New class looks at dynamics of mobile revolution

A new class next semester looks to bridge the gap between the real world and the virtual.

The Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism has recently announced it is offering a new class next spring, “ASCJ 420: Dynamics of the Mobile Revolution,” taught by Flint Dille, an alumnus of the School of Cinematic Arts. Dille, a screenwriter, game designer and novelist, is best known for his work in Transformers, G.I. Joe, Dead to Rights and his own book, The Ultimate Guide to Video Game Writing and Design.

Dille’s class will explore how storytellers and media professionals are surviving the media revolution and how they can continue to grow through the use of gamification, alternate reality and geo-mobile technology. A flyer for the class says the course is “designed to help us develop methods to ensure that citizens of the not-so-distant future are engaged in meaningful decision-making and purposeful activities, re-entering the physical world after a generation of being parked in front of screens.”

Dille currently works as the creative lead on the gaming company Niantic’s geo-mobile alternate reality game, Ingress. In this alternate reality game, gamers are encouraged to get off their couches and instead venture out into the real world, meeting people and places that will allow them to unlock portals that will lead them to the next level.

“[This] is going to a be a very different reality than most of us grew up in,” he said. “You have to put on virtual reality goggles, which I think we all know are coming, and [the experience] you have will be more and more distinguishable to real experiences. At the same time, the real world is going to change, adapt to new times, so it will be a different place and people will be making much more conscious choices of what they let into and what they let out of their lives.”

When Dille finished his undergraduate degree in ancient history and rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley, his father encouraged him to follow his interests because the world was changing so much that, down the road, he would probably end up in a job that, at the moment, didn’t exist. Just like his father predicted, Dille ended up working in the gaming industry, something that no one could have predicted at that time. Given his experience, he wants this class to prepare USC students for jobs that don’t exist in the market yet.

“The whole idea is to explore what all the possibilities are and try to project them,” he said. “Frankly, to create the world that is coming. This is your world — you’re students, you’re going to be creating it, so we might as well give you a head start on it.”

Though it’s difficult to prepare for jobs that are nonexistent, Dille believes there are basic fundamental skills that are needed to survive in the changing world of communication. Dille’s class will experiment and test the boundaries of what is coming next to prepare students for the unknown future.

“Then there’s other kinds of explorations we constantly have to do so that when the moment comes, when technology is right, when the market is right, when the world is right, you can all of a sudden do something really exciting,” he said.

By the end of the semester, students will have worked on a substantive project and will publish a digital book of their findings. According to the syllabus, student papers will not only be considered for a grade, but will instead become part of a meaningful body of work that will be useful in the future.

Francesca Smith, a research fellow at the Annenberg Innovation Lab who works closely with Dille, said that his past experiences in the entertainment industry alone make the class worthwhile.

“Fortunately, [Flint] has the perspective of being on the cutting edge and being able to see what is coming up and what is unfolding,” she said. “He’s a wonderful and insightful person. He’s a USC alumnus, so he brings together this wonderful combination of representing the Trojan community, the media and entertainment industry in traditional Hollywood as well as the more creative side of things.”