PRINT May 1998

Steven Henry Madoff

I’M WAITING FOR IT TO HAPPEN. I know it will. On the digital scene, the Gesamtkunstwerk—Richard Wagner’s late-nineteenth-century vision of a total theatrical experience in which dance, music, poetry, painting, and drama are merged operatically—is a concept whose time has come.
What will push the visitor’s experience of the Web beyond the relatively primitive presentation of text, image, and low-grade audio will have to be a plausible sense of immersion. That can be accomplished by the near-simultaneous display of what the new technologies must deliver to succeed in the market: streaming music, video, animation, still images, text, speech, and advanced user interactivity. This barrage, in the best of worlds, will pull visitors into the moment of the work and surpass the limitations of pixels and frame rates—the ideal that digerati call flow.
Here are some sites that point toward that immersive experience, which should be all the more intriguing for the notion that the cyber-Gesamtkunstwerk, unlike Wagner’s landlocked theater, will exploit the placelessness and drift written into the character of a hyperlinked Web world.

Steven Henry Madoff is deputy editor of Time Inc. New Media.