Aug 262010

“We live in extraordinary times and the last five years particularly, a renaissance of storytelling. We are, as we were pre-printing press days when we equally shared, enhanced and distributed the fragments of our engaging stories. Today’s technology has delivered a new spirit of connectivity, a democratisation of story given back to the ‘many’. Storytelling not at walking speed but the speed of light. You equipped to deal with this?”

OK enough opening fluff and straight to the point. I was having a chat yesterday with a colleague at Screen Australia trying to answer a simple question. Cue music…

If you have a story project, that’s a little bit ‘strange’, who ya gonna call?

Magic Point Maroubra LX3 dBW 26

Not Fearing to Tread - Photo cc GHayes

(Strange = new format, transmedia, innovative, social, game-like, fragmented.) If you have a film and TV project and you need assistance to develop the script, help with the production, work through the characterisations, get advice on Red or 3D etc: there are a zillion consultants, vocational educational courses and many willing wannabe advisors to draw on. Film, Radio & TV particularly have 100+ years of maturity so it is also pretty easy to incrementally innovate, floating in watertight boats on tried and tested waters. Sadly the options for story rich projects that fall outside the straight and narrow linear path, have a more difficult time.

To be professionally guided or get the skills to create new storytelling formats you can

  1. Get in touch with professional agencies already doing this stuff. But they are often rather busy making ends meet and engrossed in ‘transmedia’ marketing big budget or existing story brands to really give you the time and advice you need.
  2. Find a traditional academic ‘digital story – type’ course (marketed as a world first) in your local area. Spend 6 months or longer working with ‘we need to do this stuff’ academics and theorists or at best, passionate aggregators of the best ‘new story’ project trailers masquerading as educational case studies. Also these course tend to be trials and under resourced – erm not the views of me with lecturer hat on, local employers 😉
  3. Find a local specialist individual who ‘seems’ to know about this new space – very few good experienced, passionate folk about and also a bit hit and miss.
  4. Seek out a handful of seminars, short workshops or networking events around the world. There are actually very few and they are often of the evangelising vs really getting down to nitty gritty ‘storytelling’ processes.

So here we are, a great dawning of transmedia storytelling, innovative new services and products yet still no true, deep development initiatives? Academia and industry either too money-busy, unable to take risk or focused on the past to really fill in this void?

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Feb 132008

1 iFob Me Off

I have had a working phone iPhone in Oz now for a few months – currently jailbroken 1.1.2’s – for R&D purposes only 😉

One of my favourite applications is ‘installer’ which is the portal to a vast array of free, community created, grass roots applications. One popped up yesterday in Recent Apps, iFob which intrigued me.

“wireless, social, real – turn your iPhone into a social network WiFi beacon”.

OK its not rocket science, nothing more than a simple wifi stumbler/stalker app but what sets it apart is the element of exposing elements of your personality, via statements, photos, age, gender to those around you. In other words a sort of RSVP/Facebook on the go, to those around you in the WiFiverse.

Of course the real killer app’ness is that it works the other way – you walk into a crowded Starbucks full of ‘charming’ laptop, iTouch and iPhone users, you pop open iFob and sample who is there. I think the ‘comment’ part is the most powerful aspect, sort of broadcast SMS, and can imagine lots of whispering ‘are you the one who likes playing Pink Floyd while dancing around in the bathroom, dressed as a Panda’ (or similar!). I am off to Sydney CBD on Saturday and will be actively trying out my iFob on unsuspecting, I mean consenting iFobbers.

2 Chasing the Dragon


Those who follow LAMP will know that on the first day of our residentials we play a cross-reality game. A sort of locative scavenger hunt for story fragments in parallel and linked to a similar environment in the virtual world. Great fun and designed to introduce people to the location, bit of team bonding and game play experimentation. Details on our wiki here. We think these mixed-reality, game based services are going to get big and it comes as no surprise to see what looks like a ground-breaking model being launched in Japan today for the next couple of weeks.

Called “Treasure Quest: Enoshima – Treasure of the Dragon” (the link takes you to the Japanese site) is designed by a company who plan tourist ‘hunt game’ events. This one is free to all DS owners who fancy travelling to a small island south of Tokyo and playing the game over a six hour period, wandering as teams and individuals around the real and virtual spaces. The various puzzle clues are contained at key locations on the island and transmitted via WiFi to the DS’s which also has a virtual version of the terrain. Now to check for cheap flights to Sydney to Tokyo, well perhaps not.

Orig – Pink Tentacle

3 Second Skin

Been waiting for a definitive documentary on the phenomena behind the vast swathes of humanity moving into Social Virtual Worlds and MMOGs and this looks like it. A trailer has just been posted on YouTube and already got 23 000 hits in a day, a feat in itself, and it looks like it tackles the subject head on with depth and sensitivity vs sensationalism. It features Mr. Clickable Culture himself, Tony Walsh “There’s so many people involved in this” who was over here as a LAMP mentor last year. Enjoy, more blurb after the embed of “A Documentary on virtual worlds and the gamers who inhabit them.”

“Second Skin takes an intimate look at computer gamers whose lives have been transformed by the emerging genre of Massively Multiplayer Online games (MMOs). World of Warcraft, Second Life, and Everquest allow millions of users to simultaneously interact in virtual spaces. Second Skin introduces us to couples who have fallen in love without meeting, disabled players who have found new purpose, addicts, Chinese gold-farming sweatshop workers, wealthy online entrepreneurs and legendary guild leaders – all living in a world that doesn’t quite exist.”

Jun 052007

“Mixed Reality is the merging of real world and virtual worlds to produce new environments where physical and digital objects can co-exist and interact in real-time. - Wikipedia

Mixed Reality Storm 01 - orig photo by Andrew P Brooks

“I think we are really approaching a perfect storm, a mixed reality perfect storm, because we are seeing several things happening. The first one is a long history of games based on TV and films, the foundations are already there. Another force creating this storm is virtual worlds, particularly the exponential growth of customisable ones and more importantly external integration into them including live performance. The third force is audience behaviour. They are involved in far more simultaneous activity particularly between broadband web and TV. The fourth element to this perfect storm is actually what is happening to TV and film, especially live reality TV becoming more game like and film becoming fantasy based. All of these forces together are creating a really potent mix” – Gary Hayes 17 May 2007

While I am in ‘share talk’ mode here is a brief sixteen minute capture of a presentation I gave to a hundred or so Aussie media folk on 17 May recorded live at the at the AGL Theatre, Museum of Sydney (MoS). It took a while to put up as I ran a LAMP residential in Tasmania in between and a bunch of SL work. There were also great talks by colleagues Tony Walsh and Guy Gadney. (orig sea scene photo by Andrew P Brooks)

MP3 recording time 15:46 (7.7MB) Click to listen

Enhanced Podcast – M4v with 30 slides. (8.5MB) Click to download


A short 16m introduction from Gary Hayes who looks at the four forces that are coming together to create perfect conditions for this hybrid form of entertainment. He looks back 10 years at early inhabited TV 3D world experiments when he was an innovation producer at the BBC and then forward to the latest cross-over services where TV properties become virtual and where the virtual world appears inside traditional forms. He looks at virtual worlds such as, second life, PS3 Home, Habbo Hotel, Neopets etc: and how properties such as Big Brother, Laguna Beach, The Hills, Pimp My Ride and a range of consumer brands that are creating engaging and immersive hybrid entertainment.


All LAMP podcasts are also published through the iTunes store.

Audio processed by G Hayes

Apr 192007

A great 3rd day at Milia and a much broader spectrum of issues discussed around the many Milia halls. It started with the world’s most advanced broadband nation with Dr. Hyun-Oh Yoo giving us a rare insight into the worlds most culturally integrated social network – Cyworld in South Korea. This was the first time he had shared some of this information with a European audience (almost dwarfing the impact from and Asian perspective, Peter Li’s IPTV talk later in the day). Fighting through a hay fever Dr. Yoo talked in a gravelly voice about the ubiquitous infrastructure, and how it allows Cyworld to be accessible across the super-broadband fiber pipes and always-on wireless networks. The figures surrounding the service, particularly penetration make MySpace look like a niche activity, well not quite. But here goes:

20 million subscribers
40% of TOTAL population
96% of 20-29 year olds use Cyworld regularly
20 billion monthly page views and 22 mill monthly unique visitors
$300 000 in sales of digital items daily
100 000 video uploads daily
210 million songs sold, currently 6 mill per month


That last figure makes it second only to iTunes for volume of music sales – who says social networks don’t have business models. Dr Yoo also presented a slide that compared the service to some of our more recognisable web 2.0 brands – it is interesting how Second Life is up there with YouTube and flickr, more so as the Cyworld virtual reality is extremely Habbo in style vs true 3D.


A refreshing follow-up to this talk was an uncomfortably titled “The Future of Interactive TV”. Eloquently steered and captained by Brian Seth-Hurst (who is also the key enabler also for the International Interactive Emmy Awards of course– see later) it became apparent that labelling TV services that have an interactive component as Interactive TV is now too limiting and emphasises TV too much – perhaps if the service ‘€˜only’€™ appeared on the one (TV) screen and all interaction took place there fine, but these are really in the minority and most are via mobile sms, telephony, stretched out across many platforms (TV is a part of the mix) or synchronised with online. There were some great new kid on the block examples of iTV and ones that started to merge media . Kim Lindholm from Motion Avenue in Finland showed something on the edge of my “mixed reality” continuum (a soon to be published post) a game/quiz show from Vietnam that has viewers appear as avatars in a virtual audience who get knocked out if they get answers wrong – of course the audience pays per question. He was followed by the grandfather of iTV Robert Chua who presented a more philosophical view of iTV. He questioned the definition of iTV as a relevant term when the same type of services are controlled by or fed to PC, mobile and TV via broadband pipes. The second panel in this session looked at enablers like Microsoft and OpenTV who themselves appear to be struggling with the melding of broadcast and broadband, games and linear.

Then a day of pitching started. Top and tailed by commercial entities that sandwiched a swathe of public service BBC 360 panels. My LAMP friend and colleague Jackie Turnure was pitching in the most defined session being Cross-Platform Brand Marketing. The three propositions trying to fulful a tight brief from Ogilvy and American Express were in brief terms, 1) an amazing race clone, 2) a chroma key ‘card ride’ and 3) an Alternate Reality Game. Without showing any bias I personally thought the ARG from Jackie the much stronger in terms of reach and originality but more importantly having a story (we shall see tomorrow who won).


These and many of the pitches that followed from the BBC panels seemed very light on narrative and most were function over form, without clearly defined structure or focus. There is a sense that many ad agencies and traditional broadcasters (as I said in the last post) are seeing Emerged Media as a way to allow users to participate, sometimes I feel to the detriment of the actual integrity of the proposition. We may be creating too many empty shells for viewers to fill without really drawing them in first with a great story. Frank Boyd again led key BBC folk though some less than enticing pitches. I thought the first two panels one on 360 docs and the second on 360 participation actually seemed interchangeable. All the doc props involved viewer input and the community ones were themed around documentary topics like the environment. So more blurring of labels as form, function and genre meld.


By the afternoon I was suffering from conference fatique, that moment when panels and panellists start to blur into one another. Luckily the IPTV vs Internet TV was a great idea and Justin Hewlett and others showed off a great cross section of the new walled garden TV, data and telephony services. After a while though all the badly designed interfaces started to blur into each other too. It became apparent in these sessions that penetration for many pockets of services around the world in the 50-100 thousand audience range is still very low and not significant due to two key things:

1 You can get most of the IPTV offerings via traditional TV distribution channels, so nothing really new to entice viewers (it was cited that 50% of subs were actually for the telephony and data elements and not the TV!)
2 The topic of the panel, the wild west internet is now delivering a much broader and compelling range of audio, video content.

The panel topic echoed a talk I gave to an IPTV ‘hyped’ audience in Sydney nearly two years ago (and cited on a few IPTV info sites) – the main premise being, the cats out of the bag, Internet TV (or broadband TV as I called it), the wild west way to get your TV morsels means IPTV may only have another 12 months or so to deliver on its promise, or be gone for good. As mentioned earlier I found Peter Li, the VP from BesTV in China illuminating if only for the stats he presented as context to IPTV potential in China.

CNNIC report for China July 2006 Internet users 130m. 40% growth for past 6 years Broadband users 80m Youth: 18.5 hrs/wek online vs 6.7 hrs/wk on TV Over 220 online video portals, 500 000 clips uploaded daily Concurrancy of viewers watching video online 500 000. ADSL 2.0+ goes to over 10 million users

The keynote of the day, after I managed to rush out and get my glad rags from the dry cleaners, was Jana Bennett and Ashley Highfield. I would like to give this more time and the awards so will leave that until the next post. For now though a taster shot of the BBC keynoters.


I was lucky to be a judge again at the Interactive International Emmy Awards and invited to the splendid evening session at the Carlton Ballroom. Only three awards up for grabs (and a special prize this year to BskyB -€“ well done). The event was excellently organised in the tradition of all the A-list ceremonies and I was lucky to be on one of the front tables, with the interactive programme folk. Also managed to grab a chat with Phil Rosedale who leads Linden Lab (Second Life) in the pre-award cocktails, which was a treat for me 😉


To the awards. Great to see the BBC finally win for their BBCi all emcompassing eTV and 24/7 service (I remember the days when it was called Digital Text – but wont go there now!). Great to see my old cohorts Nick Cohen and Phil Jay with big grins on their faces for the rest of the evening. Canada took the second award, Interactive Channel, for BITE Television a slightly anarchistic, irrelevant channel. The most exciting award of the evening though for me was the interactive programme award and I was siting between two of the nominees on a distinctly Canadian table 8. Three of the four nominees were Canadian! But I had Aaron from the Zimmer Twins on one side and Patrick Crowe from Regenesis on the other (Zinc Roe Design and Xenophile respective companies) – and it was a surprise to all, that they both won! Yes a two-way tie and a table creaking later with the weight of two Emmys 😉 As one would expect both teams were delighted and it was wonderful both for Canada (and the Bell fund that partly helped Regenesis) but also for the interactive form as both services are innovative and pushing the envelope. But will write more later (congrats to Evan Jones and Tony Walsh also who were major parts of Regensis) – for now a picture I took of the double winners. A busy and even more exciting day tomorrow (well actually today now as I finish this).

© Gary Hayes 2007