Adding the layers - for fun and maybe profit.

Just over a decade ago, I found myself at an Indian classical music concert. This was pretty unusual for me then, and would be even more unusual for me now. But I had a good friend who has helping organize it and so I found myself both in the audience and enjoying myself.

The artist would pause from time to time and say a few things about what he was going to sing next, explaining - sometimes in great depth - what he was singing, it's significance and what he was doing that was different. Somewhere in the middle of the concert, he paused and gently explained why he did this so diligently.

"Music is a beautiful thing. Everyone will obviously enjoy it, but if you understand it - really understand it - that is when you can enjoy it even more. So please go home and try to understand this music." 

The idea resonated with me. For most things, the more background you have and the more you've invested in it, the more you're able to appreciate it when the thing is being done well. 

I also realized that knowing just a little bit more, or trying a little bit harder to notice and recognize details can lead to slightly more interesting experiences.

Luckily, I do some of this as part of my job - applying it to products, but I find I also do it pretty regularly with architecture when I travel. The more I try to notice the details of beautiful (generally really old) structures the more I appreciate the thought, the effort and the result.

That's one of the reasons I enjoy transmedia storytelling done well (great articles by Henry Jenkins) - great transmedia storytelling allows the super-fans to immerse themselves in a world more and more while taking nothing away from the casual fan. Here's a recent example I'm curious about - The Passions of Santos.

I found myself involuntarily thinking in layers a lot last weekend after The Martian. This is was the first time that a book was incredibly fresh in my mind before watching a movie - I'd read it just a couple of weeks before. In the run up to the movie, I'd also read more about Mars than I had in the rest of my life.

I almost didn't read the book because I was worried it would take away from the movie for me whose trailer I'd seen first, but it was quite the opposite. The two reenforced each other - I appreciated what the book emphasized and the movie omitted, and vice-versa. A podcast I listened to later that week made me think about the choices the writer and the director made even more and meant I spent a little bit of time appreciating Ridley Scott's filmography. Also.. Mars and water.

All of the above - the book, the movie, the articles, the general Internet research - were fun - but the whole was so much greater than the sum of its parts. This isn't a new idea of course - almost every media business relies on the super-fans being willing to spend more - both time and money - for their passion; wether it's conferences, merchandise, books, movies etc. But done to the right amount, the Martian experience reminded me how much fun it can be.

So if you enjoy something, find or add the layers around it to see if you'll enjoy it even more.


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