Thinking Outside The Box

Found in the New York Times. Click to see it at full size.

The concept, I believe, is from this site (which offers an interactive program I might check out at some point). I think this is definitely cool, and looks to be a great illustration of the relationships between elements. But I have to say, part of me misses the long rows. It makes me wonder if linearity of thought might be what separates us (to a degree, and older generations, certainly) from those just now coming-of-age. Are people becoming more inclined to grasp concepts presented in non-linear form? And if so, what does this mean for the future?

I am thinking about what, in particular, this leaning might mean in the arts. Popular videogames are surely less uni-directional than they once were (think Super Mario Bros. vs. Grand Theft Auto, for example). Some films seem to be taking greater risks, also, straying from the conventional narrative structure and still doing well in the box office. This is, of course, not to say that popular media - Hollywood in particular - are consistently leaning towards an elimination of “linear narrative,” but that those works that do seem to be enjoying more of an audience than before. Which is to say, they seem more commercial.

Is this evidence of a new way of understanding and experiencing being recognized and exploited by popular media, or merely another in a long line of co-optations of experimental narrative techniques for the purpose of being “edgy,” gaining indie cred, and impressing the Academy by taking risks?

What do you think? Have you seen any examples of this, lately?