Jun 232008

As promised a rough transcript of a presentation I gave as part of the Digital Content Session at the Trilateral KANZ Broadband Summit in Seoul on 19 June 2008. It looks at the emerging nature of Social Media Entertainment but focuses on how creative professionals can keep up with ‘the crowd’. Covers how Film, TV and Radio are early types of non-participatory, localised, social media content but interactive digital experiences are inherently global. LAMP, forward thinking companies and other Australian initiatives develops new multi-platform services that reach out to international markets – video sharing communities, social virtual worlds, alternate reality games, locative stories, simulations and newer hybrid forms. Gary looks at Australian successes of the collision of animation, online games, film, mobile, broadband web and social media applications and the potential for co-development and cross-training between NZ, Korea and Australia.

Transcript below the SlideShare embed

Innovating Global Social Media Experiences and Collaborative Entertainment Production – © Gary Hayes 2008

An nyoung, Hello

Thank you for inviting me to speak at this Kanz Broadband Summit this morning and I hope I can inspire collaborative action in us all. My talk is based around one key premise that those who we used to call ‘our audience’ are now empowered and creating, I would suggest, more compelling relevant and original content than ‘us’ so-called creative professionals. I look at how the creative content industry can become relevant again and innovate global social media experiences and particularly how collaborative creative development between cultures and countries can bring back the initiative. I will also touch on the fact that the real paradigm shift of broadband is not about technology but about enabling creative collaboration in social groups (the industry and audience). I use the ‘them and us’ metaphor for ease of presentation because of course they are us!

Don’t worry this is not another ‘community-created-content-will-take-over the world’ talk, there have been many of those because that has already happened, this is about a co-creative society sharing it’s media and creating tools to make the process much easier. A high bandwidth wired up world gives them the many-to-many distribution channels and with community created tools for self-publishing they are entertaining each other and creating flexible companies with a skilled and transient human resource. What does this mean for industry and creative professionals? The good news is that ‘they’, are showing industry (inside and across national borders) the best processes in how to create original and innovative content. We, the creative professionals must take note – be as flexible, fleet of foot and inventive as the ‘crowd’ are becoming.

We are hard wiring the world and humans when given the means to communicate over open, high bandwidth channels will share their stories and develop loyal followings from 100s to 100 000s of those who want to be engaged by them. Trying to regulate and halt the growth of social media will also be at our peril. Force majeure will mean ‘they’ will develop their own connected communities with or without telcos, governments or entertainment companies. But that is another story, what remains are new, niche ‘born to be wired’ communities of interest mashing-up content, engineering better software and deciding between themselves what products will succeed in the marketplace. How can industry emulate this force of nature?

Now everyone is a filmmaker, broadcaster and storyteller. The quaint but already outdated methods of distributing ‘stories’ that relied on reaching ‘captive’ audiences by broadcasting ‘at’ them in one direction, we can liken to someone watering a tamed forest with a spray hose. That walled forest was once refreshing but they have quickly learned that outside this wall they have the ability to ‘grow their own’ they will, with or without us –  and their combined wisdom dwarfs any sized company or government organization.

Playful Content R&D. Innovation is not about delivering linear tv and film over the wired network to a pc or onto a mobile phone. That is the utility business not the creative one.
The participatory audience are showing the way in how they create hybrid forms from film, tv, games and web applications. They often do this through behaviour rather than engineering. They mesh the way they consume media. Sending Facebook updates from their mobile phone while half watching a TV programme but talking about it on twitter while listening to a friends music playlist and so on. New generations learn that they can cherry pick key parts of services making the new form better than the source as this diagram illustrates, it is not about the content, display or distribution but about the format they enable. The way the community are creating this content is a model for industry and the content and telco industries need to move beyond old business models and look at cross-media form rather than distribution

We have to think beyond mono-media. By that I mean see media as just a single film or TV episode or a mobile game. In fragmented markets where participant audiences spend time across hundreds of touch points we need to provide our stories for them across those devices and channels.

Peter Jackson said “I think we’re on a threshold of a new way to tell stories… It’s a form of entertainment that’s not a game and it’s not a film. It’s a filmic game experience.”

As an example quite a few companies and academic organisations in Australia are now developing compelling hybrid forms, such as TV and Games. This cross-reality mix is showing real potential as the live dynamic element of TV utlises the immersive quest like elements of online games. We must also be careful of assuming all interactivity is equal. There is a big difference between on one-hand, point-and-click ‘broadcast-interactivity’ or games where there are preset outcomes (watch a video or hear a sound) and on the other hand, spaces and places where the community can promote, comment or co-create with the original creators.

Moving on a little, I would like to quote from Building a Creative Innovation Economy, A Cultural Ministers Council report from February of this year.

“The creative sector must engage with the community to ensure ongoing support and survival in a global environment where there is increasing competition for consumers’ disposable time and dollars from an ever-expanding choice of leisure services and products. In this sense, user created content on social media web services such as YouTube and MySpace can be seen as competition for cultural audiences’ attention.…The Australian Film, Television and Radio School’s Laboratory of Advanced Media Production (LAMP) is another example of an innovative approach to training. The program enables the conception and development of multimedia content and services in a live-in setting, facilitating collaboration between project teams and mentors. The four stage process equips participants with the tools they need to create compelling interactive content that meets the needs of their audiences and marketplaces. LAMP offers participants a healthy mix of creativity, business awareness, technical skills and audience awareness.”

So I am keen to talk about one of many innovative initiatives in Australia to aid the development of new form content. LAMP (The Laboratory for Advanced Media Production) was formed in 2005 through AFTRS and comes from a tradition of hothouse development initiatives in the UK, at the BBC and the American Film Institute’s Digital Content lab. My experience is that Australia has some of the most creative thinkers in new emerging media content and they are very keen to work on creative vs just technological collaborations.

Since its inception LAMP has propelled over 61 projects and transformed hundreds of participants at workshops and seminars. The reason the hothouse, live-in-labs work is that they create small social networks with a complimentary mix of great story tellers, innovative technicians, interactive designers and producers. They also take these time poor people away from the normal day to day activities and allow them to take risks. This is exactly what the community is doing and who naturally take risks. The more we allow international teams to come together and take risks, the better for all and innovation will result.

Here is a short sample of some social media projects that have been developed at LAMP. Four example projects and two from the last collaborative Australia/New Zealand lab. Portable ghosts explores games that cross from web to real world to mobile. Master Raindrop looks at the combination of online games, mobile and real life movement training. Thursday’s Fictions explores spirituality and literature in a social virtual world and Wild Ark tells stories using mobile devices around zoos and other immersive real life environments.

Our second was developing seven ABC TV original and existing IP of which many ideas are now being implemented in that organisation.

Many projects developed around the world now create content that the community can take up, give them the tools or the forums to continue the stories so they can build and grow the original idea. Most LAMP projects now take this onboard and see the interaction with the audience as a primary driver behind their original idea. A good example of this is Bush IPTV – a pilot LAMP is producing for a broadband TV service in remote indigenous communities in far north Queensland.

Many projects also fall into the ‘simulation’ camp, creating virtual spaces that allow scenarios for entertainment, research and social collaboration. Here is a small selection of testimonials from recent participants.

I can highly recommend LAMP to anyone with a great idea looking to turn it into a success. It was a totally immersive and focused, overwhelming experience – nothing like I’ve experienced before The impossible is possible It was a wonderful creative experience where I believe we were able to generate a wealth of truly new ideas. Marvellous! A creative vibrant practical atmosphere The lab exceeded my expectations…The way everyone helped each other out in an environment that was friendly, affectionate and creative allowed us to take our project in ways never thought of before. This has definitely been one of the best experiences of my life. Thankyou! I loved loved loved it! Concept of LAMP is wonderful and it was above and beyond expectation LAMP helped solidify confidence in the concept and creating a truly viable cross media platform LAMP 08 was the most amazing professional development experience of my life!

The role of media producers now is to create compelling cross-media immersive entertainment experiences for global audiences. The producer as aggregator of content/curator – creating the conditions to activate audiences.

Games I would suggest are the most social media. A recent report from Bond University said that in Australia social and casual games are now the most dominant with only 19% of all gamers preferring to play alone with more than 56% preferring to play with others.

That suggests why the merging of traditional online social networks such as myspace and Facebook with game worlds are growing so quickly. I personally have been involved in the creation of some of these spaces inside virtual worlds with Telstra’s and ABC TVs presence in Second Life (a great portent of future socio/economic virtual worlds) with BigPond now the highest globally for all brands in second life.

There are great opportunities for collaboration and the creation of a new form of global Social Virtual World like Korea’s Cyworld potentially stretching into English speaking countries –  and to reiterate the social aspect again, 84% of Australians think that playing together is important for forming family connections with more than half saying games are more social forms of entertainment than other media.

To jump back to the notion of the hybrid form again. Much of this is reflecting my definition of web 3.0, the live or synchronous web where we communicate and co-create in real time. Social interaction through virtual worlds, interactive broadband TV or web and mobile applications can coexist and mingle in this world.

Australia for instance already have a range of companies that are pushing the envelope of what new form entertainment is. Hoodlum for example have just won BAFTA awards for their extended entertainment titles alongside Lost and BBC Spooks and like many LAMP projects they are creating ‘social entertainment’ which is about connecting communities with common goals and quests and stimulating the wisdom of the engaged crowd.

In 2007 Australia had around 40 traditional game companies who have produced more than 200 games resulting in $100mill in exports –  notables include Ty The Tasmanian Tiger and De Blob but we still see the growth and dominance of MMOGs many originating in Asian countries and proliferating in Australia

AFTRS is pioneering new forms too. Alongside it’s world renowned TV and Film courses, AFTRS is developing a range of foundational and specialised graduate courses that will explore games, virtual environments and innovative new forms. They will explore the link between story and participatory applications and how interactive media can be made more ‘cinematic’ and immersive. At post graduate level it is planning to offer a project based course that encourages pioneering projects and inspires innovation.”

Australia, New Zealand and Korea are a wonderful mix of original thinking, great test-bed participant audiences and world leading technology. Able to leapfrog over legacy telecommunications we see in other parts of the world it is possible for ground breaking new formats to be developed in partnerships between the three countries. Australia and New Zealand particularly bring world leading innovative media forms to the mix.

Finally social networks have come about to both connect family and friends but also out of business and a collaborative need –  we as content producers must be very focused on this to be relevant to the audience that are doing it themselves. Governments and creative industries can become allies in this equation and become authentic co-creators of social media spaces where the voice and creativity of the ‘audience’ can play out.

Nations who have key creative synergies, technical innovation and highly motivated participant audiences to collaborate and develop new forms together. Which is why I suggest we endeavour to create an initial rapid content R&D lab between the three countries be set up this year. The outcome of these will be many real projects a selection of which can be developed to market.

Thank you

© Gary Hayes 2008


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