Aim High, a new web series about a high school student who moonlights as a government operative, stars Twilight's Jackson Rathbone, Friday Night Lights' Aimee Teegarden, and…you? Well, sort of. Aim High is what's being called a "social series," an ingratiating new kind of entertainment that integrates information and images from a viewers' Facebook page into the show. Here, a guide:
How does this work?
Aim High is a six-episode web series that launches Oct. 18 on the Aim High web page. Before viewers begin watching, they will be asked to install the show's Facebook app which shares data from the viewer's profile, says Emil Protalinski at ZD Net. This personalizes each episode, integrating information and photos of the viewer and his Facebook friends into the show.
So the Facebook user in question will "star" in the show?
Not quite. You and your friends will be making glorified cameos at best, but the viewing experience will be yours alone. You might, for example, see your picture transformed into a campaign poster in a segment about the election of a fictional class president, says Mark Hachman at PC Mag. Your name or your friend's name might be spray-painted on to a wall as graffiti. The end credits may list your friends' names as spy accomplices, says Sabrina Ford at Reuters, while photos in picture frames come from your profile. The music that the characters listen to and the TV shows they watch may also come from your profile, thanks to Facebook's new "ticker," which keeps track of what a user reads, watches, and listens to in a real-time feed.
Why are studios investing in this?
This is part of Hollywood's never-ending effort to find new ways to engage younger audiences, says Ford. Social media websites are increasingly stealing attention away from traditional entertainment. Integrating social media into the TV show not only combines the two mediums, but creates an immersive viewing experience. Earlier this year, Facebook began renting movies like The Dark Knight and Inception for streaming, and increasingly, says Warner Brothers' Thomas Gewecke, it is becoming a destination for discovering new film and TV content. Aim High takes the trend to a new level by "making the actual viewing experience personal and social in a truly innovative and entertaining way."
Has this been done before?
Not in quite this way. But a similar technique was used in How I Met Your Mother recently, says Hachman. The show got quite a bit of press when viewers noticed that a movie poster for the recent film Bad Teacher was digitally added into syndicated episodes of the series that originally aired in 2006. Back in June, True Blood teased its upcoming season with an interactive Facebook app similar to, though less extensive than, Aim High's, says Todd Wasserman at Mashable. The app integrated Facebook information into an ad, integrating a user's friends' photos into missing persons' files and applications for exotic dancers, while "you become a mysterious assassin whose services vampires decide to enlist."