May 252010

…and the truth about ARGs.

Now that transmedia is everywhere and the Producers Guild of America have turned the ‘transmedia producer’ into a bona fide (or at least recognised) professional role one thing that rears it’s cross-media head is, who and where are the best transmedia producers going to come from? I have spent a good part of the last 15 years mentoring & training traditional & non-traditional media types in multiple platform content and now question where the best producers of this multifaceted ‘new’ content will come from – academia, film, book authors, social media consultants, game designers, TV, web developers, radio, advertisers, young, old, not yet born? Read on, a ‘hypothetical’ interview follows 🙂 and this is an opinion piece I cannot put in my book or lecture about!


Firstly what is it and does it actually mean anything at all? It is fantastic that the term ‘transmedia’ is now so widespread across the industry and with the official credit (attached ironically to film primarily) but is it a bubble about to burst – is what we have come to know as ‘transmedia’ in danger of being blown out of all proportion.

Here are some of the problems:

  1. Everyone is a transmedia producer – yes you’ve made a website that is attached to a TV show, your a TP. Created a mobile game that has a line or two from the comic, you’re a TP. No one will police this – is it a truly integrated story environment, does it have clever plot links or consistent characters?. A TP is a decathlete (multi-skilled, hard to get a one word answer about what they do in a bar!), gone is nice and simple mono media, a TV producer makes TV shows, film director directs films. You can be a TP if you merge your story across two or more media areas? But more on this later in the post.
  2. Transmedia as a concept is not focused. OK I know Henry Jenkin’s original definition has been spread around the web but it is a definition that is too broad. Perhaps I should exercise my floccinaucinihilipilification and suggest that something that tries to describe everything is actually worthless? Transmedia like a black hole in the universe it tries to describe sucks in everything that has come before (cross media, 360, social media, augmented reality, pervasive gaming and so on). At the other end of this spectrum citing Matrix or Blair Witch or other brand to justify the ‘field’ as mainstream it becomes apparent that the quoted definition itself is rather vacuuous. To quote Jenkins again from an LA Times article, transmedia – “means telling a story across different platforms, each element of which may or may not stand on its own but contributes to an enriched, dynamic, more participatory and “lifelike” experience.”
  3. We are still in the hype phase. Basically anything cool and different those transmedia types (and I point the finger at myself too btw) will take ownership of. I even heard the other day someone say Transmedia is the new Social media and augmented reality even gets a look in. I am not surprised those still getting their head around the ‘story’ potential of social networks or a cute mobile game find it all rather, dis-jointed. Also the increase in experimental and experiential ‘event’ based marketing suddenly meant transmedia is now inextricably linked with brand extensions (TV, film, product) – anything that is not a linear, branded film or TV show. I think for those who live in the transmedia echo chamber this has been the case for many years.
  4. It feels rather academic. Trans-media used to be an alternative semi-academic term to ‘cross-media’ (trans, from the latin ‘crossing’) but is now used to describe everything, non-linear, interactive, extension, participatory, social, brand, play, multi-platform, pervasive and so on. The idea that stories would be told in different places goes back thousands of years but in a modern media context a rich target for study and theorizing. Along came Henry Jenkins who coined the term transmedia almost a decade after the first basic cross-media incarnation. Henry admirably self confesses as being ‘too busy lecturing and presenting about transmedia, to partake’ of the industrial flavour of transmedia “some of it is not well done yet”.
  5. It is still a teenager. It has grown up before it’s time and become a troublesome big headed teenager without any true home and turned into a dysfunctional orphan at once protectively nurtured by over possessive academics, hijacked by experimental ad agencies and hardly understood by flailing stuck-in-time broadcasters. Originally cross-media was an intellectually stimulating concept – memories of mid 90s, pioneering BBC days also my old friend Brian Seth-Hurst who is “Referred to as “the father of cross platform” Hurst coined the term in 1998 as MD of Convergent Media at Pittard Sullivan”. Earlier definitions just talked about story based ‘crossing platforms’ element but since the exponential increase in social media as a place for millions to dwell it has suddenly had the participatory/social part added and also a suggestion that it is now a more integrated form of storytelling, I suppose I should have added a level 5 to my 5 year old (but about to be removed!) wikipedia cross media definition!
  6. Danger of being hijacked – Alongside all of this we have a ‘clique’ of so-called experts who try to describe something which is so simple on one hand (stuff on multiple platforms) yet so ambiguous on the other (fragmented narrative effervescence)  – time will expose the Transmedia echo chamber I suppose.

Of course I have nothing against the term per-say in the absence of alternatives having created transmedia entities/sites like or or – all transmedia in focus – but lets start thinking about the emperors clothes. Indeed the Producers Guild definition of the TP, however bold in its intention, is still a little ambiguous about the precise elements of the role to say the least

A Transmedia Narrative project or franchise must consist of three (or more) narrative storylines existing within the same fictional universe on any of the following platforms:  Film, Television, Short Film, Broadband, Publishing, Comics, Animation, Mobile, Special Venues, DVD/Blu-ray/CD-ROM, Narrative Commercial and Marketing rollouts, and other technologies that may or may not currently exist. These narrative extensions are NOT the same as repurposing material from one platform to be cut or repurposed to different platforms.

A Transmedia Producer credit is given to the person(s) responsible for a significant portion of a project’s long-term planning, development, production, and/or maintenance of narrative continuity across multiple platforms, and creation of original storylines for new platforms. Transmedia producers also create and implement interactive endeavors to unite the audience of the property with the canonical narrative and this element should be considered as valid qualification for credit as long as they are related directly to the narrative presentation of a project.

Transmedia Producers may originate with a project or be brought in at any time during the long-term rollout of a project in order to analyze, create or facilitate the life of that project and may be responsible for all or only part of the content of the project. Transmedia Producers may also be hired by or partner with companies or entities, which develop software and other technologies and who wish to showcase these inventions with compelling, immersive, multi-platform content.


But this post is not just about the word – there are hundreds of blog posts even now still trying to really get under the surface of what transmedia means and it is too easy to fall down the semantic rabbit hole of terminology and the endless subjective splits between academics, industry and wannabes. Perhaps something more concrete can be found in the ‘transmedia stuff’ itself. What is this stuff and who is making it?

Continue reading »

Nov 172008

Another selection of my items cross-posted from another of my original blogs, lamp watercooler.

The Ulitmate Mashup Launches – Sport, MMOG & Social Virtual World – 16 Oct 08

Football Superstars is the world’s first Virtual Football World. An entire online virtual world designed by football fans exclusively for football fans, where you can enjoy a massively multiplayer experience on your PC.

A service that I have been keeping an eye on because of it’s skill in combining passionate sporting fan behaviour with sticky gaming and persistent virtual worlds is Football Superstars. As well as the EA sports game type component there is the ubiquitous inworld micro-economy, buying virtual sporting goods ala Second Life and it has enormous potential for advergaming, cross branding, sponsorship and of course cross-reality (real footy alongside virtual – and combined leader boards etc:). I was one of the ones on the beta group and a few days after launch, there are 3000 registering every day with 100 000 already using it. This has been in the planning stages for 4 years and the team of 80 developers are about to make a big splash methinks! From the UK Telegraph

Football Superstars is a cross between Second Life, the virtual world game, and traditional football games such as Championship Manager and the Fifa football series.

Players can download the game and develop their football skills before participating in full 11-a-side games and, if they become sufficiently skilled, being picked for representative games and eventually international tournaments.

Off the pitch, players will be able to socialise and spend their wages in a virtual world of restaurants, bars, clubs and shops.

The Nottingham-based startup, has invested more than £5m over two years in creating Football Superstars with a team of 80 programmers.

Although the game is free to play, players will also be encouraged to spend real money on virtual clothes, boots and cars.

All the players on the pitch will be controlled by real players and they will be able to call to one another in real time using headsets and using 3D sound technology.

An unlimited number will be able to play at any one time.

The game will be another addition to the profitable Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG) market. World of Warcraft, a fantasy virtual game, is the most popular and has almost 11 million paying players worldwide.

More than 100,000 people have registered and the company yesterday claimed that new registrations were running at more than 3,000 a day.

Games such as FIFA 09, produced by Electronic Arts, have recently introduced online elements that allow players on opposite sides of the world to compete against one another.

iPhone as Serious Musical Instrument? – 7 Nov 2008

There have been a few iPhone apps that suggest where things are heading, not necessarily with the iPhone as musical instrument (it is still a small toy) but with musical instruments of the future. The multi touch, inertia driven interface at larger scale is going to be very interesting as well as the proximity and connected element to those around you. I have been using toys like the realistic guitar and various drum machines and percussion effects for over a year now, but do like the new crop of instruments such as the free uFlute and the Ocarina from Smule. The video below shows the ocarina being used in ensemble mode, I am still learning the key combinations to get a decent range on it, but it is starting to feel, musical! Back to my ‘non virtual’ harp, soprano sax, guitars, aftertouch keyboard midi controllers, clarinet etc: yes the real ones!

I must say though one of the fantastic features of Ocarina though is the global view ‘lurk’ mode. When I activated this it started to feel a little like the opening of the film contact – a distant globe rotates and around it hovers music from individual players (in countries around the world) who are using the Ocarina in real time, and given the dreamy, reverberant sound it began to feel like humanities call out into the void…quite special. The video I did above captures a sense of it and it reminds me forcibly of Twittervision and the like.

Ocarina is the first true musical instrument created for the iPhone. Both experts and beginners will be amazed by this innovative player. Ocarina is sensitive to your breath, touch and movements, making it even more versatile than the original. Unlike other musical applications, there are no pre-compiled riffs so musicians will find unlimited opportunities for self-expression. Advanced options allow you to choose between diatonic, minor and harmonic scales. Or channel your favorite video game adventurer with Smule’s Zeldarian mode.

Also, like most Smule products, Ocarina is a social application. Tap on the globe icon and you will see and hear other Ocarina players throughout the world. The globe view will highlight the source of the music. Rate your favorite performances so that others may benefit from your judgment. Name your Ocarina if you want listeners around the world to identify your performances. With this robust application beautiful music is created, appreciated and shared.

Japanese Street Ads Detect You – 26 Oct 2008

A bit Minority Report Advertising beta 0.9a – Using motion detection on the street in Tokyo to advertise a Swedish Reality TV program called Big in Japan. I love the idea that your motion past a full length ad hoarding causes the image to come to life (well it starts flashing cameras and makes you the star) but that incessant screaming – please! No! It wasn’t clear if actual pictures are taken of the unsuspecting pedestrians, but heh it doesn’t really matter – they were famous for 5 seconds at the local bus shelter.

These billboards are equipped with motion detectors and speakers. As people go by they set off crazy japanese fans, cheering and taking pictures of them.

Ad supported A-list Web Programming at NBC – 9 Oct 2008

NBC have taken a bold step in making it clear that it is ramping up quality programming exclusively for the web reported by AdAge. Although the episodes are in the 4-5 minute range they will have high production values as if made for prime time TV. The whole initiative is seeking key advertisers to be there at the outset to fund some of the costs. From the article…

Big-name talent
Brent Weinstein, CEO of 60 Frames Entertainment, said having more big-name talent attached to more web-based projects has enhanced the appeal of these shows to advertisers. “Given the choice between really good content and really bad or average content, more often than not, consumers are choosing the good. And advertisers are learning it’s a more important way to reach their intended consumers,” he said. Added Mr. Death ( VP, NBC Universal Digital Studio): “Perhaps 12 months ago, A-list talent wouldn’t jump into anything in terms of a web series. But now it’s OK, and in fact they’re coming to us with ideas and projects.”

and it seems like they are attracting big names in heritage media circles pulling top script writers into this new medium which can only be a good thing as in truth the further we move from wannabees or web designers writing stories for the web the better – now onto games 🙂

But unlike a lot of web-based TV shows,’s offerings use name actors and TV-quality production values. The lineup, co-produced with 60 Frames Entertainment, includes everything from reality competition series to scripted dramas from high-profile writers such as “The Bourne Ultimatum” scribe Scott Burns (comedic drama “Love at First Sight & Other Dangers”) “Oz” creator Tom Fontana (crime drama “Men With Guns: The Assassins”) and “Big Fish” screenwriter John August (quirky comedy “The Remnants”).

LOST Extends Virtually into Second Life – 24 Sept 2008


There have been a few TV shows that have offered new and immersive experiences into collaborative virtual worlds notably MTV with Laguna Beach, The Hills, Pimp My Ride and others into as well as CSI and BigBrother (that I wrote about 2 years ago) into Second Life – and lots more. The latest entrant looks far more suited as a match for Second Life, as it more naturally reflects the story environment – being a rather deserted, desert island.

As it says in the video about this more experiential extension to LOST – “explore the island by yourself” – “or with other fans” – “find secret places” – “live like a lostie” – “or help the dharma initiative” etc etc: Couldn’t see a lot of story in this build so I suspect created by a small peripheral team?

More info at SL Lost.


 Posted by on October 23, 2008 at 9:44 pm  Add comments

Install Shockwave PlugIn First from here. GARY’S MASHUP MACHINE v0.6

In progress Shockwave as part of a bigger – format machine series.

Instructions: To get you thinking about new online services

  • SERVICE: Click web app 1 then web app 2. Invent a service incorporating both
  • GENRE: Click niche. Rejig the hybrid service to fit this interest area
  • OPTION: Click virtual world. Can this service cross-over into the metaverse?
  • CAPTURE: Write your million dollar idea down!