanced TV) such that the TV viewer can access additional information, video, games, quizzes, or other supporting content synced through audio fingerprinting or other technology using a laptop, phone, or other device while watching broadcast TV, DVR playback or DVD viewing in real time.
Many new televisions and set-top devices have microbrowsers and interactive media engines built directly into the TV device, including Sony’s BRAVIA series television with the optional Internet Video Link module that allows you to watch on-demand television shows and full-length movies from Amazon.com directly through your TV, as well as free on-demand Internet video, including news, sports, music, cooking, and travel.
Samsung’s new Blu-ray players and Smart TV LED series 6000 and greater televisions come with web-enabled interfaces baked in, including Netflix on-demand, Pandora (Internet radio), HBOGO, YouTube, and Blockbuster movie rentals.
TiVo’s Series3 digital video recorder (DVR) allows you to browse, watch, fast-forward, rewind, and pause videos from YouTube directly on your television screen using the Internet connection on the TiVo device.
Ten foot view.
The TV accessible www.YouTube.com/XL user interface allows you to enjoy YouTube in a televisual interface rather than a web-style interface. In industry terms, this is called ten-foot mode, referring to the distance (ten feet) between you and the screen while watching TV, as opposed to two-foot mode, or the distance (two feet) between you and a computer screen.
The design of the user interface is radically changed for ten-foot mode, since you can’t really see a mouse cursor from ten feet away. Additionally, the ten-foot design typically limits the navigation to up, down, left, right, and enter commands, such as are found on your TV’s remote control. More and more, web-based media are adapting themselves with ten-foot interfaces to transform the web medium into a more traditional television experience for those of us who have connected our PCs to our TVs.
Even without new Internet-friendly televisions or set-top devices, mode switching has found its way into the conventional television content itself. Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, starring humorist Stephen Colbert is a Peabody and Emmy Award–winning satirical television program that centers on current events. On August 10, 2006, Stephen Colbert parodied the famous YouTube meme star known as the Star Wars Kid and was shown wielding a George Lucas–inspired light saber in front of a green-screen background (the YouTube clip had a black background).
Green screen is a technique (also known as color keying) whereby an object or, more commonly, the background area of a film or video is painted green to allow for software to “key” or cut out the green and replace it with another image. YouTube fans and Colbert fans alike grabbed the resulting broadcast footage and spontaneously created their own backgrounds, which they posted on such sites sa YouTube.
A marketing and ratings goldmine like this was not lost on Colbert Report producers, so, on the August 21, 2006, episode of the show, Colbert showed some of the guerrilla efforts generated by his fans and issued an official green-screen challenge to the general public and consequently posted the footage from the August 10 episode to the web for anyone to download and participate. Winning entries were shown on the October 11, 2006, episode, and even George Lucas himself made an appearance on the show to showcase his own entry.
On June 12, 2008, Stephen announced his third green-screen challenge, Stephen Colbert’s Make McCain Exciting! in which he challenged viewers to replace the accidental green-screen backdrop seen behind John McCain during one of McCain’s primary-campaign speeches with something more exciting. Colbert’s show then displayed the chosen entries over the following two months. Many of these entries were truly inspired and used segments from popular movies and television, including Pulp Fiction, McCain vs. Madonna: Gray Ambition, Citizen McCain, The Wizard of Oz, Blue Suede Shoe Edition and many more.
Contrasting with the practice of creating a lean-forward version of the traditional lean-back media experience is the other (and opposite) form of mode switching, designed to deliver a passive or narrative lean-back version of a traditional lean-forward interactive experience, such as a video game.
One of the first officially sanctioned commercial projects was the 1986 release of a feature film based on the popular Super Mario Bros. game. The film, Super Mario Bros.: Peach-Hime Kyushutsu Dai Sakusen! (English translation: Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach!) centered on Nintendo characters Mario and Luigi, who get stuck in a family computer video game in which they must save Princess Peach from Koopa. Movies based on such games as Mortal Kombat, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy, Resident Evil, Wing Commander, and many others have yielded a windfall of corporate marketing for the franchise owners and game developers alike. For more on this and other game-based content see the Machinima page.