Sep 042012
 

Was invited to be on some panels and do a keynote at an ABC mini conference. It was called Radio Beyond Radio and had a focus on new ways to tell stories, ideally audio/radio driven. But there was a personal tension, wearing three hats simultaneously, particularly delivering the keynote. One hat coming from and representing TV Multi Platform , another wanting to be progressively multi media and strategic, to go beyond the ‘now’ and finally a 3rd hat, personally as an experimental audiophile – and just show a bunch of ‘cool’ multi platform audio projects. But in the end I decided to mostly stay above just pulling out sparkly toys or remain tightly aligned to near term TV services and try to answer the age old question – what is the real value in doing anything beyond the linear. What follows is my slides and below an approximate transcript of my talk.

Alchemy

Hello – thanks for inviting me to speak at this weeks event. My talk this morning explores the hybrid world of multi platform storytelling and I hope justifies why all creators need to be involved.vThere is something magical afoot. Alchemy defined as “any magical power or process of transmuting a common substance, usually of little value, into a substance of great value”. Sublime new ways to deliver stories across media channels. Alongside this we have basic chemistry. A science rather than an art. Using tried and tested formula, rinse and repeat digital.

The Transmedia Value Proposition.

Is it just about numbers or deeper engagement? Is it about support for linear properties or truly about how users influence and resonate with stories? Is it about creating loyalty, building communities, telling stories in cool ways, making money, reach, promotion, transformation, or all of the above? Multi platform falls into two simple camps. One. Last minute digital wrappers to help promote or support a linear property or Two. Something that exists on its own, isolated, limited reach with experimental, fail forward intentions. Yes it is still perceived that way by ‘the industry’ which prefers it’s audience to consume passively and in great numbers A rather unfocused and immature form. A transmedia youngster, nervously skipping across main stream film, tv and radio on the newly surfaced rocks of social media, mobile apps, games, physical events and next gen web sites. It’s a new story delivery mechanism still trying to gain widespread recognition. Something of a big risk if it ventures too far from a parental-like, well know ‘branded’ linear property. From my perspective this youngster is about 17 years old. An age based on widespread adoption of online in the mid to late 90s and a little later when I was presenting much the same 360 issues at the BBC. A time when the internet could just about stream low rez video, when one to one chat services were stumbling along and everything we have today was but a distant dream. 17 years on we still we face the same, adoption, issues.

Barriers to Points of Entry

Even though many trials have taken place such as one of my earliest at the BBC here, where a 40 day live web journey across Central Asia in 1997 was a combination of radio, 2 way web, TV, world service news and so on, large media organisations still often looking for the cheapest ‘easiest multi platform routes’. One of the biggest hurdles in early stage, integration discussions with traditional producers are the obligatory questions – ‘its too complex – a black art’, ‘why bother – I don’t use the stuff personally’, ‘we don’t want to detract from the show’, ‘it’s too expensive’ and the most important one which I want to tackle head on today is the old doozy ‘what will we really get in return’?

But first the bad news…

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Jan 022012
 

Originally published (& cross translated?) Oct 2011 in Wired Magazine ‘Change Accelerators‘ by Gary Hayes 5 of 5

Image by Gary Hayes

“Anyone up to battle aliens at the local museum tonight?”

It might sound like a farfetched idea at the moment, but this question may soon be another option rather than the old invitation to go see the latest 3D blockbuster at the Cineplex. The previous four posts talked about major experiential paradigm shifts, where more and more people desire to be ‘inside their entertainment’ —literally. The need to watch a show or read a good book in isolation will never go away, but right now, a new form of immersive entertainment is taking hold that sees users hyper active online and more and more participatory outside of their homes in unique, social story locative experiences. These shifts leads us to confront some basic questions, like, “What is an experience?” and “Are some experiences more engaging than others?” as well as some not-so-basic ones, the all-important, “Who will create all these new experiences?”

Designing any new media format is challenging, especially when the goal is to create highly engaging pervasive entertainment, that is more compelling than what already exists. Since the grammar has not yet been invented, for many, it presents a quantum creative leap. Right now, there is still conflicting opinion about what to call these new types of distributed stories—and let’s not mention the transmedia wars!

One of the greatest challenges for professional storytellers, who are accustomed to traditional linear plots, is to transition into a new platform. Rather than writing straight lines to be delivered from a stationary stage or studio, they are now being pushed to create content for a shifting stage or multiple shifting stages at once— often in different cities or time zones. Given the growing appetite for this type of connected, collaborative, dynamic content, the well-established line between audience and producer is becoming increasingly blurred. Right now it remains to be seen if conventional storytellers will adapt to these new demands, or if they will be outpaced by users themselves. User who are as voracious (and in some cases as adept) in creating content as they are in their insatiable consumption of it.

I was trawling the web the other week looking for a good description of levels of experience and how to design for them. What I discovered, however, is that, much like the missing lexicon, there isn’t a lot of science to this yet either. To fill the gap for now, I created a diagram to explore increasing levels of experience or engagement: It begins at the first level of physicality as the least complex and builds its way up through mental engagement, then social inclusion, and finally the emotional and spiritual levels. These last two being the hardest ones to deliver. Narrative games, like L.A. Noire and the earlier Heavy Rain and Indigo Prophesy, are brave examples of games trying to develop emotional, interactive responses (albeit skipping most of the real social & physical elements).

For audiences in the developed world, 3D and 4/5D cinema is gradually moving into the home and has the potential to make box office visits unnecessary – not worth the added effort. Audiences are starting to expect more value and more payoff for their play time (and trouble): For many, a trip out of the house to be entertained is a transmedia experience in itself. This forces new entertainment providers to seriously take these “audience journeys” into consideration. Likewise, since marketers have begun to tell more interesting stories across places and platforms, traditional writers need to get up to speed on these changes as well. Take for example, a recent holographic product display for Lego. These types of interactive promotional events work to increase the expectations across the board for what is possible in terms of entertainment.

However, film is also slowly catching up. The internationally renowned artists’ group, Blast Theory created a locative cinema project called A Machine to See With, which is a good early evolutionary example. Less about sensory immersion and more about a healthy combination of imagination and locative storytelling, the project allowed viewers to “live” inside a cinematic story unfolding on the streets of Brighton, England. According to the San Jose Biennale last year, the experience mixed documentary material, stolen thriller clichés, and the films of Jean-Luc Godard to let participants walk through the city and receive phone calls, stepping into bit parts or leading roles.

These steps are evidence that now would be a good time for these types of indie projects to start receiving the big-budget attention that clunkers like Phone Booth did. Entertainment is truly moving toward a variation of the infamous Star Trek Holodeck, a complete surround experience that fools our brains into thinking “this is really happening” or “we are really there.” Experiences can either be delivered through layered digital storyworlds, or peppered your everyday life through fragments and bits so that your real world starts to become the storyworld.

Parallel to this transmedia trend, there are complete virtual screen environments of game driven and socially focused spaces known as MMOGs (massively multiplayer online games). These alternate “worlds” are host millions of peoples ‘minds’, melded into the characters they are playing. Many approach a game with the same gravity as a method actor taking on a new role, wholly losing themselves in an alternate reality. The way people interact with these virtual selves is also rapidly changing – making new interface technologies like the Xbox Kinect and iPad/tablets some of the fastest-selling items in history.

These new forms of entertainment will require creators to become writers of place and time, creating relevant and game-like personal experiences. Let’s imagine a simple future? You are at home watching a story experience teaser on your surround 3D head mounted display. You decide to rent it with some friends and project it on your wall-size, AR home cinema screen. It sets up the challenges; you all become the heroes. You all don in-earphones and sporty AR glasses, which have tiny cameras connected to a 6G network that point out and down, tracking the external world, as well as body movements and speech.

You undergo a physical and mental training exercise in your home to prepare for the outdoor challenges. You walk outside and start to explore your city. The open park becomes a fully rendered fantasy environment; urban streets and buildings are layered with story and critical game information. You have X-ray vision; you can see inside coffee shops and stores. Past and future scenes play out before your eyes. You talk to digitally rendered, artificially intelligent characters who respond to specific questions. You work as a team and add your own story challenges. An iBrain scan afterwards let you record your experience for others in 3D.

Welcome to your personal experiential entertainment Holodeck. Of course, you can turn it off at any time and read a good book or watch a film. But that’s so 2011.

May 022011
 

I presented at Australia’s only Multi-Platform TV show last week and my talk was entitled ‘The Gamification of Social TV – Inspiring the Stories of Tomorrow’. A broad brushstrokes look at the current trend of motivating TV users already busy in social networks to ‘interact’. The slideshare presentation is embedded below and the flow of that is echoed in this post (which has a few other rich media embeds too).

The structure was based on the usual questions, a) What is Social TV ? b) What is Driving it ? c) The Value for the Users  d) What it Means for the Creators who enable it?  Hoping to help the small but quality audience understand the reasons to look at the value Social TV brings to the users vs jumping straight in on the ROI of getting more eyeballs on the existing programming. The Gamification aspect is about looking at the ‘playful’ techniques being used to turn audiences into users around traditional type TV programming – which is already becoming socially active.
The Gamification of Social TV

A Bit of History

In defining Social TV I tried to point out that this is nothing new. Ye Olde Days of Interactive (social) iTV circa 2002 which I was heavily involved in at the BBC although based on single screen interfaces still had at its heart the need to connect viewers to the TV channel but also to each other . I referred to it as SetTopBox iTV with a slice of social and the most popular (up to 8 million during some shows) services tended to be the ones that synched the TV to the interactive element – one small step for tech one giant leap for editorial . So Social TV is not new, perhaps it is up to level 3.0 – 1.0 being single screen iTV, 2.0 video on the web combined with social and chat features and 3.0 the hybrid, global two screen synch’d & app based services we are seeing more and more of now.

From an personal and historical context I also talked briefly about a few early iTV services such as XCreatures  broadband service I produced in 1999 and delivered to 100s of test homes in London over YesTV IPTV service & B T broadband backbone. The BBC’s first broadband programme to live audiences where for me the significant elements was the way users could not only navigate through fragmented clips but most importantly communicate and leave their own comments at the end – remember this is on the same screen using an IR keyboard!

What is Social TV?

In terms of defining the landscape of Social TV I called these early days baby-steps and divided it into three key movements

  • The Conversation of TV   – around the back-channel, recommendation and communities
  • The Gamification of TV   – making services playful, tribe building and participative
  • The Personalization of TV   – encouraging users contribution , making it personally relevant  & drawing in their stories

Social TV Is Not A Battle for Eyeballs

I went out of my way to stress that Social Media is not battling with Broadcast TV for the big Ad Dollar prize , this is not Facebook vs ABC or iTunes/GoogleTV vs BBC but potentially about  the real synergy , Live format TV and Social Media as perfect bedfellows. I continue after the presentation slides.

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