Aug 052010

…than Agencies and Filmmakers. Why do transmedia professionals have a difficult time achieving authentic and fluid transmedia stories and why do ‘existing’ branded entertainment & digital agencies tend towards lowest common denominator, tried and tested formulaic cross media, more about  PR, advertising and marketing than real ‘story’ focused engagement. Against this and rather paradoxically we have the ‘so-called’ audience/users actually telling their ‘life’ stories across platforms in a much more natural and engaging way.

Having produced and studied cross media since 1997 (“What do Audiences Want” BBC pres) one very large and persistent problem has always been creating authentic transmedia stories – natural story arcs and bridges that lead you onward through a long format, multi platform experience. So why is this? What techniques do makers of user created transmedia (you and I wearing our normal, connected people hats) employ that make it more interesting to their target audience and what can the ‘artificial storytellers’ learn?

Montecity July 4th Celebs

note: this is a personal/user POV condensed version of a  longer chapter intro section in my wip book Networked Media Storytelling: Transmedia Design and Production.

Networked Media StorytellingFirstly excuse the use of the term ‘audience’ in the title, it is still a convenient catch-all for the ‘great unwashed’, old BBC term 🙂 or rather, non-professional creators. Of course we are equals and participant users when using well designed professional transmedia services, but what do ‘users’ do when telling their own stories, that pro “experience creators” don’t do and may possibly never achieve?

Before we proceed this is not comparing apples and oranges as on one side we have ‘user created transmedia’ (UCT?) ‘life stories’ aimed at a specific ‘user group’ and on the other professionally created transmedia ‘fiction’ aimed at fans or niche ‘players’. Both have a target audience and both have stories to tell.


To help frame this even more a ‘simple’ example. A typical well networked person wants to share an experience, tell a single (or part of a longer arc) story to ‘their’ audience, lets say (deliberately mundane!) a personally amazing chance encounter with a strange overseas friend who share stories during a mini afternoon catch-up adventure & challenges at various city locations. Challenges being obnoxious shop assistants or overcharging taxi driver etc: 🙂 Remember this is their, Hero’s Journey, we all have one every moment of our lives, some bigger than others. In this example the main user has a pre-existing networked media story environment (amongst other networked elements) consisting of:

  1. 500 facebook friends
  2. run a well read blog
  3. 1200 twitter followers
  4. regular FourSquare user
  5. a heavily subscribed YouTube channel
  6. a busy personal flickr account
  7. use sms and skype a lot
  8. meet up with their physical social circle regularly

User Created Transmedia

Full size link – As the image illustrates I hope, and this is probably old hat to many reading this post, we can see how the rippling of moments (Laurel Papworth covers the social aspects of this in great detail in her post Ripple: Social Network Influencers) across the users ‘story world’ is constantly punctuated as the story develops. Also notice how the story world is setup – the Foursquare updates for example ‘this is where I am – if something happens you will already know…” reinforcing environment and back story. It is important also to take on-board that the user in this case feels the ‘need’ to share, part of their being is now about being constantly active in ‘their story’ network, that need will be reflected by by the network (aka a captive audience) – often it will be quick bursts of activity in real time, pushing messages outwards and occasionally responding to ‘influential’ friends as they know those contacts will proliferate the story even more. Notice also in the diagram that auto updates (twitter pushing into Facebook or flickr) are an acceptable part of more social storytelling as the need to know means a level of ‘spam’ acceptance. I could go on but this is to partly demonstrate how

Today’s socially networked users are evolving into the most talented and natural transmedia storytellers, able to fluently manipulate, create and respond across multiple ‘personally nurtured’ channels transforming in the process something very complex into something beautifully simple

OK the best pro-transmedia relies on the social media connections above to disperse their narratives but as with any form of 3rd party story, we see it is a temporary viral layer (movies, TV shows, games etc) on top of their deeper, personal life story…

The most successful element in user created transmedia are the natural bridges between channels and platforms whereas professional transmedia storytellers often force feed its audience explicit or contrived ‘in your face’ links

As usual my preamble has turned into a tome so without further ado here are ten sections that came from lectures I did on transmedia design at various presentations and higher ed establishments in 2008/9 which I will put up on my slideshare account along with some transmedia bible templates – highlighting some of the fundamental and underlying principles of an authentic networked story environment. I have compared responses to each from an UCT and professional creators perspective, across the specific kinds of interactions within the transmedia, social environment. These are all appropriate to drama, documentary and brand/ad transmedia design, production and storytelling.


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Apr 082010

What happens when the content cloud descends? Rocket science or people science?

Here is a really simple metaphor to illustrate the pervasiveness and societal significance of Augmented Reality. For the past 20 years humanity has been ‘floating’ its content (its personas, its information, life data, economy and social media) creating a distant, electronic cloud drifting, conceptually, way up above us. A cloud that is only reachable when we area able to connect to it via a variety of fixed and mobile ‘information’ screens, themselves connected to a veritable wormhole aka the global internet. (In reality hundreds of thousands of servers murmuring around the world with billions connected via hard wiring to receive richer media & experiences).

Up until now this ‘content cloud’ (different to cloud computing) has been abstractly disconnected from our physical lives – we read news about California earthquakes sitting in Australia, we view videos on the train of a concert three weeks ago at a local venue, we have personal social networks fragmented across time and space, play a game set in Hong Kong on a screen in London, Facebook groups comprised of half friended, remote avatars (the extended self ). 99% of the content in the cloud is not relevant to here and now (although a philosophical moot point if the now ‘is’ the participation and consumption itself?!)

In a near AR future, non geo-sensitive content will be perceived as incomplete

The Descending Cloud

But that cloud, has reached saturation, it no longer can keep afloat, there is just too much or rather just enough content to be temporally and geographically relevant. In other words there is so much ‘stuff’ up there that it now makes sense to access it, in a true Web 3.0 way, in real time, the present moment from anywhere you are. It will at its simplest level be Google Earth, slowly morphing out of your PC screen, growing to global scale and locking into place over the real world or Facebook mapping itself onto the billion users faces out in the street, advertisers reaching out to where ever you are, personalizing your everyday life with relevancy vs noise.

The always on cloud has now become very useful to a range of stakeholders. Marketeers, storytellers & users alike. Mists of information, media and experiences will engulf onto our cities and physical infrastructure, it will become a persistent fog that will coat everything in its path with layers of time and place stamped content. It will create a web of layers, of parallel narratives and realities and enhance our experiences.

OK fluffy intro over and this leads to some high level areas of a ‘consultancy’ whitepaper I did mid last year (which annoyingly I still can’t publish) but some key themes are explored below.

What does this mean on the ground, a ground covered in this fog of information. The transformative effect of our physical world being invaded by ‘cyberspace’ will make the current discussions about social network privacy seem like a children’s party. When the ‘web’ spreads into and permeates our real world will their be any hiding places. As portable screens become practical (think iPad with camera), pervasive wearable computing becomes commonplace and surveillance technology evolves to being ubiquitous and transparent – society will evolve way ahead of government and law, who powerless to stop the flow of information on connected screens will be even more powerless to stop this flow moving into real space?

“Augmented reality allows people to visualize cyberspace as an integral part of the physical world that surrounds them, effectively making the real world clickable and linked,” says Dr. Paul E. Jacobs, chairman and CEO of Qualcomm.

The videos below might give them ‘digital’ food for thought.

Beware: I would like to point out everything below has already happened or about to launch in the next few months.


From (a wearable computing lab in Toronto) – “Stewart Morgan discusses Architecture of Information on the show Daily Planet. It is a visionary short film showing augmented reality, and the implications of it’s applications.” From 2007


What kind of society will it be when our personal profiles, details and content are available to anyone in the street simply by scanning our face. That person across the train carriage, are they really playing an iPhone game or finding out ‘everything’ about you, well at least that which you have placed on the open web? A short video that will shock forward thinkers…

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