Tag Archives: transmedia

Transmedia … advice

I have no business writing this post. I don’t. I need to be busting my ass on a project brief. But something really bothers me about a number (not all!) of transmedia blog sites.

For example, check out this short post by Peter Von Stackleburg: Computer Graphics & Designing Emotion in Transmedia Stories.

…It’s great advice. Honest. Light and color in visual imagery have powerful effects on emotion, and on narrative expectation. It’s great advice for people creating 3D comics, or 3D animation, or creating single frame artwork in a 3D computer graphic style. It’s great advice for anyone working with images, really.

But this has nothing to do with transmedia specifically. Transmedia is about multiple platforms. A deeper discussion, one true to its title, would ask questions about how to graphically link all platforms that include visual imagery. How does one “design emotion” over several platforms? Transmedia lets a creator gun or throttle all kinds of emotional responses in complex and interconnected ways. If you have a story about a young couple, told over Twitter, Facebook, and a personal blog run by one partner, you could build suspense like this:

Together

Together (Photo credit: Thorsten Becker)

Bob’s been updating Facebook with his locations all day. He has his phone set to auto-upload any pictures he takes (he’s said before that he does it to screw any thief who might steal his phone and take incriminating pictures of him or herself). He’s off at a conference somewhere, the place isn’t that important. What is important is that he stops checking in, and when Jane sends him a good night tweet, he doesn’t respond. Jane tweets later to see if any of their mutual friends is with Bob, as she tried calling him, but the phone rings out. Her friends tweet back jokes and assurances, but then they all go to bed.

And then she gets a Facebook notification about a new picture upload from him. She goes to check — it’s dark, grainy, mostly indistinct. But there’s a streetlight in the background, and someone laid out on the ground not far from there. In less than an hour, Jane posts the picture on her blog, explaining she’s been in touch with police, and asking for people to get the word out and help.

That is an example — rough, sure — but it’s an example of how to use emotion across platforms. I hesitate to use the term design. I’m not sure how to design an emotion. I am pretty knowledgeable in evoking them.

And on a final note, I plan to write about Mr. Von Stackleburg’s posts that I do think are insightful; I realise it’s a bit unfair to just call him out like this, and I don’t want to give the impression that his blog overall is lacking, because it’s not. Also — if he’s reading this, I completely intended to comment directly in the blog with questions, but I couldn’t log in to the site, and I couldn’t find a way to register to comment! :(


So, what am I arguing again?

In trying to sort out where the gap in knowledge is, the one that I’ll be aiming to fill as my “contribution to knowledge” in my field, I’ve had a bit of a hard time. Part of it is that I think I keep missing the mark with my searches (though my Google-fu is usually sufficient). Part of it is that I’m intimidated. I can’t possibly be coming up with somethign that no one else in the whole wide world hasn’t come up with before.

Literature Review

Literature Review (Photo credit: Caro Wallis)

Which makes my literature review … difficult for me to tackle. I’m already behind the 8-ball reacquainting and just plain old acquainting myself with all kinds of terminology and methods in fields I’m familiar with intuitively, but not rigorously academically. In class today the idea given to me was this: find dudes who are talking about things related enough to your field, but with whom you disagree.

Blindingly smart. This forces me to defend my arguments. I have to articulate why I feel things. It’s confronting, and confrontations often leave me in anxious states. But today, after reading a Henry Jenkins article (“Game Design as Narrative Architecture,” here), I’ve found my first source.

Greg Costikyan. I do not agree with his notions on story, nor do I agree with his assertion that “story is the antithesis of game” (from “Where Stories End and Games Begin,” which is available online from Costikyan’s site, but which seems to be plagued with some malware troubles, so click at your own risk.)

Yes. There certainly are games that contain no story element to them, no narrative (I’m still having a bugger of a time understanding the mechanical/academic differences between story and narrative, though James Phelan is helping), and that’s absolutely fine. Checkers, Tetris. I enjoy them, and have no difficulty admitting they’re games.

But so is Mass Effect.

While my final project will not likely have an interactive element that’s as direct as the audience controlling a character in the story, there are still very important issues being brought up at the intersection of games studies and narratology that I need to own.

Gah, my reading list never ends.


I should be writing a paper (or, a BA in Advanced Storytelling)

So, I had an awesome meeting on Monday with one of my instructors. –I say instructor because in Australia and the UK, the term “professor” has a very specific meaning and is not a title easily gained. I’ve heard it equated to tenure in US university terms, but I’m not sure I understand the matter either way.

I say this so you understand if I use the wrong term for someone — no slight is intended.

Anyway. I’m angling to add this instructor as a second academic advisor (she comes from a narrative and prose writing background, while my current advisor comes from a music and production background — combining advice from the two would be, in my mind, ideal), and we sat down to have a chat about things in general. We talked about my project, why I have an interest in transmedia, why I have an interest in the story I’m planning to tell.

When I did my undergrad degree, it was at Gallatin, at NYU. A place where you get to create your own major. I called it “multimedia communications” for purposes of resumes, but when I described it to my instructor (I’ll name names eventually), she smiled and said “sounds very transmedia to me.”

To me, story is king. If you’re telling a story, it’ll tell you how it wants to be told. Sometimes you can shoehorn it into something else, but that often doesn’t end well. My thesis play for my MFA is proof of this. That degree I got from Gallatin, I earned it by taking literature courses, photography, film criticism, video art production, and in my spare time learned how to use Photoshop and Quark. –I may have just dated myself with that remark.

I did all of those things because they’re all legitimate ways to tell a story. I saw myself as a bit of a jack of all trades. This hurt me in the job market because not many people look for jacks of all trades. But it prepped me for what I’m aiming to do now. I’ve always had a holistic view of things, that a thing can’t exist independent of the context surrounding it. Everything informs everything else. I saw it when my plays were performed. I see it when I GM a table top RPG, or I play in one.

The philosophy’s there, has been for years — I used to joke that my degree was a BA in Advanced Storytelling. And it feels as if I’ve accidentally ended up in exactly the right place at exactly the right time.


Thoughtbite

People are internally self-contradictory. We’re not the same from day to day. You might catch me on a bad day and I’ll growl at a kitten. Most of the time I’m rendered a speechless wibble of goo.

Take a given event, get a bunch of people to watch it, and then ask them afterwards what happened. Forgo meaning for now, just ask for the passage from moment to moment, reasonable amount of detail.

No one person will ever completely agree with another. Like the men groping an elephant anc oming to different conclusions, human experience can only capture so much. We have environmental factors that stop us — maybe an obscured line of sight, maybe we’re at the epicenter and are too dazed to get the whole picture. We have internal factors, too. Culture, personal philosophies, perhaps a nasty break-up the night before.

This prism of perception of experience, it’s not a feature, it’s a bug.

Using more than one medium to tell a story is just like this. You got the trunk storyline, you got the foot storyline, you got the tail. And one person — the audience, the reader, the watcher, whatever — that person gets the joy of discovering things. They get to poke around, find something, gain some clarity. Or maybe muddy the waters.

In my mind, this is a great way to get around preconceived notions.

My project will have a broad audience, and it includes people who are going to have some very solidly formed opinions on immigrants. Opinions which aren’t very, let’s say, compassionate toward them. I think, if I do things right, transmedia vectors will keep them around. Because invariably someone will share their point of view.

This is also a challenge for me. Because I’m going to have to think like people that make me very, very itchy. Well. Empathy goes both ways, I suppose.


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