Mar 14

SXSW 3 days in

It’s the start of my 3rd full day at SXSW and again it’s a completely different experience from all the others. Friday was spent at an off-site event, Tweethouse. Saturday was spent in panels and today there’s going to be a mixture of panels and parties, at least when I get started on the day.

At the BBC Digital Planet panel, which was actually a recording for the radio/web programme, it was mentioned that this year for the first time, interactive has outsold music, with nearly 15,000 attendees. It feels like it! The conference has spread over 4 venues, the halls feel more crowded and from what I’ve seen there are far more first-timers here than I’ve ever spoken to before. Despite the financial woes of the last year, this is obviously the place to be for anyone involved in digital in any form. And there are all sorts, I’ve met coders (the guys keeping foursquare up and running), publishers, freelance web designers, consultants, social media people (there are a lot of them, there always has been), advertising and marketers, and just general web folk.

I’m on track to meet my objectives for the conference, which are simple – meet at least one new person (for a long chat that is likely to be followed up with further connections) and learn at least one new thing. I’m half way there with 3 days to go, so looking promising. I’m luckier than many I believe, in that I pay for this myself so there is no external pressure to justify the ROI. to me, this is definitely geek spring break! No conclusions yet though on how this is all working out, who will win the location app battle or whether At&T will keep the mobile network going, although they seem to be doing well so far. but it is on track for being another successful and enjoyable event for me.

Jan 31

January Update

January is over, we’re 1/12 of the way through the year, so time for a monthly update.

Gym: I’ve finally activated my corporate gym membership, going consistently through the month, so much so that I’ve unlocked the Gym Rat badge on Foursqure ;-). I’ve been doing a combination of classes and running on treadmills.

New Cities: None this month. However, I’ve decided to extend that ambition to new things. To that extent, I’ve visited Chiswick House for the first time, which, considering it’s just round the corner from me is pretty sad. I also took part in the Walk London walks. They had a special weekend promotion, with lots of guided walks happening, so I did the Wimbledon to Richmond one, all 7.5 miles of it.

Wimbledon to Richmond

Other activities include attending a talk on Taking Video Games Seriously, organised by Tom Watson and attending a Quest TV pub quiz, particularly beneficial as I won a Wii (for doing some really embarrassing pub dancing).

Finally, I attended the gathering of photographers in Trafalgar Square, protesting that we’re photographers, not terrorists. All in all, a good month.

I'm a Photographer, not a Terrorist

Jan 26

Taking Video Games Seriously

A discussion panel held 25 Jan 2010, Westminster Hall

(WARNING – Liveblogged at the time, so may not make 100% sense)

Chair: Tom Watson; Tom Chatfield, Philip Oliver, Sam Leith

Each panellist gave a talk about their position on games, it them moved into a series of statements from floor combined with some questions.

Tom Chatfield: Taking Games seriously. a difficult things to do well, how do you have a discussion about a medium that is all about fun; so there are lots of serious things you can learn, politics, training, education, but at the same time it is dangerous if they are only worth talking about serious things, no other art form has to bow down to this idea, that it has to be serious. A challenge is you want to talk serious things about fun, about why they play. There are serious tools out there, there are some awful ones as well. A lot of issues when people think they are a kind of voodoo. So if you have a boring meeting held in 2nd life, then it will be not be fun (because it is held in a ‘game’). This is not the way these things work. we have to get away from idea of magic, games which have a magical bewitching effect on users. that we can’t analyse, just fun. So what is a mature debate about games? We need a new or different language for talking about fun and play.
We can’t use the language from around other media and expect it will be useful. I think of it as Wing Commander 3 syndrome…so if you have a boring game with a series of cut-scenes based on Star Wars, the thought that it would be fun is wrong. The assumption that this makes it good; this is a woeful misconception about games. This is one reason why difficult (to have serious conversations), they reach for the language of film. (Lots of other art elements) play their part in one of best games, e.g. Portal, stunning vocal, art style, etc, it is wonderful because the elements of other media are subservient to dynamic of game and it is those dynamics we need to nail to have a good discussion. Another problem, debaters assume that games have a magical seductive effect, it is about switching off; reason why Wii has been useful, is that it is giving the lie to the notion that games are only ever brighter graphics and louder sounds and realism. These games are for fun and entertainment, a Wii is very good at entertaining and engaging. To get to fundamental point, when you are playing a game you are engaged in an experience and this makes it understandable that there is a divide between those who play games and those who don’t. if I try to explain WOW to my mother, who is not a gamer, I have to tell her about the story and tell her about a whole other set of rules and conventions that I participate in. She sees me playing this game, not moving much, shouting abuse over a microphone and this is misleading; we need to be aware of how misleading this is to those outside, that we are not sitting there getting an unsophisticated, mindless experience. It is hard to convey the experience and you are interacting with imaginative modelling of the world, a symbolic imagining, figuring out the rules, a new set of rules to work out with other people, they are experimental as well as engaging. we learning all the time, in the company of other people. It is not good or bad, not moral, but is about engaging, learning the use of social faculties, it is a category error to assume games are magical, flat, passive and we have to find way to talk about this as an active experience, it is hard to get right. (According to media) you would think that sinister people in a gaming company just do things to addict 9 year old..this puts games in same mental bracket as heroin. They don’t realise it is very difficult to make a hit game, the great titles are rare due to the highly active component. The power comes because of the investment people are willing to make in the game role, which leads to games as tools for learning and training. If people want a discussion then you need to get serious about what is happening, the social aspect, the modelling, the testing, the compelling and elaborate experience that is difficult to get right, they are a new refinement of play and you need to look back at human fundamentals about why people want to play games.

Philip Oliver: I’m the expert a the coal face; will start with background. I’ve known nothing but games. I have twin, Andrew, fairly competitive, loved tech and creative. At about 12, 1980, had apple 2e, played Pong, Pacman, then had zx81, worked out we could program our own games,,,,this was a fascinating challenge, when we only 2 TV channels to distract us. We tried to outdo each other, we published from 1984, as listings in magazines and then on cassette tapes. We were expected to follow our siblings to uni, but we made decision to make games, which most people needed explaining to them. We could not see that uni would give us much, there were no courses, this was new, we needed to get on and do this in the new industry. Our dad gave us a challenge to earn more than him in the first year and if they did, then no need to go to uni. We met Darling brothers, worked a lot of hours developing games for them and Codemasters. We did not really get to socialise a lot – 20 hrs/days, 7 days/wk. we were schoolkids earning 10-20k/month. In 1990 we decided we need to form teams of people, bring creatives etc, we decided to start hiring people, We hoped to find creative, passionate people. We got lucky with some of our early games, we were trying to even it all out, create a stable environment, allowing people to pursue careers without roller coaster of finances. Blitz is now big, outsources, 10mil turnover, 200+ people. We’ve done it all, all consoles, iPhone to PS3 and everything in between,, we cover all genres, many studios specialises, we took a diverse strategy. so no matter what the fashion, we can do. we do a lot of family games….we have a lot of licences. We released Biggest Loser – sold 500k copies in 12 weeks, we do mature games as well, we are proud of this. newspapers keep latching in to this, that all games are violent shooters. but they are not. The next game, 18 certificate, it targets audience correctly (with labelling). We do casual games, a market that is really growing. lots of individuals can now get into market, with causal games, iphones etc, there are plenty of ways in. Then there are serious games, training games, education. e.g. MOD to train doctors and nurses., e.g. triage after a bomb. A game is a lot cheaper to deliver than traditional triage. (the people have come out with high scores) The entertainment industry is US and Japan, all the big stuff we do is US client in dollars. They did not take games seriously when I started and they still don’t. I am convinced that games are the Hollywood of 21st century. We thing MW2 took more money than Avatar in first weekend (not sourced fact, opinion)) who is taking it seriously? There are a lot of governments, the British gov is starting to do it. (But in other countries) US etc, there is a lot of go support, they see it as a future industry, in UK, there is not. Businesses need to do it. there are a lot of visualisation tools, e.g. I have on iphone Westminster Hall visualisation – good for stuff you have not yet built as well. for training, there are so many areas that are expensive to do in real world..police, fire, army, navy, etc In a game you can make mistakes and learn from them. For advertising…we made the Burger King Games…12 weeks sold 3.8million copies of the 3 games…was a massive advertising success, profits went up 40% as a direct results of that. Education, can be used more, far more fun. people retain more if fun. It is quite poor at moment, as no joined up budgets commissioning games. it is a lot of research for teachers to do, we need centralised budgets to commission great games for use in classroom. If kids are interested in video games, to become a designer for many is dream job, but teachers say it is not a proper career. NO. It is a growing industry and these skills are useful for this and for many others. The drop off in people doing programming is horrendous, the business needs people programming, ITC is boring..the hook is games and they are not getting encouragement. Parents need to encourage the kids, get them to learn the skills, to get them in the industry. if we all took seriously then we in UK can be leaders in an exciting growing industry, part of knowledge economy, creative, is green and growing and exciting. we need all engaged and taking seriously and make sure we keep value and jobs in UK.

Sam Leith: when I was…interviewing Wil Wright, an interesting and strange guy, he told us about the medieval description, of someone who walked into a room, saw someone bent over an object, physically there but mentally absent, transfixed by an object..they were reading a book, this was the first time the onlooker had seen this and concluded their soul had been taken by devil. Something very similar seems to be the reaction to games to those who don’t play. it seems weird….they make the funny faces…it feeds into the fear and apprehension in the media. It is new..and for a long time, 2 things going on…there is only one story (in media) – the violence in videogames, that it makes kids sociopaths, violent etc, that sort of hysteria of creating what it effects to deplore. it feeds into marketing in a weird way, as there is only one story….so something that has a launch weekend as big as MW2, there would be wall-to-wall coverage if this was a film. but MW2 would have had almost no mainstream media if it had not contained the scene of shooting in the airport….you can’t but suspect that was in there to get attention There is childishness in some of the ways they are marketing which is a response to some of the ways they are understood. the 2nd things is their invisibility. so something as big as MW2 should be part of mainstream culture and conversation, but there is a strange relationship between mainstream an games. So Jonathan Wendell, formally the No1/ biggest gameplayer in the world, he played Quake with all the blood and guts turned off, he turned it into something simpler as it runs faster, you could beat people better if it runs faster. There was a game called Carmageddon, you drove around and got points for killing pedestrians. It was agreed in parliament that this was not a good thing. So they changed the blood colour to green – and said it was zombies, so this was OK. It’s OK to shoot Nazis, but no-one else. so there is concern over moral content of the game…in most cases it is not the game that forces you down one way, but allowing you to choose one without constraints and that becomes more so as they get sophisticated. So Eve Online, huge teams of people play, so one gang infiltrated a corporation, killed their leader, stole all their good (worth real money) and there was nothing in the game that encouraged this or stopped this…so the games are do what you will. Grand Theft Auto 4, you can play for 100s of hours without attracting police…there is a huge amount there about how people behaviour..and the moral questions, and the ownership of items, real world value…interesting from behaviour, economics, etc. There is work-play thing, a lot of things we do in games looks like work…eg levelling up in WOW. We see them as terms of other art forms, not all comparisons are entirely misleading, but leans you look for things in games that would be better somewhere else. Eg films, games being classified by the BBFC…if you consider games as work of art…of cultural artefacts, so recognise what they are like and what they have in common and talk about them formerly. My background in literary crit, makes me think about how we think about games….if you think of WOW as a film, you miss a lot. if you think of it as a cathedral, then different perspective. When you are talking about games, it is not one thing, one type of thing.. there are dozens….now games are diversifying, with wii, with casual, we are at a moment when gaming is moving into mainstream, diversifying.

Tom Watsom: Interesting comments about the things PR have to do to get it into the mainstream. As an aside, Guido Fawkes emailed said he was the UK champion at Asteroid in 1980!!!! The Palace of Westminster would be a brilliant place as a shoot-them-up setting..a 1000 rooms… a gothic palace……all these people discussing good and evil.

(Ed Vaisey joined panel)

TC calls on Derek Robertson: In Scotland, we have Consolarium..Scottish games-based learning, working in it for 3 years. I don’t agree there is a poor choice of games, we’ve been using off-the-shelf games….Nintendogs, Spore etc, there are plenty for children’s frameworks, we’ve had success nursery to secondary school. We are running a national contest for game design…serious games misses fun and entertainment

PO: you are using games that are accidenta;…..I think there is better to be done. e.g. age of empires is used, fantastic…..but they are side effects.

Nick Palmer: (an MP who had published Their Finest Hour game) I had published commercial games….(in a meeting last week I saw) each country has their own hangups that are different and moralshow they look at games. In US, fundamentalists worry about sex – shooting is fine. In Russia..the Duma is considering banning games in schools as some are about WW2 and you can play as a German. We should not attempt to occupy position that all games are OK..we are engaging in opponents’ arguments, they say all games the same, they are not….there are games I would not play or defend..we do need to get industry accepted as serious medium. Take a position about how de games don’t have to be boring and dull. So where politicians can help without spending money is in giving it an esteem it does not currently have. The effect of popularity is most people have played a game..but many trivial games, they have spread that is reinforcing the idea that games are trivial….we are looking at games Olympiads, ways of reminding people that games are all sorts.

(Next speaker works for Welcome Trust): Sneeze is a game we did recently….about viral mechanism..I share about serious games concerns…you need to be in spaces that are controlled by audience..entrainment games….e.g in GTA you pick up about NY. We did a very successful about viral spread.

Alex (Hide an Seek): I want ask panel that if you could nominate 1 game that in sophistication, nuances, intent, that you think is worth taking seriously?

PO: Wii FIT. business sold enormous number and made people thinks games are not just shooting….20mill in a space than many thought did not have a purpoise

EdVaisey: only has a Wii..so Wii Fit

TC: Flower.. on PS3. based on flow. move controller in space, direct wind to blow petal round landscape. it is a new vision in games, something anyone can pick up and interact at own speed artistic without being hi brow, they get immersive experience, very beautiful…no hurdles…like ii fit..people can get it instantly.

SL: for richness, WOW. or Elite, fantastically good

TW: don’t play this a lot..Rolando on iphone….physics. motion etc, allows you to graph. Sam, you can’t say Elite, that was 20 years ago!

(Talker from West Mids Regional Dev team, I think): Games as an industry, we punch over our weight in what we provide to business, we want make sure we can back winners..on serious games, about disengagement we need to find more ways to do this

Audience Comment: There is a map of parliament in Countrerstrike (fan made)…….I’ve written about Little Big Planet, Portal, Braid etc..but what games used to be very good at is telling a story, and less so. so Grim Fandango, my wife can watch. so today we have MW2, better to attack for story line….people bring up Bioshoock which is not the most complex

SL: FPS have some story to tell..the way games tell stories, there may be a drop in popularity, in films and books there is more a sense of times arrow, but games about iteration etc,,,stories are more modular….like choose your own, different paths…they tell stories in a different ways. Eg final fantasy series tell stories effectively. Therr is a MA in writing in Edinburgh Napier that has just started,,,,about different ways of narratives, looks at game writing as well. There is more games writing talent in the long run..initially games were written by the programmers, who were not writers.

TC: Grim Fandango was a miniature apex in game tradition..in the idea that it is growing up with its audience. the first games were text games, they lead to point and click,,,,to new games, grim fandango, 20 years of tradition. there is always a year xero stuff, when you change tech, go to 3d etc, you build up to next apex etc, you see new stuff now….you are starting to see this younger train of games building up to peaks..it takes time to build up tradition

Graham (??): In seriousness about games….I go to a game-based learning conference….when we look at use of games in learning, schools, it seems that gov or their agencies are queasy about this. we have seen negligible support…the home access programme, ignored the fact that many homes had consoles (which access web). given the reaction. of papers like the Metro about gaming platforms, so would go use consoles to get online. A DS costs 100£….so there are ways….it is not about creating games for learning, it is about getting in the hands….

TW: I agree with a lot of your analysis and some of them are missing opportunities to generate new ideas etc

EV: What is encouraging…..people are coalescing around games in a non-partisan fashion…I don’t play games very often, Defender was the last game I played until I got the wii a few months ago. Too often I hear questions about politicians not admitting they play games, as if they are embarrassed. the games industry are getting out and engaging and this is changing the political environment. The games industry are getting out and telling us – future industry, regional, still just one of the leaders, so is what not to like. There is a cultural gap, that echoed about rant of games based leaning, I’m 41,one of last gen where games was not part of the early experience. a lot of officials are the same, so they do not understand how games relate across a whole range of policy areas. People need to get in front of people and bang the drum, there is a consensus of principles involved in supporting games industries, their is no money, but about giving games a voice at top table,,,so extend film council? (setting up new quango is difficult and where is the money). Look at extending the financial support, tax credits, etc, VC support, a matter of debate….there are practical obstacles, getting a uniform voice and still getting it through the treasury, which is always difficult. 3rd element people are talking about is about skills and the right courses, and make sure people are those the industry want to employ, need to get right course accredited…the climate has changed,,,,and will continue to do so.

TW:so Dawn, captures imagination of kids with video games (she’s an educationalist)..so how do you manage this?

Dawn: use common sense, it is lacking from media and politicians…so use common sense. we would not take games (like that) into classroom, even if my kids play them. In England, move to more games in classroom, is being self funded, Ofsted love it..I asked the kids what hey would say they relate to them it is realm, gives them a social connection, they all know it is my way of getting to secretly learn….using a game of the shelf, is good, kids see through an educational game. so we use mario cart to do physics and friction….

Michael??: PEGI…it is with you (the politicians) protecting games, by giving an appropriate age system for games, for playing online etc, ….it is great to have discussion…for me and for ELSPA it is about having confidence that games are a serious part of culture, learning,entertainment etc. it is one of our challenges that we new to this world, so many different things we need to touch on and evangelise and convince people….we need time, we are doing our bit. they are making huge strides, the number of negative stories has declined
. wee need to stop being hurt games, be normal gamers doing a normal things.

Aud Q: So about licences and age limits, we have, so it is not recognised that parents buy it the games..where is the rebuttal for that kind of action….

TW: the debate in parliament, is about the rating system right and what responsibility the industry has to promote that. so the change will happen and then we need to get the system there, the idea there about the ratings…

EV: it’s all part of the mix, that there are games you would not want you games to play….Ian (Duncan Smith) said about bad parenting to play or watch inappropriate things..games was the one that was reported

TW: wrap up time

TC: I was fascinated to see how the coubtries games act as a mirror to their fears, games are youngest and much divisive of media. I look to when we can say more than games are bad or good, and wait for people to discuss them properly. The pace of tech change brings us face to face with this issues regularly, games are 40-50 years, print took 500. it is difficult,,,,but valuable. If 1484 people would argue about how not learning the stories and information, damages conversation and society, there is plenty to lean about things. Already the boundaries between gaming and non-gaming is much more permeable than is given….most people don’t connect Farmville and scrabble as video games. If they see things on a spectrum then they can stop seeing them as their worst fears, They can start to appreciate games. We can measure and learn about from games…In US 8-18 yr. olds, 7.5 hrs a day on entertainment system..future looks like this and games are one of the best ways to use this, to be part of the world…having a proper discussion with out falling back on cliches is absolutely needed to make games apart of the world.

Dec 10

Extreme Gaming from Epson

I like this video – I should do as it came from the agency I work at. It’s been fun watching the development process, the highs and lows of defining the scenarios, the legwork in getting the games. I think it turned out well.

Nov 21

FOE: Unboxing the Medium

WARNING: Liveblogged and not checked

What counts as “radio” when it comes via podcast rather than over the air? How do we create “television” as the limitations of spectrum scarcity slip away and content is delivered online? Media is determined by conventions that emerge from both technological constraints and cultural practices – the technologies of content delivery shape the industrial and the creative modes that define something like “television.” In a world of convergence, the basis for many of the conventions that define media are in flux. How can we come to understand and redefine the industrial, consumption and creative practices of media as convergence works to erode some of the distinctions between them? How is radio affected once it moves from the Hertzian waves to the podcast? What happens to the comic once it moves from the page to a Playstation? How are audiences responding to and shaping these shifts? And how are business models adapting to these changes?

Joshua Green – Research Manager, Convergence Culture Consortium; Panelists include: Dan Goldman – Illustrator of Shooting War (Grand Central Publishing [US] and Weidenfeld & Nicolson [UK]); Jennifer Holt – UC Santa Barbara, co-editor of Media Industries (Wiley-Blackwell); Brian Larkin – Milbank Barnard College; Avner Ronen – CEO & Co-founder, Boxee

  • JG: (Reads the intro above – asks the panel to respond). We used to have clear understanding of what media were; is convergence eroding the differences? What implications are there?
  • AR: from Boxee; a NY start-up, started from personal frustration, using digital media in living rooms and no good solution to bring stuff to TV. We wanted to create a new kind of experience on the TV, to access to all the content that they like. When we started we did not know we would generate so much unease for the industry. We found ourselves in the middle of a big sea change – freaking out abut the TV being a screen connecting to the internet.  Reaction from most is to resist change; even though history of change in TV is that it is for better.  to answer the thesis, we think everything changes once connected and maybe the biggest change is around the creative process. It is a huge industry and it is all based around the existing model; it is around the platform and once the platform changes, then everything needs to be considered. We are where Tv was in 50s – when T was radio with a screen. We need to take advantage of the medium, there is a disconnect between creative and technology; the new gen of creators will have a different world. franchises will be built will be bigger than anything we have on content; the future of content producers is bright. The size of the industry will grow. the content will grown and the money will grow
  • BL: (Shows images from Indian films, Nigerian film industry, African film distribution).  Do research in Nollywood.  Nigerian and Ghana have pioneered the video film process; a practice of traveling theater,  there was a rise in cheap tape technology, at the time of structural adjustment. TV industry was at bottom. There was a confluence of events, so you got dramas on video. The rise of armed robbery reduced cinemas in the south (which were taken over by Pentacostal churches – who had a lot of editing and filming expertise).   In mid-90s there were about 50 films..at height 2k films.year, now about 1500/year. Nigeria sees itself as a major media content producer, would like to see itself as a regional dominator. All very cheaply, in about 2wks, released a week later. There is no canon. Because of piracy, you have to get it out quickly and make money on 2 weeks.  It has an enormous domestic market.  It is powerful in anglophone africa and moving into francophone. The Nigerian film industry is aware of this, but has problems monetising the industry. It has created 2 things in convergence culture. It has a form unlike any others, it is about domestic consumption – videos in the home. It has  anew form of viewing practice – the video parlour, a space that can be anything from a space with a roof where 20 people may watch, or a room in a house, It sits in between the private of house and the public anonymity of the cinema. In places, women are banned from cinema, but can watch this.   In my work, if you build a media model, how might that be if look at Nigeria. for instance, in many parts of Africa, there is little distinction between religious and secular media, they converge. In west, there is a big christian media, but we segregate it when talking media, no matter the size or the models of monetising.  In Nogeria it is difficult to make that separation; they came from Nigeria, in a world not tutored in Afircan film aesthetics. The issues about witchcraft etc have become prominent. Most of the criticism in Nollywood have come from people trained in Film schools, they see it as cheap, bad, too much about witchcraft etc. One of the reasons witchcraft is so prominent is one of the ways to save yourself is to give your self to Jesus Christ – the savor is the pastor. the aesthetic link to Christianity and the distribution links are all connected.  The expansion of church and the video distribution over laps.
  • JH: my interest is looking at convergency and transmedia through the lens of legal issues and policy.  Look at how cable and broadcast and film, and telecommunications, have come together through a particular set of legal and regulatory pathways. So what has allowed the tyrannical transmedia nightmare that is Hannah Montana..why are we subject to it on so many different levels. I came interested about how the same proportions of studios that owned cinema in the 40s when they were forced to divest was the same in the 80s.  I’m thinking about the implications of TV that is giving us this transmedia, tv is what is keeping these companies afloat. Domestic film is only about 3% of their annual earnings. So for NBC Universal , the most profitable bit is USA. regulation has been protecting cable companies at the expense of film and broadcast.  To me, I’m interested in looking at the impulses of TV business models, the importance of transmedia, plus the history of cable through lens of regulation and policy.
  • DG: I write and draw comic book. My interest with this place, is about the changes, from music, to film/.tv to comics. I think the tsunami of digital distribution has not hit yet.   Been a professional comic creator for a number of years, a self publisher, gone onto the web. Something called Shooting War has gone from web to a major publisher.  the elephant of the change that is happening, I’ve circled. The contrast is so clear. With Shooting War I published from ??(96), i posted weekly and could watch direct when people watched it and that beat the distribution of hard copy comics. The web comics that succeed the most are strip based and gag based, not long form. The internet had been used in a simple way to replace the Sunday funnies; the cartoon syndicates has crumbled, and now the political cartoonists are losing work. As the delivery method changes, the business models follow suit and the landscape changes.  I’ve been doing long form things. I did a project called 08, (about election),I covered the whole election, went on the road a little.  During this, I was begging publisher to get it printed, but they were slow. After election, I’d been working to get the comic as an iPhone app, but publisher won’t wake up to this being viable. The contrast to digital vs brick and mortar,..they promoted it a little, with a front of table buy, but you had to go into the store – and only in the US..to see it. It did it OK. It was a stronger than Shooting War, but it was slow and flawed with the marketing.    I’m fully digital and portable.   So how is the change manifesting?  the change to the audience and the work?  It is easy to take the stuff and slap it into a new container but where is the fun in that?  this thing that is happening now, this is our time to change things, our time to shine. It is a missed opportunity, and I’m not going to do this. I look to format my work for digital devices and it is almost a responsibility to jump into this new water. So I’m launching a new series…will show artwork that shows a digital version and how it will work across both. It makes sense to figure out the multimedium workflow before you start . red Light Properties – the story of a family run realty offices. they sell haunted houses.  The art is in illustrator (lineart), photoshop (colour), Miai 3d modeling (Background) all bought together in photoshop. On digital, you can do microreveals and the page can build..in print it will look like the final page. Motion Comics….look like cheap animation…would take the pictures and move them around etc. this pisses me off. If the comics are done well, the reader will hear the voices and music, not the same for everyone, so don’t like the Motion comics.  They are clips, which means you are not in control of time you take to move through the piece, you are not passive, you can’t take time.
  • JG: the first consoles frightened the TV people, as you could do different things with the TC. Brain Clark asks if anything is new? Is this new, or is this a different set of circumstances?
  • DG: I don’t see this as a collapse. There are opportunities. Beyond replacing one structure with another, at least in terms of my stuff, the media is old and we’re adding twists. There are no new ideas here
  • JH: the problems are not new, nor the crises in business models. If you take the long view there are clear cycles of expansion and contraction, They have had to contend with that and with business models in desperate need of regeneration. Issues of convergence are not new. There have been cross over as far back as you can think of. They are just another burst in the cycle,
  • AR: but when tech comes about it is usually disruptive. And now we have a critical mass of screens in different sizes, connected to the same network. The content is digital and change is inevitable, you have to adjust. So animated comics may be poorly made but there is space for it.   All the traditional boundaries are artificial; what tech is great at is taking out inefficiences in a model. And that is what has happened in the music business – eg albums vs a single track . Newspapers are inefficient. I’m traditionalist as I get a weekend paper, but news is digital.  Tech and users are ahead of the industry. It will catch up, but not sure if good and bad.
  • BL: with rise of ska and rocksteady/reggae, that was about sound systems…you would use the record to attract people to your sound system; the cheaper sound systems could not go to US all the time to copy US songs, they asked the Jamiacan people to copy the sounds. they made records with no vocal, so DJs could make their own (which birthed hiphop). then the industry changed. We are now in a crisis of reproduction…in jamiaca, the event driven sounds system has driven a lot. we have gone back to a point where the production of music is driving people back to live events, as that is not copyable….Technology does change it, we have to understand how tech pushes and how it intersects with cultural practices…
  • AR: so there are users. Users care about it big time – they care about the content, not the channel, the time. then there is innovation about the creative side; if everything is connected and on demand and it is cheaper to produce you will see the creative embracing the tech. Tech provides different environments..so in eastern europe a better connection as developed later. In africa will it be cable or mobile 4G? IN asia the change will be very quick and very significant?
  • JG: if there is continuity here, if these changes are driven by cultural practices, so why is the industry constantly employing this discourse of crisis, so why do tech shifts set everyone running around like hair on fire
  • JH: some lost 70% of revenue..that is a crisis. new ways of delivering content, they do not seem eager to embrace. Fear of cannibilising other revenue streams is not a visionary strategy…so how do they come up with a digital distribution strategy.
  • AR: the issue is money. Cable is average $65/onth from video subscription,. no one wants to disrupt it…as public companies living quarterly, no one wants a dip…so can’t live with investors. this is why it is hard to incumbents to adjust.  The best thing we have as users is there is not much they can do to delay this. the internet is hear to say.
  • JH: looking at 2008 reports, they had to prepare shareholders for their losses and there will be more.
  • JG: you describe boxee as a disrupter…
  • AR: we are not trying to be disruptive to a business model. we say what we think, which upsets them. We are just saying they need to be where the users are.  You as a content owner can describe what business model you can use. the lack of content online is not a tech issue, but a business model issue. So take existing model and put it on the internet. Consumers are going to just want to pay for what they want. If you are an incumbent, then you have to adjust your mindset and get on the offensive.  If you are a content creator, and you think about subscription is better than advertising, then do it. create more.  Change your thinking..with the internet you can go anywhere, you can go globally and build a brand there.
  • DG: there has been a perception that web content is free…but with phones there is not that same pushback about spending money.
  • AUDQ: how about national boundaries to content? (eg hulu, iplayer)
  • AR: the web breaks down the barriers. if you don’t show it, then the watcher goes to torrents.  People go around the blocks.  the best way to fight is too offer content in an easy way and people will pay.
  • Dg:  torrent is practically a free platform, so give it tom them and you can have premium tiers. So if you give people something for free they will help you keep it going, make it clear that i will go away and you can get involvement.
  • JH: we have to learn the lessons of the music industry..we have to have some faith in the long term. The music industry and others have not learnt it.
  • BL: written about how piracy has been central to the Nigerian film industrian..when the film industry produced it, the only people who could distribute were pirates.    Piracy created the infrastructure that allowed the film industry..but they still don’t know how to deal with it yet, eg piracy of western tv vs local films. you can buy stuff online in NY/London but no idea if any of the money goes back to source. If the film industry can get a cable channel in London, then they can get some revenue
  • JG: you rise a point of a flow out and back from regions….could Nigerian video parlour suggest a new way of showing in the west.?
  • BL: there were lots of Indian cinemas when I grew up; with videos they all died. Now multiplexes have screens just for bollywood films, there is something about film going, I’m surprised it has not taken off, especially for niche films.  When Nigeria went to video projection, they could show far more. 
  • JG/AUDQ: isn’t content just content? What is the relationship between content and media?
  • DG: having things traveling with you is a great idea – the ability to dial into boxee. As you move between devices, having your network across all the platforms means you can vary the experience depending on where you access it. you can experiment..
  • JG/AUDQ: what held them back?
  • JH: fear held them back…it’s not the biggest companies that are the innovators…it is the smaller ones. It is usually smaller companies that do innovation…
  • DG: when a system fails…new things come up.. Solutions are tried and then dropped…
  • AR: they do experiement…eg Disney put content on ipods, pout shows on line….it may seem too small or too late, but it is major move. not sure if we would have made same or different decisions with billions of dollars at stake.  
  • AUDQ: 3 strikes rules?
  • AR: there are still ways to take it away…, net neutrality, etc, with bad government decision, would not want to live in place with good internet.  you will see people moving.
  • JH: Net neutrality is a regulatory miracle at the moment at the moment…it is so important to be aware of how fragile this is.
  • Ar: we don’t have net neutrality properly today, there are companies that shape traffic.
  • AUDQ: this panic about new tech disrupting businesses. has been used strategically to get copyright protection etc, is that part of the discourse now?
  • JH: Yes, I see it as part of protecting America..
  • AUDQ: perspective on relationship of artists with companies?
  • DG: it is probably in artists best interest to try both and see what works best. There’s no reason if you can’t get someone to pay you, then it is easier
  • AR: there is not one model that will win. the web opens up more opportunities though, you can monetise without a major label. It depends however on the scale of what you want to make. But low cost end, then take a stab at goign direct to consumer.  Infrastructure is going to get better.
  • BL: many artists are in the same positions as companies; they are in the same position of giving up money. You need the balls to try something new. If you put a lot of time and effort, the returns are small, do you want to get money, it is not about ust giving it away for free. No one know what the future will bring. In Nigeria, the film makers are in a big battle with distributors, the money is normally put up by them..the film makers are triyng to wrest it back, the gov trying to regulate it with distribution licences.
  • JG: .what do you think about policy? (also a round up)
  • Ar: I do think about it, for net neutrality and the impact of satellite. I have no plan in working through regulation, it is not something we could contemplate. I’ve spoken with FCC(??) occasionally,  the team there lives in the same world we live in. we don’t have resources to fight a battle but think we have a team that speaks our language.   We have a business in boxee that is difficult to scale internationally, the content is geolocked, if we don’t have local content then we can’t move. I’m fascinated by social aspects of media distribution…what will happen it will be global, we will become smaller more connected world.
  • BL: Nigeria does not have a lot of media regulation? Key issue is about censorship, eg about northern states that adopted sharia law. the industry was based on the north, but it was banned…it is an issue of control, they don’t know how it will play out. they may pack up and move, but not very easy there. the ways in which the industry will go will depend on these legal dynamics
  • JH: legislation impacts different to technology. Follow the money – more important than any philosophical view of the government…it is part of our mission to equate things like web access to phone calls etc….it has limited some of the big ticket productions but there are a lot of opportunities
Nov 21

FOE: Producing Transmedia Experiences: Participation & Play

WARNING: Liveblogged, not checked.

While much of the discussion around transmedia tends to focus on the idea of non-linear storytelling, this panel will explore the idea that transmedia experiences — narrative-driven and otherwise — are also characterized by a high degree of audience participation, decision-making and collaboration.  As users engage with transmedia narratives, worlds and experiences across multiple platforms and spaces, participants make a series of personal choices that shape and define their experience and understanding of “the whole.”

If we assume that transmedia experiences introduce new opportunities for the audience to participate, what are the new opportunities and challenges for the creators and owners of these transmedia properties?  One of the most overt forms of transmedia storytelling, the Alternate Reality Game (ARG), often makes participation a central and defining aspect of transmedia experiences, and creates opportunities to engage participants in play, performance and game-like systems.  How can these interactive and participatory experiences be planned for?  What is their function in the larger transmedia experience, and how do we understand the relative roles of the “author” and the “audience” in creating transmedia experiences?

Moderator: Ivan Askwith – Director of Strategy, Big Spaceship; Panelists include: Frank RoseWired contributor and author of Welcome to the Hyperdrome (W. W. Norton, forthcoming); Jordan Weisman – CEO and Founder, Smith & Tinker; Louisa Stein – San Diego State University; Mia Consalvo – MIT; Ken EklundWriterguy, World Without Oil

  • IA: one of the problems, from yesterday, transmedia definition is very board..when is and isn’t it.  It became difficult to tell who decides. Instead of that, can we look at another sets of words, the audience, the creator. Are we lookign for a better vocabulary, to explain things?  Old questions without expanding we get old answers and it looks like it is broke. 
  • KE: game designer, used to work on commercial products, now work only on AR space. Enamoured of verb play instead of noun game. The game is a process of play, many games lose track of that, have too much grinding in them. My focus is to make an experience, connection with audience, not focused on product but the process of playing the game and transformation of audience when they play.  trying to be the Jimmy Wales of game narratives.  Did World without Oil, a crowd sourced narrative. Made me aware there was an opportunity out there. I introduce a new concept, story makers, people who know a story needs to be told, but not in telling it themselves, trust audience to make their own process.
  • MC: A games studies scholar. looking at new media and popular culture. early work at online fan comms, now game players and the worlds they play in. Write book on cheating in games. did not define cheating – it is negotiated and complex and changes. fertile ground to explore. More recently, looking western players of japanese video games, plus how a subgroup of them invests in learning about Japan and japanese culture. Interested in how games can be the space for cultural exploration. Looking at a casual MMO, called Bonosphere (not sure of Sp.). Manly women over 35, but interested in younger players, so looking at conflict between younger and older players.
  • LS: Explore how audiences and fans, especially girls/Millennials engage in transmedia text and story telling., Looking at shifting definition and participation in transmedia.   Looking at types of participation and play in something like Mad Men vs something like gossip girls where the industry sends text out in character etc. 
  • JW: designer of games, find ways to tell stories, also started with  desk top games etc. Moved at virtual entertainment in 80s; built virtual world centers with Disney. Mid 90s went to the PC for games, moved to Microsoft entertainment. Did the Beast/AI, (told not to) great platform to experiment in telling stories over the internet. Started 42 Entertainment, now with Smith and Tinker, trying to do projects for kids. 
  • FR: writer for Wired. currently doing a book about how the internet is changing storytelling. I don’t think someone quite knows, but every new medium requires about 20-30 years for people to figure out what to do with this. Internet is not any different.  We can see directions that it is going, non-linear. participatory, often game-like, and drillable, offers an opportunity for a new kind of fandom, either casual to see the surface, if more committed able to go deeper.
  • IA: a lot of work focused on ARGs and what happens if subverted by marketing.   I’m interested in starting with, going back to World Without Oil as it deviated from ARGs before it.
  • KE: I became interested early, I saw the intense interaction, the play that occurs. The real powerful thing that happens is the connection with the players. I was thinking about that with UGC and the leverage that can happen in financing projects, if you can get UGc you need less money. This became important when looking at a proposal; suggested a create a game narrative that got people to submit themselves. So the hook was about the next oil crisis, what would it look like. Gave you the minimum amount of information and asked you to send your stories. It posed a what if scenario. I did not target transmedia, just accepted it was the way it was. I had a phone, a site, etc, I accepted the world is transmedia and opened up as many channels as possible. I had to be agnostic, make it as open, get people to tell stories who would not normally. I looked to see if people were playing then that was my job done properly. It is not just a collection of stories, It was a process, each day was a week in story time, so you submitted something today and it could change as it goes.  I had a team of experience ARG people, but we were just playing, they were not trying to game us as we did not know what would happen, it was an experiment. We would have a huge network combined into a mass which describes what it would be like, with stories form 1000s of people. For a completely fictitious thing, it was really authentic, they were writing abut the 10% oil crisis and 90% their lives.  It was a mythology extractor, got people to write abut how the world worked, how we would do when it arises.
  • IA: What was the funding?Who asked for it to be done? What was the set up
  • KE: ITVS, public non-profit, through association of public broadcasting. No brand involved, but it can be done with a brand. the mission was to tell stories?
  • MC: what was their reaction?
  • KE: they wer eover the moon, very happy., they had world wide press.
  • JW: was the theme of oil from them ir you?
  • KE: from us, I looked for something that was in everyones lives?>
  • IA: there was a high comfort in experimentation?  But with 42, what..there were marketing objectives…how did the marketing imperative shape it?
  • JW:  the Beast was not a marketing programme. It was conceived as they had a need, MS had a licence to make games on the movie IA.  IA was not a ‘game’ movie…for the 18=35 demo male who would by xbox, this was not the game. I used it as a mechanism to get the back story. there was an interesting world that Spielberg created. the theme, mother’s love, the definition of humanity, a universal theme. We have  a history of defining humanity so we can exploit was it is not human, we viewed this as a way of getting a deeper subject. we needed a back story to create a context. That was the challenge, to give context for the games. I said how I would do that but they said this was the dumbest thing they had seen!  So, they would not let me spend money on it. So I went without permissions and pitched ot Spielberg and Kennedy, they were excited about a new way of telling stories, they did not see it as marketing. It was a story in the world without ruining the plot of their story. Kennedy sent him to Warner brothers and told them to write him a cheque.  The marketing dept were having some trouble and later in the game it did help with marketing.  Why so Serious, or Year Zero, in both cases were started by the creatives, not the marketing depts. Eventually someone has to pay for ti and marketing dept gets stuck wit the bill, it was about telling stories.
  • IA: When you approached Spielberg it was about telling stories in a new way, instead of make a story
  • JW: the ‘classic’ ARG is in between, there is a strong creator component, we write a story, create all the evidence and then we throw the story out and just publish the evidence, the audience find the evidence and they tell the story. the story they tell is not the same as the story we wrote a they interpret the story differently. it is like an archaeologist, they tell the story of the evidence they find. we keep re-writing as we find more evidence. That is the process of the story. Not as freeform as Ken, but sits in the middle, a collaborative between creators and audience
  • IA: when making a ARG, or co-ordinating the components, are you making decision about where people working on..or you build in hooks for it? but people don’t always wait for hooks
  • LS: you describe an ARG as opening an audience to control what narrative to get told and waht the narrative that always intended. You were told it should not conflict to the film..openness to a degree but still tension as one singular primary story that needs to remain sacrosanct. And that is a distinction from producer side. that there  should be this singular narrative and as long as you crate something without interfering that is desired transmedia experiences. But especially with fan experience there is tension, about canon and multiplicity, not just of openness abut also allows closure, you can have interpretation of main text while there is still a fetishisation of the primary text. it is more flexible approach to the process…
  • FR: I’ve spoken to the Mad Men twitters..it is a rich and ironic case..Mad Men is about the the end of command and control in ad space…it is ironic that the creator of the show is confronted with this.  Struck by how seriously how the twitterers take their role. Betty draper researches her tweets quite carefully, so everything she says reflects what BD would do. 
  • LS: the Mad Men is exemplary of one end of the spectrum as they are invested in canon narrative and reluctant to create larger narrative. Minute, day to day narratives that departs a little, getting in their head.  Other RPGs in fandom would not be so concerned with staying close to canon.
  • MC: those kind of fan activities, fan will jump in, even after conclusion of runs. They use new techs to exploit connection in different ways.    Eg a group On Loise and Clark, created fiction, series etc, they created a award show for best fan fiction.
  • JW: there has to be an initial critical mass, a work has to inspire an audience to contribute. can come from TV, movies a novel, a crowd sourced place. You have to start with a clarity of vision to create the emotional connection, the critical mass.,.  RPG was like this, You created a world and some characters and handed it over asking them to make stories. you had to make sure what you did, did not go against the audience. We tried to publish things that did not go against what players did. We tried to set some levels in the universe, we would write here and let people write in other sections. We have to look at stories in the same way, look at how to collaborate.
  • LS: a shift, when introducing IP, how can you have this model with IP is a problem
  • FR: you can envision a sliding scale, one end complete author control, at the other, a platform for people to tell their own stories,
  • JW: in terms of IP, it becomes an interesting issue…in the Beast, there was a minor character,  and the audience became fascinated by it. About nightmares, the audience posted their characters, and we started to us them The audience saw their stuff reflected in the character and it became inclusive.  Being able to move things up into canon and down is important.
  • MC: it acknowledges the fans, that your participation matters, you can tell that they have taken your ideas into account.
  • KE: alarms go off for me. I’m aware of the relationship between players and creators. I get alarmed when slider in the middle or when boundaries are indistinct or are arbitrary. If a line is placed they take a risk that the line is seen as unfair. We talked about aberrantly audience, it is those who take issue with where you put the slider,.
  • IA: there are two ways…you can see there are places we are going to tell stories and you can tell it around…others where it is open.some can set rules for a world and others can’t…
  • KE: with World Without Oil we tried to look at things in 4 hours, we judged the stuff. the team was to respond to what happened, to call attention to the good stuff. There was only one thing we could not publish..as we were kid friendly and we had to send it back. Everything we linked to, so they could see there contribution was part of the site. We weren’t judgmental about quality, we did exercise some gentle pointing, the power of recognition is the most powerful thing,
  • JW: but you were still controlling canon….you made decisions about what was happening
  • KE: it was not monolithic..
  • JW: keeping it local helped…but if you say all airlines shut down then there is canon to create a guide..if you want continuity with emotional investment, then you have to add control
  • LS: it sounds like WOE embraced the contradiction
  • KE: a story teller wants to tell a story, a story maker lets the story come to them
  • MC: did people to video, images etc?
  • KE: it was mostly text, but there was a lot
  • IA: one of the challenges to make a story participatory instead of narrative, there a large part of audience who have no interest in driving it or making decisions, who want to know the point, Is that still possible in participatory stores or is that different?
  • FR: it is up to whoever is creating to set roles and expectations.  If you are a Star Wars fan, you want to know canon even if you want to make your own. you don’t ness want to vote on it. You want a story to be told to you you can then respond to it. With what Ken did, it was clearly stated that you were created the story
  • JW: it was still a framework, and Ken out out info each day and that helps creates an arc.  As much as we change medium , there is still the requirements of arc, of momentum etc.
  • LS: can we talk about these different modes, the difference of a story that resonates about mythological extraction from canon, or created…from diverse communities etc…..
  • MC: for me, the stuff came from people in different cultures laying together, for many of the players it was a place to practice their japanese etc on the other side of things, games are competitive, and guilds were limited by nationality , you would see racism emerging as teams create… you would get many arguments emerging etc.  they were creating their stories, there was no inherent PvP, it was Pv Environment.
  • JW: most game have those dynamic, the concept about being know and recognised and most games offered that opportunity to be recognised. Most games still operate in that manner. One goal of playing with ARg was to not offer the opportunity, that any thing furthered the whole game. that was how it worked in the macro level but it did not stop people just trash talking each other.
  • FR: an interesting variant is The Office, a pseudo document, in the show there was a online game, where you could sing up as an employee to the game. You were given tasks to perform, things to write, you were paid in virtual currency and could buy things for your office etc. Designed with game mechanics to get people involved. Something that video game designers etc use all the time…it was clearly tied to the story telling, where the audience was given a structure to create own story in parallel.
  • AI/AUDQ: What is the tension between explicit rules and breaking the frame of the story..
  • jW: witht he first one we did not announce, there were no rules, there was just the content, the creators were obscured. One of the early challenges was a group professed to be the creators of the games told everyone was doing it wring (game jacked) the team asked what we should do…we decided that as we believe in the hive mind they would arrive at the conclusion they they were not real.  you had to set it up from the beginning as a collaboration of the audience, the difference between an immersive fiction and a hoax. Se tup to fool the audience, you look to debunk this, you set ht hive mind against you and you cannot win. you have to be careful to invite people in through suspension of disbelief. you will still be tested, to make sure you are worth trusting with time, it is a fuzzy space but with good intentions.
  • KE: this is one of the slider issues, in the middle you have this. In World Without Oil, there were no rules, you had to do your own.  the players are invested, they want to make it work.
  • MC: playfulness, I want to touch, it may be a game and people not sure what the rules are and you are giving people the opp to be playful, give people opp to get deep in or just touch lightly
  • LS: not ness one hive mind but there are multiple hive minds.   People approach things differently, 
  • AUDQ: Can brands like Verizon and Best buy do this? There was recently a levis thing, plus Verizon also was doing it…
  • LS: we are seeing models that are between things, eg Gossip Girl and Bluefly, you can shop based on the show etc. you can have production of transmedia text by products and products leading to new stuff
  • JW: there has been a lot of stuff with compelling stories already. Many have done work creating experiences around a brand. Still you have to come to what that creative work is.. it is doable, places that have physical places like best Buy would be great.  the ‘classic’ ARG is a limited format, that needs so much from audience, that is a big ask, from an audience, only a small percentage. As a format, it is relatively limited and there has been a lot of exploration and there has been a lowering of the bar.
  • KE: if brands are just thinking it is about them, then they are limited, but if they think about the relationship or the narrative then it is possible.
  • JW: it is also about release of control,
  • AUDQ: One of interesting things with Why So serious, when it came to the physical world., it was risky, so how did that change the game,
  • JW: it was about every medium and that includes the physical world. It was much more extensive with I Love bees and we had months working with lawyers on this, we had to scout everything. Using physical world with big brand ups the risk quotient…
  • AUDQ: based on IP issues, what do you think about The Guild,
  • MC: I think it’s cool. I enjoy good stories; if their are companies that create these stories that they want to invest our lives in how can they not expect us to play with it?
  • JW: if you are lucky enough to create something that people care abut, you have to expect people to be invested in it.
  • IA: How do you foster participation and play for anti-fans?
  • JW: is there an anti-fan? if you care about it enough to participate but change, then you are fan
  • LS: there are people who love to hate things, you don’t have to foster it, it just happens,
  • JW: don’t pressure it, there’s no advantage  to taking it away or reacting to it
  • KE: anti-fans have a legitimate gripe..they are an opportunity. A friend plays WOW but he and his friends all hate it, they are waiting for something to come along that is better. People want to be fans of stuff and they are. There is a level of abstraction that many people take for granted, but many can’t, what can we do as game designers to do non-competitive games, without tension
  • AUDQ:  Multiplicity rather than canon, multiplicity is a little more like perspective in the real world..is there that emergent quality in World without Oil, the hero commenting on it.
  • KE: they looked at people who posted about a neighbourhood that was fine, or in trouble and aksed why they were fine and in trouble. They did not look for a hero to save them. There were ‘hero’s’, there were popular players, who were regarded as knowledgeable.  They had comments and thanks etc.
  • AUDQ:  in putting people together in real-world, even with real world clues meant to be bought back to online. Do args become more involved in real space, when real space become part of the story?
  • JW: with Smith and Tinker we are trying with this. Our tech dev over last 30yrs, you cannot move the tech, now with mobiles, you carry the web in your pocket, there are opps to connect people that way, opps to create unique game play. There are good examples of this being built.  We are just at the beginning, it is the most exciting part of what is coming up
  • MC: but there is risk. the online space allows people some freedom; working out ways of doing this is key.
  • JW: it is not just in the park, but in your room with multiple people.
  • LS: with fan coms etc, a web that extends from space to the web
  • FR: one example of this real space game play, in Year Zero, that game ended with a very specific real world experience..a group of people who came to a place and were driven somewhere they knew not where. They thought they were being recruited into army (In game)…the reward was a concert.
  • KE: a lot of people in the museum world are interested, a museum is an asset, you can do stuff in the real world. If you have a local client with a local community then lots of opportunities.
Nov 21

FOE: The ROI of ROFL: Why Understanding Popular Culture Should Matter to the C-Suite

WARNING: LIVEBLOGGED so not checked. (Also this was a fairly chaotic panel, so not everything captured)

Too many corporations outsource their understanding of culture to trend hunters, cool watchers, marketing experts, consulting firms, and, sometimes, teenage interns. The cost is in the billions, for data and insights that often don’t help companies better understand their role in the cultural landscape. In his forthcoming book Chief Culture Officer: How to Create a Living, Breathing Corporation, Grant McCracken argues American corporations need a new professional — a Chief Culture Officer — to prioritize cultural knowledge into the C-Suite level. American corporations need to look not at the internal culture of a company but instead outward, understanding entertainment, leisure, and word-of-mouth trends. This panel will explore how major brands and entertainment properties are, or should be, listening to the patterns of popular culture to make their brands, products and services more responsive to and reflective of the desires of relevant audiences.

McCracken will introduce the concept of the “Chief Culture Officer,” followed by a panel discussion of the promise and pitfalls of applying cultural knowledge to a for-profit infrastructure, how the humanities intersects with this mission, and the benefits and limitations of concepts such as “the CCO” for advocating deeper cultural knowledge into a corporate setting. What new trends are developing that might impact the appeal of a brand’s products or services tomorrow, or even today? How does corporate America understand the developing etiquette and ethos of social media platforms? What benefit does knowing popular culture bring to brands and entertainment properties? What are the benefits to our society if brands are more tapped into cultural trends?

Moderator: William Uricchio – Principal Investigator, Convergence Culture Consortium; Panelists: Grant McCrackenChief Culture Officer: How to Create a Living, Breathing Corporation (Basic Books); Sam Ford – Director of Customer Insights, Peppercom, and C3 Research Affiliate; Jane Shattuc – Emerson College; Leora Kornfeld – Research Associate, Harvard Business School

Starts with presentation from Grant McCracken (very quick presentation that was difficult to capture)

  • GM: we want something more from a corporation; we want a more porous corp, that listens more carefully and is more responsive; in all matters and in cultural matters.
  • GM: Inside the corporation there is a sense….you could buy in cultural intelligence or by buying up startups.  but the dynamism of future is too quick for this to happen.  the silo corp feels like a joyless place to those inside it. They ask people to forget contemporary culture when they are inside it, an act of self-willed amnesia.   They bring in knowledge but are forced to forget it.  But there is a vested interest.
  • GM: Quaker bought Snapple, buying something for the warm channel, but failed to understand it and had to see for $1.4b less than they paid for it.  They failed to understand the alternate trend. They had spent a lot of money and examined it strongly but were wrong.
  • GM: outside the corp, we see it as cool-hunting, catch-up, preying on culture. the corp falls out of synch, separated out of the culture, can be cluelessly, miserably shut out.
  • GM: In facebook, Zuckerberg claims all the photos on the site and caused a blacklash.  Chris Hughes – the empath, was away at this point. Facebook got it right because of Chris Hughes, he had an intelligence that allows him to think about culture and what people want from it.  He moved to the Obama campaign…the old regime asked him to fundraise.  Hughes challenged them on this – social media gives you into every nook and cranny, get the network to send the message out to the world
  • GM: so the corp is fully participating, no more rights and power than anyone else. It should be a producer of culture not a consumer, that people want to work their, they don’t have to forget culture.
  • GM: so long term strategies, Cluetrain, co-creation etc
  • GM: there’s Weberian gesture,,,,a corp is littered with failed projects….a corp has to appoint a senior manager who has thepower and resources to do this. put them in the C suite. you would hop they have a deep knowledge of American culture, not just the bright shiney object.  Only some part of cultural intelligence works this way. So the hot stuff is about 20%, the rest of the proposition is vast.  you have to know the latest AND the deep foundations.
  • GM: politics begins with a declaration of the possible (Stpehen Duncombe).
  • GM": a re-animated corp could be a fascinating producer of culture.  Most of all it is a place where people want to work.

Panel

  • WU:  in the first chapter, you talk about various examples, eg I heart NY. One way to look at is to say it is about an instinct, but is it training, study.  Some have a nose for it others can be trained.
  • GM: there will always be naturals. People who are good at it have a vested interest in keeping this knowledge, traiing. Look at film schools, lots of training, so are the good people naturals or training. It seems to be wring to think……it feels to me that one of the things we take for granted is that peopel are mre cultural literate…that’s soem indication…..the rise of media literacy tells us that people have masters the grammar of culture.
  • WU: is it a language….is it a way to converse
  • SF: language matters quite a bit. we have had discussions. Spreadable media…language matters and how you frame it from the beginning.  Language matters in measurement, setting up what you are going to do. William is framing question about what training.   What GM is saying is that it should not just an outsourced resource, but they should make the org as a whole smarter. That many have struggled with in the past as many companies outsource marketing, advertising etc.  Talking to someone yesterday, trying to give a strategy, he was not interested, he wanted me to think of something and go do it…he was too busy. the question that GM is raising is it possible to place value on learning about culture.  Traditionally we don’t place value on cultural knowledge, so what do we do.  How many places have sites locked?  can get to these different sites. (eg Twitter etc). I talk to people and they can’t solve this issue. There is the feelign that employees will just surf facebook – it is not an issue of access it is an issue of trust in employees.   There is a suspicious nature of cultural knowledge,.
  • WU: you talked about outsourcing…so a Chief culture Officer, if we think of a corp as culture, then a CCO has a different issue..the CCO understand the org, the triggers, the data flow. It is nice to be able to siphon this off.
  • GM: the corp is famous for shooting the messenger. The average CMO is the go to blame person.  In my worse moments, I think I’ve just created a better target.
  • JS: in the TV industry, the creative act is with the writers etc, there is no CCO, not in the marketing people. People go to LA and get immersed it. they no longer in the culture of outside LA, so creativity and cultural change drives out.    TV shows pull people who are immersed in culture, they come in and last a year, it is a liquid pool of employees; there is no way I can make something sophisticated that can be understood…..
  • GM: I love this idea that there is a cheat into the system, they realise people from traction, then come back in, they get the culture out and they throw them out again. It is a difficult and damaging process.  If you had a more porous corporation, then you would not have to fire/rehire to get the culture back in. 
  • JS: but how can a CCO exist in the corp if they don’t live in the culture
  • GM:  you may be right, but this is a questions…it should not be difficult…you build the position to people remain in touch. Otehrs can feed things in.
  • SF: the CCO in theory to CCO in practice is the tensions…so you look at what happens in the C suite schedule. Do you get a calender you get stuck in. Is there time for cultural knowledge. this is the real cultural difficulty that is not understood, . Corp america knows it needs to happen but don’t understand what it was. 
  • LK: doesn’t this sound like 1999 again, with all these weird job titles.  all they want to do is show you how cool they were…the new facial hair etc..How do we get away from the conception to someone with credentials..I did not find that in the book….some of these things are key to grasp…See the Wedding video….that all have seen..the music was by Chris Brown…big selling artist who had a scandal. it was used in videos without being licenced. It was a home video made to be seen by 15 people…so someone at Sony made the good idea…they did not issue a takedown notice, they put an overlay notice. It improved Chris Brown’s sales and his reputations.
  • SF: To turn this question around a little…Cultural knowledge is beneficial to org..new ways to make money and new ways to become knowing of risks before they happen. But why is CCO good for the people? the books gets at some of those ideas..could this trend help pull corps into a more cultural aware space.
  • JS: popular culture and your definitions….Pop culture usually happens on the margins. My students are wonderful pirates, the take over of culture. You say it is the people’s culture…you say the margins resist and the corp absorbs…
  • GM: at LK question, this is not Cool, cool is the enemy.   people I’ve talked to..are not in it for the cool, just interested, curious. it is there for the tapping…with SF, the issue of benefits, I have no defence, corps that are more responsive…they either enter the conversation or has no connections.  On popular culture and resistence..I cast the notion very wide, (as an Anthropologist), it is all culture, I don’t want to privilege the resistive part, it is all part of it. it is part of the general culture, it has gone wide.
  • JS: but popular culture..the people, the people who are outside, ot in power. Once in power you are part of a high culture.   The power in corp comes form that resistance, innovation happens in the margins.
  • SF: one thing you say on the book, the idea of makign the corp breathe in and out. On media corps are pushing culture out, through shows etc, popular culture will play around with that, will resist etc, then the corps again will become responsive to it..but corps are on a respirator, so how do we speed up the process, we can’t corporatise popular culture,….
  • WU: this is about issues about identity..one thing I noticed..you stress America. A lot of corps are multi-=nationals. what do you do with a corp where cultural products circle the globe.
  • GM: the fact that there is something like a global culture…it may be possible, We will have local specialists to speak to local cultures. Even f things were still, it would be impossible for US culture..it changes all the times..and that is why you need a  ziggurat of advisors….
  • SF: the academic model…they all have their own specialism, that we know one areas, the academic conference gives you time to hear about other areas. that model doe snot work well in corp america, a series of carefully guarded case studies. So does this play about how corps change, how they change. Should the CCO come together and share?
  • LK: the idea of ownership is what our culture is based on….
  • GM: the gift eceonmy…the old model is dead – finding and keeping to yourselves in dead.  We are looking at a change in our culture…mainstream, avant guarde etc,…this is breaking down, so invention takes place on both sides of the divide.
  • AudQ: don’t hate on cool…it comes off as the same kind of degrading….it’s like ‘ism’ is different to corp culture is weird..the person on the scooter may have some good ideas.  People who indulge in difference is something a CCO has to take time to touch that, be participant.
  • GM: well said..a CCO should be the beginning of the end of the vilification of someone for their own end..well said
  • SF: for my purposes..maybe cool is the wrong terminology, a CCO is not the trend spotter…
  • Aud: Piers (PSFK) is doing a good job so he is important
  • AudQ: Metrics..without a way to prove the CCO is making money, how do you evaluate them?
  • make themselves useful, so you could not get rid of them. Managing some revenue stream, innovation stream is critical. You are the barometer int he box, you can think deep thoughts,..
  • SF: it only works as well if it is cross-silo. 
  • WU/AUDQ: what is the place of ethics,,,does the CCO need an external ethical check?   There is apushback in university, that has an ethical tint…form business it is about talking 2 years not next quarter.
  • GM: being more responsive and engaged there will be ethical issues. the CCO should not be a moral guard-dog, everyone should be doing this.
  • AUDQ: is a CCO a misnomer..should it be a trend officer, cool hunter etc.   isn’t this why you have college interns?
  • JS: students are often a liquid cultural exchange, huge number of people. Not sure, are you talking trends etc. what is the depth you are looking for
  • GM: there’s trends that stream through as well as the depth, the full body, it is the full navigational stuff. just the latest things is just what is cool now. 
  • LK: if you have to know the metephors….
  • AUDQ: Samsung hired a bunch of kids to play and invent…gave them power in organisation. to create new products.  There’s a lot more in the process to bring culture in and CCO is too formal
  • GM: P&G have a skunkworks, everyone has a different way of doing it.  CCo makes sense to me as it obliges a corp to make the max symbolic gesture it can do . They already bring in interns…it is a gesture of good faith
  • AUDQ: Blocking sites…does understand digital culture fall under CCO?
  • SF: yes..it would not just have to be outsourced….we can;t limit this to new, trendy etc, it is much deeper than that. fast and slow culture is there. 
Nov 20

FOE: Transmedia for Social Change

WARNING LIVEBLOGGER – not checked.
Session 3: Transmedia for Social Change

This panel will broaden the discussion of transmedia properties to areas beyond the commercial or promotional. What are the potentials for transmedia to be used to affect social change? What parallels can we draw between the activities fan communities and other sites of collective activity? How does participation in the collectives that emerge around transmedia properties equip young people with skills as citizens? What responsibilities should corporations bear, if any, as they try to court fan communities and deep engagement?

This panel will also consider the cross-over between the forms of collective activity that mark participation in transmedia narratives and other forms of collective activities that harness entertainment media for social good. With the ability to mobilize (often) large and passionate groups of people quickly in response to actions that threaten their values and practices, fan communities constitute collective bargaining units acting on the behalf of consumers. Increasingly, fan communities are also deploying their social networks to try and bring about political and cultural change, resulting in an emerging form of activism which may impact on public policy or social welfare concerns.

Moderator: Henry Jenkins – Provost’s Professor of Communication, Journalism and Cinematic Arts, USC Panelists include: Stephen Duncombe – NYU, author of Dream: Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in the Age of Fantasy (The New Press); Andrew SlackThe Harry Potter Alliance; Noessa HigaVisionaire Media; Lorraine Sammy – Co-creator Racebending; Jedidiah Jenkins-Director of Public & Media Relations, Invisible Children

  • AS: Runs Harry Potter Alliance.  HP starts a student activist group in one of the books. I saw a great opportunity to make connections with the real world. We try and wake the world up to things that are going on. We team up with NGOs and promote them in the HP fan community. We can get access to the media, as the media find it interesting that a HP group can get to do things.    Eg marriage equality in Maine. We did concerts, phone voters to canvas etc Activism is about elevating the human spirit – sharing this creates a oneness feeling.
  • LS: one of co-founders of racebending.com; Around a Cartoon, where there was a cartoon that got been turned into a liveaction,. About casting white actors for Asian parts. this created a movement online. both fans and then moves wider, It is a small grassroots site, it focuses on a fair casting process. We use multiple medias
  • JJ: Work for Invisible Children. A media based NPO that bridges the gap between west and East Africa/Northern Uganda. We are trying to end the longest running war in Africa plus wake up western youth to a life of activism and social engagement. It started with a couple of guys telling the story and snowballed from there. It has not been a conscious action to invade multiple media but it is how we do things. We’re between 18-30 and we look for things that will spur action..it is about a lifestyle change. We tell the stories through documentaries and through touring,  Through short films, you can capture the imagination, and lure them into for longer stuff.
  • NH: work in a multiplatform company that promotes cross-culture dialog. Two projects, one On the road in America, a documentary reality show, showing Middle East people about the US. we are in the second series.    We also created a blog so the cast and crew could document their experiences.  this allows people to be part of it. It shows other perspectives. We are alos developing a online platform when the show airs. We are also working on iDiplomacy, looking at how media and entertainment are working in democracy.
  • SD: looking at how culture can be used politically. Most is work is about contemporary social movements, how they borrow from culture.  Looking at the past, 32-33, to 39. the New Deal.   During the New Deal, transmedia telling a story for social change is not new, it was practised then. For radio, with FDR Fireside chats, plus theatres, posters etc. A story that only made sense through all the platforms. It was not co-created, but FDR had lots of letters about it, people wanting to talk about it.  You got a multi-textured idea of the New Deal. They had to build a culture around the New Deal,. The comms apparatus can tell us a great deal.
  • HJ: So Andrew, Cultural Acupuncture is a suggestive term?
  • AS: if you go to acupuncturist,, it is about an intuitive body of energy with blocks that prevent the energy flow. So this is about getting ridding the blocks. So if culture is one body with an energy flow with specific blocks. So there are ways to unblock this. SO HP has a lot of psychological energy aimed at the book – so can you take that energy and move it around to make the world a better place. So see where the energy is now, find the energy can that be taken and used elsewhere. So that is what we do with HPAlliance
  • HJ: Stephen you wrote this book..Manufacturing dissent.
  • SD: fantasy and dreams are at the centre of social change, about managing things not as they are but as they could be. tey are dreams and fantasies.  the healthcare reform has been sold with hard facts not with dreams, Obama has backed off the dreams but talking about dreams etc  Fantasy and spectacle are the lingo of our times. If your are going to be a civic actor that cannot speak in language of fantasy and spectacle then you will render yourselves mute. Mass culture is a repository of desire, it is a matter of rechanneling
  • HJ: is this consistent with some of the other panel?
  • JJ: I love what is being said. With Invisible Children, young people who are stringer than ever and willing to forfeit the traditional american dream for more purpose in their jobs and lives. finding that undercurrent of desire is what we have tried to harp on and showing that through our media in an attractive way, rebranding it as an adventure and change of life. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive you can make what you want to do what you should do
  • NH: the ability to be heard beyond my local community was not there, but now there are means of production for all – a cell phone with a character, With we you have free distribution and your voice can be heard We are looking to empower people to be heard.
  • LS: When you present people with a bunch of ways they can make a different, it empowers them. With fandom, you have the energy, a built in base you can jump from.
  • AS: watching JJ film, it’s like a blockbuster, but it’s authentic. We chose the adventure of what happens next (for social activism). In society, we are addicted to story, because it is how the human mind works….
  • HJ: In framing activism through HP, with clearly defined evil, but how do it in real world, political cuases which is more grey
  • SD: So Anonymous, which has taken on Scientology.  4Chan have taken on the perfect comic opposite for themselves. But can it extend outside of it? Power does not work always like this..it is diffuse, networked etc. Power is not always something you can defeat a single entity. But this is a stepping stone, a way to political activism. Some will go back to what they were doing, others are started on a different path.
  • LS: we have to look at our position of privilege and how it extends. We make decision based on what we know. But we have to questions where it comes from and how we make these conclusions. We have to look at the evil within ourselves, e have to question ourselves and our motivations.
  • NH: the awareness factor is key for what a lot of us do. Media is a powerful platform to educate people on what is happening.  People can also share perspective.
  • JJ:  we saw the clear moral line of child soldiering, abduction. there is a dramatic and complicated back story, but the issue and villain of (Joseph??) is clear.  There are grey areas, but this is a clear line. Our media does vilify Joseph Coni the rebel leader, but still allows gray areas.  Ours followers still hold to a moral code (they are doing a bill to arrest him,)
  • AS: On apersonal level I am very hypocritical, I have a pavlovian response to some people, I demonise very quickly, but as an organisation we are wrestling with this, ot is a big question.  But in my opinion, HP is not just a straight forward good and evil battle. If you look Voldermort, there are things that scare him – Dumbledore calls him his name, it humanises him. It is about getting beyond this mindset. you see what seems like evil in situations, but there are bigger stories. We need more of the framework of myth, but we need to be careful on how to use it.
  • HJ: so are fans uncritical consumers of franchisers, but LS you are being critical
  • LS: when watching the cartoon, I watched it over the summer, then I checked what other people were saying. I was passive (as I got into it later).  People underestimate the potential, see the groups. people don’t see fandom as worthy whenit comes to social change. For me, I never started out as a grass roots activist, but it is because of fandom that I was bolstered into doing this, trying to make a difference.  Coming from Fandom, people think that they are just crazy fans, You have to step out of it, and make a valid case, explain it.  We are focused on entertainment based cases, it has been a struggle, but in a good way, it brings some relevance to fandom in how they are perceived. It has influenced other advocacy groups and productions.
  • HJ: love and community are great but who decides the political platform. Where are the ethics in manipulating a fan group?
  • LS: this takes fandom beyond ‘I like’ it brings a humanity to the fans, it is more than just I like, I consumer, I have beliefs. There have been many skirmishes in the organisers. But these are things you always have to hash through whatever the activist model. you have a loosely based organisation and they come together. Communication can be limited but can also help when making a broad decision. But we work through them by talking and having a dialogue,
  • As: it is a challenging question. We use the common room (on ning) an interactive blog, anyone can out something up and people do voice dissent. Especially with the LGBT. It is not just a liberal group,. Chapters may not be allowed to talk about it in schools or religion is against it. They don’t have to. It is also simple when the author talks about what she wants.  The organisation has stances and we put this out.  We can’t work on lots of things at once, we see what the focus is. We have 30 people working on this.  Building on consensus is important but there is a balance to be struck. Full democracy is not always working..we have a way of doing. We are non-partisan, we take no political stance.
  • NH: it is not just about people liking us. We asked the people on what they wanted to do and we based our journeys on some of the things. eg the Palestinians wanted to meet Native Americans due to an affinity plus visit the projects as he lives in a refugee camp. He was shocked the Native American family were not angry about the land – they had a different perspective as they say no one can own the land.  He gets angry about the land.
  • HJ: let’s look at the genre element
  • NH: directly meeting people is better than documentary We use reality format to drive this effectively…more effective for the audience to take people and show them
  • JJ: our case is almost the same. They are heavily based in the reality genre. We show people going to Uganda and their friendship with a ware affected child.  Showing that story in schools resonates. It brings it into a tangible reality where you can compare it with someone else. It has been easier, to get a rich emotional truth..you can tell the emotional truth you want to tell..you just have to turn the camera on.
  • SD: The NYT parody, we wanted it to look like the NYT. It was about the power of the real in this case, an artefact of the future in their hands. they had 80k handed out.
  • AS: HP lives because his mother made a choice to die..and her love went into him to protect him. Lily is the original hero in the books; so there are Lily Potters of Darfur, connecting it back to real people. We honoured Dumbledore this summer, what would Dumbledore do campaign, about how he could change their lives. got people to think about what Dumbledore taught them.  talking about what the character means, it went crazy.
  • LS: for us it’s the cross over of reality and fantasy.   IN the cartoon, you found children who could see a kinship, but it was taken away from them and people who look like them are not the heroes. 
  • AUDQ: Intrigued by concept of tapping into communities around something and activating towards causes but see how they could be nervous about causes that may not align with their values.
  • AS: so someone like Warner brothers getting worried…there is a large history of fandom with WB. It was very tense to start it, but I came out on this after this tension. We did take precautions, with name. HPAlliance. OUr first campaign was Darfur,it was difficult to attack us on this. We are looking to talk more with them ig HP chocolate fairtrade. We re OK now, but there are going to be issues as it grows as a model for fans etc.
  • AudQ: funding?
  • VH:  through a non profit, a public diplomacy initiative.
  • JJ: not Nonprofit traditional. Most is $20 or less from cross country tours, the kids involved. Most comes from small donations, plus a few larger donors.  We have never had grants until a week ago, the first government grant.
  • AUDQ: is there a digital divide for activism?
  • HJ: it is not just digital, you use the most relevant channels etc.
  • JJ: it is important that you don’t have to be in all channels, but can be whatever you have access to.  Whatever avenues you come at you leave with the foundation of what we are about and can still have resources and skills.
  • SD: The new deal was multi-platform. you can’t think about privilege in 2-3 media, it is about what you can reach and what your audience are doing. It is just one tactic in many, it is part of an integrated campaign.
  • NH: TV is most popular in Middle east, but we are doign web as well.
  • AS: we also campaign to get broadband access…
Nov 20

FOE: Transmedia Design and Conceptualization – The Making of Purefold

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Case Study: Transmedia Design and Conceptualization – The Making of Purefold

A collaboration between Free Scott (Ridley and Tony Scott’s newly launched entertainment division) and Ag8 (an independent studio based in the United Kingdom), Purefold is an upcoming transmedia narrative extension of the Ridley Scott classic Blade Runner. Set in the near future, the project explores what it means to be human. This case study discussion will examine how Purefold’s creators have guided the project through its early concept and design phase.

Drawing together members of Ag8, creative collaborators, and representatives from a major brand sponsor, this panel will examine the project from a variety of perspectives. Exploring the motivations for building a transmedia project around Blade Runner, the panel looks at the potential transmedia might offer for revitalizing older properties. It explores the roles different stakeholders play in the conception and design of a project, as well as the challenges of meeting varying desires and ambitions. The panel considers whether some genres are better suited for transmedia properties than others, and looks at how to extend existing properties with substantial fan bases, considering questions of co-creation and fan/audience production.

Moderator: Geoffrey Long – Gambit-MIT; Panelists include: David Bausola – Co-founder of Ag8; Tom Himpe – Co-founder of Ag8; Mauricio Mota – Chief Storytelling Officer, co-founder The Alchemists; C3 Consulting Practitioner; Leo Sa – Petrobras

  • GL: The origami unicorn has become the blue canary…when I first heard of Purefold I was fascinated. It is an experiment in a transmedia storytelling,
  • DB: We’ve being working on this for about 15months. Asking lots of questions whether this was the right thing. So we will take your through the project, plus one of the sponsors is here today as well.   Looking at design mechanics, insights, mistakes.
  • DB:  Some background….The Joneses. In 2007 Did a project for Ford (via Imagination). Ford asked for some kind of facebook, we suggested it would not work, Suggested an interactive comedy instead.   Where are the Joneses was a sitcom played out through the YouTube, Blog, wiki etc. You could chip into the scripts etc. Dawn Jones was  the daughter of a sperm donor who traveled around Europe looking for siblings.    It was not about product placement, but about a brand experience.
  • DB: we ended up with 92 episodes, published daily, over 3 months. It was multiple platforms, spread around. It did not do huge numbers. Ford evaluated it whether the people liked it or not. Ford wanted to be seen in context and play with their product.
  • DB: another input was a win with TBWA for adidas; setting up a digital agency for the brand, so they could create content immediately, respond and keep content going.
  • DB: these projects caught the eye of Ridley Scott. and his RSA company – they make adverts. But there are fewer adverts. His business requirement was to get these directors some work, so his brief was to write a treatment to get brands to get content. 
  • DB: to do this we wanted somewhere that is good. Bladerunner was looked at – it is all about what it means to be human.  It is set in 2019 – a world that we are close to. 
  • DB: we have bene playing around with social media – and that is about empathy and human. from the business case, this was about RSA owning a property for them to play it. But Ridley does not own Bladerunner. But there is a space to play and design something, about what does it mean to be human/
  • DB: Creative Commons was also important. especially when working with an audience that is adding value, allow them to make new things – which we can also use.
  • DB: AG8 focused on the architecture of the processes, the tools, licensing.  We did the marketing. RSA did the narrtives, (with baby Cow), production, casting, locations.  the Alchemist – developing transmedia extensions for Brazillian Brands.  We had to convince the hollywood lawyers, but with help of Lawrence Lessig we did this to use CC
  • DB: so Purefold is an Open Media Franchise.  It is open as in free to interpret; you can do media collaborations etc
  • TH: the 2019 space allowed us to look at what is just round the corner. Brands we are working with are looking at just round the corner. The near future aspects are a rolling timeline, with all stories set in 2-3 years.   Audiences, brands and filmmakers can share visions about what the future could look like.  With PUrefold we want to open up the vision of the future.
  • TH: But Bladerunner is a dystopian future, not what brands necessarily want. the interesting thing is the bit in the middle.
  • TH: it is all funded by brands. Can we let the films talk about brand prototype. Enables audiences to look for things they want from brands. It is not product placement…it is about product invention.
  • DB: about collaboration to get brands to collaborate with audience to make better products.
  • TH: we are listening to what audiences are saying, to determine what happens next
  • TH: the power law – 1:9:90.
  • TH: So first of all we harvest. We listen into the conversations all over the web. then the 9 % can indicate to us about what they want to see.  then once it is done, we send it out, the 9% comment and the rest is passive.
  • TH: the process.  We get people involved before we go into script writing. We listen to what is relevant on the web. Instead of pushing out for a response, we want them to get involved before production. We use Friendfeed as a platform, we use that as an inspiration for writing. then it goes to production and then out to video platforms.  There is equal use rights for audiences and brands.
  • TH: we listen, write and film. It is about finding out what is relevant/ the advertisers gives us a framework for what they want to explore. Eg cars and electric cars. there is so much conversation happening already, it is trying to find out what is relevant.
  • TH: we have an over arching narrative, we define propositions and synopses. We break it down into keywords and tags. We aggegate conversations across the web, we get audience involvement through comments and likes, which then becomes the inspiration for the writers.
  • TH: it is scaleable, we can set up as many groups around niche interests.  Each of the groups attract a different kind of audience
  • DB: Friendfeed helps us dream, looking about the memories of what a episode should be.  The best rises to the top, which lets the writers focus on the things. The writers can chose what they want. It does make it a little difficult to game the system – you can push stuff our way.
  • TH: using this way of getting audiences involved lowers the threshold. asking them to write ideas and scripts is too high. This is just about indication of what is interesting.  There’s so much info, we have to filter.
  • DB: we are building narratives on top of reality
  • DB:  the amount of content that is being pushed out now is huge…lots of data. But there are land masses and APIs you could build on.  But with all the data, how does a brand cut through?  Clay Shirky says it is not abut Data overload but about Filter failure.  Our challenge is to build filter clouds to bring the story.
  • TH: with advertisers, we go through the agencies to find which brands/clients would work well with the property.
  • LS: Petrobas is an energy company, in 28 coutries.   One key things is advertising, digital presence, product placement, sponsorships.  We are partners also with MIT. We are looking at transmedia with a lot of products. Brand must change their approach.    We need to develop new skills in compnay and agency to do this. Transmedia are a new challenge for us, we must dialog with all the stakeholders
  • MM: when we get a cool IP like Purefold, we think about cars etc, things that may be a lot cooler to gowith Purefold. the challenge was to get the concept of Purefold and mix with how they are thinking about the future of energy. We looked at mapping which stories Petrobas had that could be mapped to episodes,. it is like R&D storytelling. We are developing the idea of what people can bring to the table. through tags and through provocations.
  • DB: we are walking through the pilot season at the moment, 6 global brands doing 4-6 minute pieces. We are testing the process at the moment.
  • MM: one of the challenges with Brazillian countries to Purefold. RSA is amazing, but at the same tome there is a risk issue involved. It is a good risk, but still a risk , So how do you deliver the content in an uncontrolled manner. for hte brands the big challenge. So how does the proposition get dealt with by the audience. are they ready to deal with the consequences, do the objectives get met. So after that what is the role of transmedia around it. We get the episode and then build around it,
  • AUD Q: do brands involve risk giving up their prototypes  and give up advantage?
  • TH: it is not about one particular product. It is more about an areas, ie a mobile operator and Locations based services. Putting an area out there and finding out what people want.
  • DB: it is not just tangible goods, but how they should be acting. It is also about things they can’t change with advertising.  No-one has all the answers, but we can play the system
  • GL: how do you define success?
  • TH: success is in the eye of the beholder which fits this project. Each of the partners want ot get something out of it, have their own goals.   We are transparent as possible. For us it is about an ongoing franchise and continued story.
  • MM: the success is on the whole chain. the end product is a 5min episode.  There are 6 companies involved..but it is all done ‘freely’, with the CC licence, so we can use an asset created by RSA which we can use in our comfort zone. Each stakeholder uses the best of the chain/expectation
  • AUDQ: if harvesting are you violating copyright?
  • DB: no. Copyright is expression, not an idea.  It’s about aggregation, not taking words and using them.  All the data we use is public. If you don;t want to share it hten don’t. Once you share, magic happens. It is the gift economy.
  • AudQ: can we see it?
  • DB: it is all in planning, nothing done yet.
  • AudQ: if you are harvesting across web? how does the audience that is most active, see that there input is being reflected?
  • TH: we see the web as one big connective tissue.   If something gets attention on FF, then that writer will find out, as they get attention.  There are 2 types – as a writer that gets picked up as a source, and as someone involved who comments/likes etc
  • AUDQ: it sounds like your approach is a way for your writers to come up with relevant stories.scripts are reflective of the time. It about creating something that is relevant…so at the same time that people are talking about it the new content arrives.
  • MM: we see following the conversations about getting an empathy fabirc. you get different points of view, the chances of having more empathy because they are talking about the subject.
  • AudQ: how do you recruit commenters etc? Do you hand over the content to agencies?
  • DB: Ridley brings some weight…in FF, we are using widgets etc. We can aggregate on hub, for this.   Yes, we will hand over. Once the content is out there, they can do what they want.
  • MM: we think about extensions during the process.
  • AudQ: if you get it right, it could be a model…so getting the balance between the two futures, how do you manage the balance?
  • DB:it is about making it interesting.
  • TH: we have conversations about what a plausible future is, makes it mor fact based and less bleak
  • AudQ: Gift Economy? How transparent is the brand involvement? will it be clear to the people participating that a brand involved?
  •  DB: you give one line to the Jones, you get 30min comedy.   In this case the brands are giving more than the audience.
  • TH: It is very transparent on the hub, that we have brands sponsored. 
  • MM: it is not every brand that will do this; we remove a lot of the invasive elements, it filters the brands.
  • LS: it is not just hte 5 minutes, it is the whole delivery that is the challenge.
  • DB:
Nov 20

FOE: Changing Audiences, Changing Methodologies

Session 2: Changing Audiences, Changing Methodologies

Audience Research has long been a vital part of the media industries: research helps determine which ideas get produced, where content is distributed, and how content is monetized. Transmedia storytelling has forced media researchers to re-evaluate their notions of the audience since transmedia, by definition, allows audiences to engage at different levels across platforms. Research must now determine how to value audiences across different sites of engagement as they participate in different ways.

This panel will explore how research practices have adjusted to new ways of gauging audiences and making that knowledge useful. How does research understand and predict audience behavior? How does research contribute to monetization models for transmedia properties? How has traditional research adapted to keep up with the demand for better metrics? This panel will draw from a variety of industrial and academic perspectives to understand how we imagine media audiences and how we make them valuable.

Moderator: Eleanor Baird – Director, Partnerships & Analytics, Tube Mogul; Panelists include: JuYoung Lee – Co-Founder & Chief Scientist, ACE Metrix; David Spitz – Director of Business Development, WPP; Trapper Markelz – VP Products, GamerDNA; Joel Rubinson – Chief Research Officer, The ARF; Jack Wakshlag – Chief Research Officer, Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.

EB: Covering the role of research in TS.   In the last panel we were talking about measuring success. Research can help us assess impact; what they do as a result of engagement. Does it change behaviour, encourage spreading? Also what are the goals of TS. Research helps us figure out our goals and if we have met them

  • EB: What does it mean to you and some examples:
  • JYL: technology doe snot make TS. Effectiveness is driven from audience psychological context when using tech and that is what we focus on research. we look at same advertising across TV and online
  • TM: in gaming, its the different types of experiences – mobile to tv, tracking content and artifacts across the platforms. we look at all the ways gamers interact with content and IP. follow them as they change context.
  • JR: we don’t use the term. We use cross-media, or 360 media marketing. What it means is living in a 360 world, with human lives a the centre. The questions coming from marketers are quite different; what meshes with a brand strategy has got more complicated – but more interesting in a way. we;’re having more fun!
  • JW: trying to create more opportunities to immerse themselves, when when and for as long as they want with content we can offer.  large scale and long term, , CNN TV vs CNN.com etc.  Some simultaneous or some asynch
  • EB: so what role does research play?
  • TM: the amount of research we can do is reliant on the data available.  Prior to the last gen of consoles, it was less, fewer people to generate data. We aggregate explicit interactions from data networks trying to merge with behavioural targeting types etc, browsing and watching videos, sharing, plus the network data on the playing.
  • JR: It’s not a force in marketing that is happening in isolation. We are learning a lot about how the human mind works. Interested in behavioural economics – it’s not all rational for decisions. Have to look at what people are looking for and understand what is up for grabs. Engagement counts for a minority in customers; advertisers should be asking different questions, purposing touchpoints in different ways. each touchpoint does a different things I see digital and shopper marketing will merge – the mobile device is the main point.  Were not constructing these metrics nor have the right tests in place to do this. How does the ability TV create meaning and shopping create activation come together?
  • JW: we can do almost anything if we have enough money,. the question is what should we spend our money on. We need metrics to assess size/scope of businesses, what we should stop etc. If we can’t measure it you don’t know how big/strong it is or what you can do it./ figuring out social media does not fly, you have to ask what you want to know – hoe many people, what they do. It is not the figuring out we have to focus on questions about business metrics. it can be behavioural or financial. don’t care if transmedia, uni or what. There are 3 things i need to know – how may, how often. how long. Need to know it about every medium I play in. Not all I need to know, but key for all channels.
  • JYL: Our metrics are different from many/long/often.  But what we focused on the vast majority of audience that take no action after seeing a commercial. Advertisers need to understand effectiveness evenif no one takes actions there and then. We focus on developing ways to assess from behavioural data.
  • EB: What do we have now or where are we falling short?
  • JW: we have nothing except what people say. we don’t believe what people tell us (if we did, no-one watched the OJ trial). We need to find a way to go deeper. there are companies that are helping us explain non-concious decisions making, we can get info. Asking people what they want does not give you.
  • TM: easy to measure when not, or don’t or actively choose not to.   We looked at Amazon, looking at what people actively did not vote. So the got presented options and watched what they flicked by.. It’s about trying to present choices, so they can actively chose to consume or not, to skip by.  Present as many options for choice and using implicit actions to discern the process
  • JR: Media companies used to think of themselves in terms of the platform they are on. Now content is the organising principles. Thinking about it this way, is a media or publisher perspective and may not be the right way for an advertiser. Not sure impressions are additive. not sure you can add mobile, tv web impressions etc. So we need to consider measuring the holistic user experience, to calculate the multiplatform reach. or get accurate on each platform and put together as a secondary measure.
  • JW: the average person on TV is 35hrs a week, average is 6hrs a week online.  Your world may be different, but that’s the world I live.  Online video is 3hrs month, about half is YT shortform, then Hulu. Neither of them have made a nickel in profit. We have to deal with ad impressions and time spent and count. Sometimes we have to live with the reality is 95% is TV, 4% is timeshifted. Those are the facts that I must grapple with.
  • JYL: Online vs TV is different mind set. TV is passively engageed, so enough brainspace to accept advertising. Online they are more engageed, so not enough room to process advertising. Watching TV is driving with no distraction…online is like driving and texting…
  • JR: from a branding POV…you need to have strong properties.  One of the ways MTV evaluated the different environments for The Hills (online, tv), they looked at brand perceptions. If they consumed in all environments, then highest engagement metrics. but is it that people are more engaged are are looking for the environs or are they engaged because the environments. But it does not matter. you have extended the brand experience in places that are new, it is up to you to assess whether they will add value and then build it. you should do it as entertainment or brand – eg Zappos. their culture is online via social media as well. It’s not just about media measurement it is also about what you want to be.
  • JW: Cause and effect is really important. If building cross platform makes people more interested, but I’m convinced it’s the other way. More interested people look for cross platforms. We provide opportunities to immerse themselves as deep as they want. heavy users of CNN.com are heavy users of CNN. People are watching more TV than ever before.
  • JYL: from an advertisers perspectives it s simple – can I use the same TV ad and put it online. Our online people have created something can we put it on tv. When they have something good they want to use it different platforms.
  • TM: looking at the gamin space, none of the TS things in gaming, non have been very successful in driving engagement over and above the ones who would be engaged anyway. Metrics not there yet as data is not there, not mature itself. We need unified identity to help. few have made =the idea of TS to move more units. No-one has unlocked how to take a relevant message and target it by behaviour.
  • JR: if you are creating a brand and deciding strategy, you have to decide which media will be the essence which matches the essence of the brand.  Some brands have specific channels. There are multiple plays in the playbook, one of the aspects in media measurement is a testing aspect. You may have alternate strategies, you need to test them. There are organisations that have an experimental design approach to assess effectiveness.
  • EB: Looking to the future, if you could have metric/tech what would you want..is it worth measuring?
  • JW: In my dream, I;’m not sure how to do it. I need lots of metrics..but the ones I need for tv and mobile, is many, often, long. I can’t get those three now.  Everyone Knows it but no one does it! We re decades away from answering the fundamental metrics of those 3 platforms
  • TM: we are going to have to unify a lot of data silos.  Huge data warehousing problems. the data may be collected but consumers are uncertain about it being used. It is up to us to package the data as value add so it does not matter it being used. In gaming, data is useful as it is packaged back as profile etc, but does not work well in TV if they track everything you watch etc. If we can bring all the data together and make it portable then we may be able to do this.
  • JYL: After the many/often/long, then advertisers want to know what kind of content can be used across the platforms. can I re-use stuff, can I use the 10sec from online on tv and still get ROI. most people do not take action, but most is not designed to generate immediate action,. have to be able to measure cumulative impact and then on the impact on behaviour. Standards is good, so they can compare against competitors and past behaviour.
  • JR: if you have a multiplatform brand communication effort, and if it is important to you then you will probably commission a study. They are expensive discrete projects that are hard work to assess the impact. they are expensive, lots of time so limit usage. It is hard t build up a knowledge base. I would love to find a way that media becomes self-measuring, so it is generated as it goes. So the energy goes into not collecting the response but in analysing the response. In a digital space it is much more imaginable about how this works. It’s passive self-measuring is what I want.
  • EB: How can the research side work with  the experience teams in a way that is constructive.
  • JR: I got interested in engagement and dimensionalising it. I tried to calculate the % of sales from engaged customers. Most is more than half sales, but 10-15% of customers. You need to dimensionalise for the situation you are in,, the need to build the platform. For others it is important, for others it is OK to have a transactional view. you need to have a business perspective to create a proportional view.  For a storytelling perspectives, the story still needs to stand up on core platforms, or most won’t go and find the rest.
  • JW: We are fortunate that the core business is growing, people are watching more TV. this allows us to do new and experimental things. We want to provide the options. Do we think the numbers will be large – no. Even of the numbers are not large, I can still be successful, the most engaged customers go, that is where the people who like the product go. You come to us and be prepared to try new stuff but accept that the numbers may be small. Not everything you try is a success. We learn form our failures, not our successes.
  • JYL :Engagement is hard to figure out. Engagement with a programme is not the same as brand etc. Until there is answer to what is engagement, then advertisers have a problem with using that as a standardised metrics.
  • TM :one of key successes in gaming is UGC, and how gamers self-organise in other channels. In MMORPG, guilds were not planned, but they happened. Now gamers are trying to get that to happen elsewhere. it is too new, there are not enough examples. the companies are having to change the models the games are sold, you can lower upfront cost and pick it up for new content. Or a free-to-play model with microtransactions. there is a shakeup and it is too early/
  • EB (via backchannel). If you could quantify engagement, would it change business.
  • JW: we fool ourselves that small niche projects make a model. I would generalise that big brands have more engagement and loyalty than small brands. Coke is coke…if you are trying to create small niche products that is not the way products get big. Successful bigger brands have a different approach.   the difference between TNT and FOX, it is not the time spent, it is the number, Far more people spend time with FOX, even if the time spent is very the same. Small brands suffer on two counts – few people choose them and not very often…law of double jeopardy (1963..missed name). There are exceptions,,eg religious, language – lower reach, longer time spans. Looking at transmedia opportunity, be realistic in how big it can be. It does not have to be big to work for us.
  • JYL: shopping and consumption is a social activity, you want to buy things your friends have.
  • JW: it is partly to do with brand awareness as well, you don’t choose brand you have never heard of. Even if equally good. (measures on perception and return). Even if 2 places are equally good, you tend to go to the one that more has heard of.
  • JR: My problem is that whenever i try to measure it with respect to branding, it is a different brand equity measure, close to brand loyalty, so does not add much. In entertainment, there is a slightly different measure. the big win would be about finding away to apply behavioural economics to marketing problems. Understanding the heuristics that shoppers use to make split second decisions is a more fruitful area than new metrics.  Whereever you can analyse it, it exists. It happens in media, If you want to find light tv users, you look for them in the big shows, not the long tail.
  • JW: of you don’t know how you want to measure it, then you will never know. If you ask them, they will never know, it is unconcious process.  Innerscope we have used…they will measure pupils, heartbeat, sweating etc. Tey are measures that make sense to me, not asking people.
  • JYL: there are ways of asking questions, that do not rely on rational opinion. Innerscope are good for measuring reactions, but practically it is hard to attract people to that study…no-one likes to to be in a machine to watch a commercial. We are trying to look for alternates, they act as a proxy for physiological changes.  Fear of unknown is one reason you go for the larger brand.
  • JR: I took over a marketing class and asked them to write their favourite brand. I asked her how they knew about a brand -no-one said tv. it was peer recommendations.  eg for a mac. But they all knew the Apple commercials by name. the influence of those commercials was not something that could be said.
  • AudQ: how can you do AugReality/mobile in a store. One of the things a web does is give comments…so people can add their own impressions of products. Is there for marketing to get aroudn this? Will it push large bransds to get better
  • JR: there will be brand teams that will be in denial and prevent it and the others will embrace it.  Will also embrace it as manufacturers fight with retailers. So apps allow manufacturers bring their message right into the store, bypassing the retailers. Eg an app to show IUPC code which then shows video about the organic growers, tell the story. you have to be able to embrace it. The smartest people are some of the smaller guys.. but also P&G and Unilever who are all over this stuff.
  • AudQ: Do we need the big measurements or do we need to redefine it?
  • JW: I have 140 people who comb through data and that is there job. Data turned into information and turn it into knowledge and that is their job. You want overriding rules of the road as you don’t need to test everything and ask data questions everyday. There’s tonnes of data out there, but we don’t have people who make sure it is really good, etc, I will not do business with any company that hides behind a black box. Quantcast is not someone I do business with as it is a black box. I need people who will take the data and analyse it to provide information., We don’t know who is online..a lot of people share their computers, erase cookies etc. We have data, we don’t know the demos, how much money etc, we know they visited and then someone used the computer to go elsewhere.
  • TM: When we look at the data directly on the wire. There’s value but it seems really small.  franchise and genre loyal people, with TS experiences, you never get the huge initial audience, it is hard to get back to the main release. there is value created but not a lot.
  • JW: researchexcellence.com has data you could use, funded by Neilson, they did a large scale multiplatform observational study.  It’s as big and as close as any study has come.
  • JR: you can also mine social media, get insights into hat people think about you and your competitors, plus lifestyle issues etc, Collectively this is referred to as listening. This is about listening for the unexpected.   Comparing research questionnaires vs listening – value in both, but different insights. In research, the researcher controls terminology, in listening ,the user controls it.
  • AudQ: About CNN…every network comes underfire. When networks were putting more focus on Letterman/Palin than Iran, then the tweets CNNFAIL appeared to be reacted to. Also Stewart reactions,. So how do you measure the metrics of complaint?
  • JW: We monitor Twitter, Facebook, blogs, letters, emails. We respect the feedback from people who spend time to send us a message. We are an audience facing business, we have to respect the audience.  You can’t ignore the feedback but you have to weigh it. as CNN as a professional journalist whether you did a good job. We look at shows everyday and ask us the questions about journalism..dod we do the job we should have. Proud to say that CNN take the job seriously.
  • AudQ: would like to respond to some of the statistics.  If you take the average audience, that is a problem. Add age demographics then it is different (JW: that is untrue) So how do you measure?
  • JW: we gather data in a public way..I challenge you to show me data about what they DO.  We have looked at it in 3 ways and all show 15-24 watch lots of TV. People under age of 17 spend least time online as they have the least time. (Missed some as it got into a back and forth overlapping discussion)
  • AudQ: Many/Long/Often is based on advertising.. But not a lot on why. If you can’t do the how questions is this an opportunity to come up with new measures. So why focus on the old measures if there are opps to talk about the why?
  • JW: so I need to know what I want to know the why? It is not that I don’t need to know the why, when I’m doing the media plan, working out how to much to pay people to create, I need to know the How.  We have models on the how
  • JR :you need to know both. but there is commercial purpose for all. I did a meta-analysis of ad campaigns. What you heard in echo chamber it said TV was no longer viable, but the analysis showed that is was as effective as ever. Media strategies and brand platforms need to be done together.    Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty was one of the most innovative campaigns recently. It was all about the customer, not the change to the product.  TV is not everything…it is like a rubiks cube, you have to solve everything together. to do that you need to know they why but you have to quantify it to take it back to the commercial space
  • TM: look to gaming space. we know how many and how long, so the why is being played with. games companies are finding that it is not successful way of monetising as it is the same small group.  Now it is the the change of audience that is happening, eg Eve, moving to a FPS platform, to go after a new audience.
  • JYL: it also depends on product. One of the most successful campaigns…insect repellent, there is a belt clip version of this product (OFF) not a lot of engagement.  they put on a TV ad, they spent a little amount..sales 400% increase right after. Low interest, no brand loyalty…TV large audience has large impact.
  • AudQ: Jack, you are concerned about what people DO rather than say they do. So how do you approach situations where metrics not really reliable…eg Time Magazine poll, Twitter trending topics. Metrics as what is goign on vs cultural attitudes.
  • JW: is a big problem, we know people game the figures. Eg ad click farms. It is about data quality, and quality controls. It should in theory be large and stable but people can  game it, so not there.   It is a problem for us. you can criticise the Neilson system, how can they generalise from 18k to all the home, I wish they could do something better but you take the metrics you have.
  • TM: Game data is very young but there are the same challenges. People who leave games on. they are anomolies, but not huge. eg gold farmers, It can be filtered out, normalised for outliers.
  • JYL: extreme data is online, the vocal minority rules the space. you need 3rd party non-biased, not just the listened to stuff in tweets etc. these opinions are skewered and you need more.
  • AudQ: What internal discussion about making the data publicly available for us to use?
  • JW: It is not our data, we buy it from another company.  I’d love to know where Quantcast get the data from.
  • JYL: as a data provider, we have a business to run. It is hard to make profit by providing data in public. We collect data as well as we can, then make it to other businesses. It is hard to give it away.
  • JW: Has access to all TV data..come and talk to me about getting access as long as it serves a useful purpose.
  • TM: in the same boat. We have provided lots of data to MIT Lab, there is a lot of data out there. we will work with anyone who will look at it.
  • JR: so what analysis would you do?
  • AudQ: what is more valuable, data or analysis?
  • JR: or is it C….what is the data, so what is the analysis and the now what is the business decisions.
  • JW: the data are useless, the information and knowledge is useful. I create the whys, the explanations., Humans observe the world and come up with explanations.We construct explanations for the things I see. My managers don’t want to see data everyday, they want information and knowledge, i need to search for empirical irregularities and come up with why. It is my job to find the secret sauce., If it was easy, I’d be rich! But it’s not and I’m wrong sometimes.
  • JYL: yes, it’s the information,. Look at the large amount of financial data, but few people saw it coming
  • JR: but it is not good enough, you have to take a stand and do something.  With the TV world changing, about DVR etc, the tv people had to make the call about what to do. It is not the analysis, but the choice to make a choice and be held accountable for it.  Everyone should have a now what moment with respect to their business. this is a cultural change, one of the aspects of being a researcher is doing great analysis. It is not good enough anymore, we need to find a way to drive the business forward.  We need to get the marketers past their fear of control.
  • JW: you need to build a model with one set of data..and then test it with another!
Nov 20

FOE – Producing Transmedia Experiences: Stories in a Cross-Platform World

WARNING: LIVEBLOGGED – not checked

Session 1: Producing Transmedia Experiences: Stories in a Cross-Platform World
As the production of transmedia experiences becomes more commonplace, this panel seeks to pick apart some of the tensions emerging around transmedia as creative practice. As a narrative form, what is transmedia anyway? How can we keep it from being more than a shorthand excuse for multi- or cross-platform narratives? Is it anything more than that? Need it be?

Focussing around a series of case-studies, this panel digs into questions around genre, interactivity, and franchising? Are there certain genre constraints to transmedia narratives, particular genres — science fiction, drama — better suited to become transmedia properties than others? What might a transmedia event built around a romantic comedy look like? What role does interactivity play in transmedia narratives? Can transmedia narratives be satisfying simply by distributing their narrative in lots of forms, or does an “effective” transmedia narrative require opportunities for the audience to “participate” in a more active way than simply interpreting and discussing amongst themselves? Does transmedia require room for the audience to take a narrative in their own directions?

Moderator: Jason Mittell – Middlebury College. Panelists: Brian Clark – Partner and CEO, GMD Studios; Michael Monello– Co-Founder & Creative Director, Campfire; Derek Johnson – University of North Texas; Victoria Jaye – Acting Head of Fiction & Entertainment Multiplatform Commissioning, BBC; Patricia Handschiegel – Serial Entrepeneur, Founder of Stylediary.net

  • JM: asked our panellists to add their own definition of Transmedia Storytelling (TS)
  • PH: founder of Nine; how we see it is a solution ot the fragmented market, takes that approach to it; I bring that mindset into new places
  • DJ: a definition is a cultural experience that is shared and proliferated across channels. There is a place for adaptations etc, one of the strengths is about thinking about all the different ways that it can be done.  My interest is about the media franchise, eg IP that is shared by multiple sites of production
  • VJ: we don’t use TS much we tend to use the world multi-platform. they unfold across multiple places, to encourage discovery and access. We see the lifecycle of our content expanded by this world.   Expand reach, innovate and provide a platform for new talent etc.
  • MM: founded Campfire, does things like True Blood.  I tend to shoot down all terms for what we do but not having an answer. It’s about freedom as a story teller, freedom from gatekeepers, freedom to tell stories in way that are unconstrained.
  • BC: Mike and I both come from independent media, excited by the opposite to what HJ said. TS is the result of freedom of talent, not the goal. I tend to use the goal of experience design, interested in the performance relationship as well. It’s not about designing for each box at the time, which seems to be the TV model. It’s about making narratives about of everyday consumption
  • JM: not always clear what examples people share? So I asked the panel to come along with an example to discuss.
  • BC: wants to talk about an original IP we are doing – a techno-thriller. A few years ago we created an experience where we would get people lost. we had 38 hours of character immersion. we watched it all. we did not hide cameras everywhere, but we could have. The idea of losing ocntrol, of letting the audience be part of the narrative, the active protagonists of it, reshapes the idea of all media we touch, about getting it early in process.
  • MM: HBO and true Blood. In writers strike, we met then, looked at building websites, about 20 of them. no connecting story, just sites that should exist outside the show. The HBO said we could not put up a bunch of sites, needed a story. We were tasked with the story of how the vampires had come out the coffin, how true Blood was developed. We had 2m views of the online episode for a show that had not been promoted. We created the framework, then we had ad agencies working off the framework. For Series 2, we were asked to reflect on how the world had changed, we worked with Gawker to integrate the blog into their network.  there were lots of issues, about control, (eg if on Gawker, it had to be written by Gawker etc)
  • VJ: (played showreal) – Strictly; Ashes to Ashes, Dragons Den, Online Psychic test; The Apprentice; Just a Minute remix; Being Human.  The breadth of what we are doing – amplifying our tv programmes. One example is around a soap opera. Eastenders, The forma website is high traffic, as part of the 25 anniversary, we have commissioned 13 young writers to create a new story, of 4 students who move it. A new point of view on the characters.
  • DJ: I don’t make them, I study them. Interested in the way properties are shared and co-produced. Worked with Marvel, spoke with people in a wide production network of people sharing the same world. Marvels exemplifies the breadth of production practice; it’s not just one company managing it but several. With Ironman, the studios practiced a production based licensing model, had close interaction between film and game makers.  Even though the game was badly reviewed, but it was still a cohesive story.   But animated Ironman adventures, was a different Ironman, to target a different market.   Marvel Ultimate Alliance game features Ironman, but a different version. Used the same character but little co-ordination of story.  So interested in the many different ways they are done
  • PH: The New Power Girls, based on an audience of women who are trying to be moguls. we look to create content across platform that is palatable.  We create end to end content, with all elements, with own monetisation for each piece.   A blog, (NPG daily) with TV shows, it’s not just about getting them engaged but useful for whatever platform
  • JM: so the 7 principles that Henry talked about – which are most relevant for the panel.
  • BC: Still reflecting on how many are true when not TS. a lot is still variations on reader response and implied relationship on reader/author and how that is being stretched. Especially when it feels more intimate.  For TS, I know the audience as well as the audience knows me. When Someone come sand says they like the Art of the Heist I ask their username, and have a shared experience about it. It’s about the idea of Multiplicity makes me most exciting. a work does not have to be some finished piece, its the roll between the teller and the audience
  • MM: for me, the direct interaction with the audience. the first experience was Blair Witch, it went on for 8 months before a bible was built. the story emerged in direct contact with audience and still in contact with some of them.
  • JM: can I quote your twitter….MM you wrote…performance of the creator is essential (not just fans)
  • MM: too often is see with clients, they want to lock down a world. They get nervous if audience tries to create things that feels like canon. The storyteller is in the midst of the performance.  You have to deal with what the audience brings you; there is active participation and I react to the audience and change as it goes along.  In Heist we built a story and 2 weeks after launch it was gone and we changed.
  • BC: When you point a camera at something, you are capturing the performance; it is not just documentation, The relationship is changing,
  • VJ: the catalytic power of performance is what creates the drillability, how this transforms into audience performance in response to this. Drillability chimes enormously, the hunger of fans for extra story, or proximity of talent. It’s a Hygiene factor, we have to have other sites, if we don’t then the BBC has not done it’s job
  • PH: our audience participation is in the community where the PG share online.
  • DJ: on drillability, we talk about what can the users investigate. So for the Producers, how does this impact, the ability to produce more, or licencees have the ability to drill more into a property.
  • JM: Comics are interesting, multi-authored by design. a set of stable characters, but you know there will be shifts in authorships.   Many of them focus on non-realistic genres. For genres, what opens up for the producers when talking about a non-fantastic genere – eg Eastenders. What are the limits? What pre-existing properties seem ripe for this. Or are their properties that are difficult?
  • BC: you tend to see more escapist genres at the birth of an artform. Horror and scifi, existing fanbases, this is low hanging fruit. I got stuck with The Lakehouse! there are some stories that do not provide enough universe to get it started. I want to see a comedy, I want to see the opportunities explored.
  • VJ: consistent motivations for the audience, get involved, connect, drill down, take part in action. The creative expression is different for different genres.  So Playalong, light interaction, instant gratification for Entertainment properties. Interactivity etc, I-TV. For Comedy, engagement triggers are sharing funny stuff, shortform video, It pens up the canvas and other forms – puppets, magic, animation, expands it. Drama – more conventionally in TS, for soap opera etc.  We have to be clear on where the audience is in their journeys,, we have to be clear where the fanbase is. With Eastenders is a lot more handholding.  Eve if we point to the website after each show, most EE audience are not aware of it.
  • PH: all is non-fiction. Reality shows. it is not fantasy. In the past, Bravo used it a lot as a marketing channel; so now we have to ask what the audience wants. A lot is to touch the characters.  
  • BC: so want to do a puppet show!
  • DJ: PH does the ability to play a little, share your interaction with audiences. Is it more about creating a system them a story world.
  • VJ: the desire for audience to measure and understand themselves, the web allows this. Eg Sex/gender quiz. It is about extending learning journeys through content.  More product driven approach, ef wildlife, food recipe, earth news. There is a category approach for knowledge, and still a lot of innovation.  Adam Curtis – He created a ‘kit’ to describe a journey, movies and documentary, immersive theatrical things.
  • JM: About the audience, you can know your audience, you can conceive ideas about the group…when you are talking about an emergent property, how do you concieve of the group before it starts. Is it from the client, this demo etc, or from the storyteller POV. And then there is reality, so how do you cope?
  • BC: so an ad agency would say….our aspiration customer is an 18-24 yo girl in her first job who want to be taken seriously, our real is a 45-55 men who is cheap!  But everyone has a sense of narrative. You get the client to tell the narrative, it becomes more goal orientated.   you have a concept, but it’s an internal justification to allow you to tell the story anywhere. In TS it is a highly interactive process. If it has not launched publically, it has not happened.  In most cases, the narrative is far richer if iterative. haters are a problem, dealing with them that is the real test and most frequently the rest of the audience works out a way yo deal with them
  • MM: for original projects, it always starts with the story.  Once you have the story, you can envisage the audience. For marketers, it is about trying to draw out who is the real audience and then looking at their behaviours.
  • DJ: it’s about Multiplicity, you don’t have a single audience, you can’t please all of them all the time, you have to do different things. 
  • PH: it’s the most critical element in storytelling. We have to know our category. We don’t create for brands, but we have clients, we have to keep our finger on the pulse, know what will sell, what the audiences are.
  • MM: the goal is emotional goal. it drives everything else. If you make this you can do a lot. 
  • VJ: we are clear abut having an audience agenda on commissioning. Largely it’s fans we are pitching the ideas at, those with a high level of engagement. Too many producers underestimate the appetite for the multiplatform content.  You can get producers who over-estimate it though, there is danger of too much expectations, have to get the right reasons.
  • MM: one thing I find disappointing, the gatekeepers tend to view the audience as ‘freaks’ or obsessives,
  • JM: is the primary goal to TS to motivate people who would not get involved or those who are fans anyway?
  • BC: for independents the web is a way to build an audience before you are done. you can share what you are making in the process; you can shape what you are making and loyal fanbase.
  • MM: we had about 1000 people on list a year before it…they had ALL connected with it. Those 1000 fans, called shows to talk about; called Sundance to ask for the film. they called the cinemas asking for the film.  We had a core fanbase and it grew and then we reset the topline experience to attract new people and had another layer to connect with the originals. So we had 2 levels.
  • JM: so today, can we do 2 levels etc?
  • MM: absolutely, the most difficult challenge to do
  • BC: but is this a false dichotomy.   We did some work on 39 Clues, with Scholastic,. It was designed for multi-channels, To send readers who wanted the Owl to know that they had moved if they were going to get the Owl letter inviting them to Hogwarts.. We created something to make it real – letters back to the kid
  • VJ: fan management has a bif deal. it is not something that we are skilled with. As we socialise our content, we have a relationship. Some fans are really hard core..we have had to increase management 3x on message boards as the fans are not happy with the way the show is going. this puts off new people, who just want to chat. so how do we host conversations that are worthwhile and fun, this is causing some issues. There are use cases on other platforms, some want to just catch up, others want more immersive, others want to add fictions etc
  • PH: No, the goal is to reach audience where they are at.  fragmentation is what happens..it is to reach them, lots don’t watch TV, they want different behaviours. TS is to reach peple
  • DJ: what VJ is talking about is a central tension; how to leverage TS in a way that is managed. Central vs decentralised. It’s not about shutting down, but incorporating
  • PH: fostering the community allows them to play a part int he management – they can do things to regulate.
  • JM: is it the tension between control of property and the audience.  But what’s the tension between the various producers interest.
  • MM: this a legal issue. Compromise is needed
  • BC: there’s no framework for it. If there’s a no risk attitude then it won’t work
  • MM: tension between audience and canon/created. In most cases it’s clear and most people move between OK.  But a lot of tension is between the creators/partners. I often come in via marketing. But you have partnerships, like with Gawker. So only Gawker could write content on Gawker, We had to create content for Gawker writers to write about.  It seemed Gawker were not prepared to deal with fans of the show..and there seemed to have been a lack of comms between marketing and editorial.  Content in advertising spaces – upset when advertising does not act like advertising.  It put off the fans – the story focused on Gawker and their attitude.  We shy away from it more..if media is creating content on behalf of advertisers.
  • BC: but independent is still full of lots of partners, creators, who are specialists, You need to get a whole load of people who would not necessarily work together. There is tension there as well
  • MM: on Blair Witch, we saw the need early to create a Bible, then handed it to licensors. Comic etc . When they added stories we would look at it to see if would be added to canon.
  • VJ: We are a broadcaster, moving towards being a content provider. A big shift. Many producers are less familiar, less excited,  They feel it’s about visibility. Some of the younger get it, they invest in it from the start, that is when it cuts through with the audience. They sell in as a rounded project. we have had most success when this happens. Comedians and comedy world really get it. Sometimes you have to re-engineer shows to recognise it. There are real challenges form talent as well, about signposting this stuff. So many things to balance.  It’s complex. In commissioning, we have to understand strategically what we are trying to achieve and which of the hurdles we are prepared to tackle,
  • PH: we are coming in with an end-to-end franchise, well thought out, and that is why we doing well. It is becoming more about thinking before hand, not add-on.
  • DJ: so TS, talking about bridges across different production studios. It’s not even. So with Marvel, then film is always the lead – even if it a comic book company. cultural issues of prestige and value and meanings, have shaping influencers.
  • JM: so how do you define success and failure.  When does it work and for whom
  • VJ: there are very blunt tools. we don’t have th overnight measures. We have reach metrics etc. Reach/Quality/ Impact/Value for Money. We set out things before a project. So entertainment may be focusing on Impact.  For others it is reach…a big show that does not have a lot of numbers is a failure. So Quality, recommendations is another measure. We map out in advance. so we know what we sign up for. We are now getting a sense of the numbers. Simple light, well-executed, thought through are best. nothing much has changed – performance, story telling, timing etc is the same.  It’s   of tools, be strategic about what you use.
  • BC: back to the pastiche idea. Any success you want to prove, there are metrics already. I look for metrics that our clients are already bought into and how do you use these metrics. Eg advertising ROI and marketing efficiency.
  • JM: as a storyteller, when do you feel you have done something that has worked?
  • BC: no two films have the same goal etc.  there are diferent goals. There is no one metric of success.
  • MM: do you have fans (as a storyteller)
  • DJ: so the implicit question is why is something valued. It is easier to measure commercial success. 
  • BC: it is hard to prove transmedia sometimes So what produced what, everything has a synergistic lift effect. So movie clients are amongst the most difficult, How do you show a dent with $100m movie marketing budget

(Now onto questions)

Nov 01

Twitter Lists

Twitter Lists got widely released this past week and people are trying to get their head round what they mean. It’s a slow process categorising people, as there’s no quick way to put people into lists. With a new tool and a slow process, I think it’s going to take a while before user behaviour and list norms get established. It hasn’t stopped people putting their opinions out there though. Chris Brogan has decided he does not like the lists:

Immediately, I realized what I’m not going to like about them: they will exclude people. Sure, on the one hand, they’re a great way to group people and information together. For instance, I might make a list for news feeds. I might make a list about travel, like hotels and airlines. But the minute you move into the people department, things get sketchy quick.

Scoble responds:

Sorry Chris, but life isn’t fair. Steve Gillmor tells me all the time I’m not in control of how people view me. That’s why I don’t feel bad about lists I’m not on. I CAN control my own lists, though, and even when I do my own lists I leave myself off of most of them. That does NOT make me feel bad.

He gives examples of lists that are obviously exclusionary by nature, eg VCs; they’re a fairly objective description of what a person is, so lists like this are self-selecting. The problems that Chris refers are are going to more prevalent when lists are more about what a person is like, when it starts to move towards personal, subjective viewpoints; that’s when feelings are going to get hurt, in the same way that they can be if a person is not followed back. (because unfortunately that’s what people are like).

Another set of posts are about what lists are for – which this one probably falls into. As Alan says on Twitter, there was always bound to be one about how lists are the new measure of influence

Twitter Influence (screenshot from Twitter)

Twitter Influence (screenshot from Twitter)

On that linked post, Todd Zeigler says

I think Twitter Lists will end up helping separate the men from the boys when it comes to influence. In addition to seeing a Twitter users follower count, we can now see the number of other Twitter users who have added them to lists (example to the right). I would argue that getting added to a list is a bigger deal than simply getting someone to follow you.

And some are already acting on that, with mashable.com basically begging to be added to lists. But as I said earier, I think it’s still too early to determine where lists will go. Being on a list labelled ‘idiots’ or ‘met’ or ‘Bristol’ is not a measure of influence because the lists are being used for a different reason than to categorise expertise in an area.

So I’m going to examine ways in which I think may be used, having taken a look around the developing list frenzy. I think there could 3 main ways that people will categorise things

  • To organise the information for themselves. With no thought of others, the lists are there to see sub-sections of the people and entities they follow. From what I’ve seen, this will be the most common use, reflecting the personalised nature of Twitter usage for groups.
  • To organise information for others. These will be people who will do the most talking of about the lists, about how good they are, how they will replace the SUL and follow friday. They provide the lists to help others find good stuff (or to demonstrate their influence)
  • As a temporary element, around a conference or an event – a list of people attending, a way of pulling all the tweets together.

So how are list users categorising tweeters? Here’s a few methods that I’ve seen so far.

  • By their relationship, eg met is a common name at the moment, also buddies, best mates etc
  • By their employment, eg company lists, or job type lists, such as Rackspace, or journalists
  • By their perceived expertise or role, eg social media, programming
  • By their perceived social role, eg connectors, celebs
  • By Geography eg London
  • By type, eg news, objects, organisational tweets.
  • By perceived worth, eg cool, interesting,
  • favourite

So how are you using your lists?

Oct 24

BBC Baloon

I love how even an august organisation such as the BBC can sometime have typos (yes, I know I have no leg to stand on with the frequency of mine)

BBC Baloon

BBC Baloon

Oct 10

Augmented Reality – the History application

I like the idea of augmented reality, the idea that using a device (usually a mobile) I can get more out of the world. For someone who sits watching TV with the laptop, so I can dig into more information about what I’m watching, being able to do that on the move would be great. Yes, I can look it up via the web, but it can be easier to have it all pulled together.

Whenever I talk about the subject, I bring up my most desired application. Tube stations and restaurants tourist places and all that are fun and useful but I want something with a bit of depth, and that depth is time. I want a history tool. I want to be able to walk around London and know that Marble Arch used to be Tyburn. That this is the path of the Fleet. That Trafalgar Square used to be the Royal Mews. Point my phone at something and it would offer me the chance to move back and forward in time, giving me information about what it was. In some places, where the images are there, I want to see what it looked like. A perfect example is the paintings on the walls of one of the Tube tunnels at Charing Cross, which gives you street plans and drawings of buildings of the area. Let’s put that on the phone.

This isn’t a simple mash-up, it’s not pulling ready-made data together, because as far as I know, it’s not there. We’ll have to build the database, turn into historians to pull it together. I think that Layer is a possibility, with the ability to create data sets. This is what I want, but I have no idea how to build it..anyone out there doing it already?

Update: I went along to Mobile Monday London yesterday and ended up chatting about this app. A few more ideas got developed.

  • The database element and app itself appears to be fairly simple. It needs to use the location and retrieve the data for that location, and then be able to move through the different time layers.
  • Collecting content is more difficult. There could be ways of partnering with museums, ie Museum of London, or other local museums. A great source would be local history groups, that often have specialised archives. It should be possible to allow users to develop the content, around a specific location.
Oct 08

Twitter Broken

Twitter is currently broken, it’s stopped sending out updates. But the search is still working, so you can see that everyone is still using Twitter to tweet that it’s broken!

Twitter Broken

Twitter Broken

Sep 17

Twitter Trend Explanations

Interesting. Twitter is now providing explanations for trending topics, which makes good sense giving sometimes you just don’t get it. Here’s the explanation for one of the ones tonight, where man of the tweets are in Portuguese.

Twitter Trend Explanation

Twitter Trend Explanation

Aug 01

Sky – How to annoy customers

I’ve been lucky this year in that I’ve had a Sky subscription through a friend which was part of an offer, so I pay nothing this year. I’ve never felt the need to get additional channels or pay a TV monthly subscription, so this was really an experiment to see how I liked it. And it’s been good, I’ve added a couple of programmes to my watch list and the Sky+ box works well (although not as nicely as my Tivo).

However, I have a HD TV so thought about upgrading to the HD box and service. This is when I run into the problem – if I upgrade I lose the other deal. So instead of paying £9.75 for the next few months, I have to pay the full £30 or so. Which is completely ridiculous. The service is good enough for me to consider upgrading, which means they’re going to keep me after the initial year’s end but they put this barrier up, which means I will now consider alternatives. Silly short term thinking, not long term lifetime value thinking.

Jul 11

Books June 09

  • Summer in the City, Pauline McLynn. Following the lives of a group of people living on one close in London, it’s initially confusing, as you try and work out who all these people are and how they are connected, but it all starts to make sense and come together nicely. Everything ends well, a good story
  • The Dirty Secret Club, Meg Gardiner, US Thriller about a forensic psychologist who constructs the state of mind of dead people, playing a central role in the cracking of a murder plot. A little over the top, but good read.
  • Azincourt, Bernard Cornwell, Cornwell turns his attention to the 100 Years War, focusing on a bowman who marches with Henry V, ending at Agincourt. Basically, this is Sharp but just set in a different period. Same type of hero who gets through battles despite the odds, war and battles and same writing style.
  • Kings of Albion, Julian Rathbone Another historical novel, this time set in the War of the Roses, what happened when the English got fed up of fighting the French for a while and decided to fight each other. The style vould not have been different, focusing on a ‘tourists’ version of visiting the English, full of satire and subtle comedy.
  • Uglies, Scott Westerfeld. I’d read a lot about how good a YA book it is, but I was slightly disappointed at it, because it was not as expected. I still loved the book but for some reason, I expected something different (although not sure what!). No matter, it was still an excellent read, telling the tale of Tally, growing up in a world where on reaching the age of 16 you get to become a ‘pretty’, get made beautiful and move into the adult world. But all is not what it seems.
  • Trust Me, Jeff Abbot. A familiar tale – in fact, Id read something similar recently – of circumstances pushing an ‘innocent’ on the run, where they learn more about themselves and those around them. Here it’s all tied into global terrorism conspiracies. However, it’s going to be most memorable to me as the first book I’ve read where Twitter is namechecked and plays a small part of the plot.
  • Silks Dick Francis. Another strongly plotted racing thriller, this time co-written with his son. I’ve got a lot of his books, always awell put together story.
Jun 08

Weird Genetics

This ad is for Artificial Insemination, for egg donors. And it completely annoys me whenever I see it, because it’s wrong, all wrong. Not because the idea is wrong, but the maths is.

(if you haven’t studied basic inheritance, a child gets half of its chromosomes ie genes from each parent. So a child only ever has 50% of the two biological parent’s genes. So when you use donor genetic material, replacing one part of a couple’s contribution, the child will only have 25% of their genes)