Tag Archives: transmedia


How to market a film with knitting patterns.

coraline11New stop-motion animation picture Coraline is stretching transmedia marketing to new lengths. Via the film’s official site, fans can now knit their own version of the eponymous character’s jumper. Bound to be a cult item, and cannily available in both kid and kidult sizes, knit yours now…

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Prada Goes Transmedia

Fashion house produces animated short

To advertise its Spring/Summer 08 collection, the fashion house has produced a short film. In it, a blank-eyed nymph both models and interacts with the product: a couple of scuttling crabs become shoes and a fish transmogrifies into a handbag. Further blurring the lines between advertising and product, the illustrator behind the short – James Jean – has also worked on Prada prints and bags for this season, as well producing the backdrop for catwalk shows and in-store decoration.

And whilst we have absolutely NO IDEA what the film means, it sure beats the usual grumpy-looking models staring out from the pages of Vogue.

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CSI Twitters

Zeitgeisty as ever, CSI explains the lure of social media

We are BIG fans of CSI: its noirish plots, zeitgeist-grabbing storylines (remember the Furries episode?) and general ridiculousness. This season, it has got the geeks gossiping about the use of Twitter in a scene and the attendant neat explanation of what drives people to live their lives online:

“Some people just don’t value privacy.”
“They don’t expect privacy, they value openness.”

Nice bit of transmedia advertising/storytelling too. Via Plasticbag.org.

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Some Hard Truths about Soft News

Is topical satire the way to re-engage with the politically disillusioned?

According to Armando Iannucci, writing recently in The Guardian,

Surveys show that a high proportion of people aged 18 to 36 get most of their information about British politics from [TV panel game show] Have I Got News For You. In America, similar figures show that Jon Stewart’s topical comedy The Daily Show (TDS) supplies a high percentage of 18 to 36-year-old Americans with their main news fix.

In the article, he argues that political comedy fills a void left by the disengagement between the mass audience and ‘real’ news coverage:

There is an emptiness in public argument waiting to be filled. That’s where my lot come in again. If politicians fail to supply politics with content, is it any wonder people turn to other, more entertaining sources?

24showxlarge1.jpgHe’s not the only one thinking this way. We note the New York Times report of the runwaway success Hurry Up, He’s Dead — a home-grown (but Daily Show-inspired) Iraqi current-affairs satire:

Mr. Khalifa [pictured above], the show’s star, is a diminutive comedian who was a well-known theater actor in Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s government. The initial episodes were taped in Dubai because the producers decided it would be too dangerous and logistically difficult to film in Baghdad. Despite its madcap humor, he said, the show has a serious message.

“The purpose of the show is to fix Iraq,” he said. “We want to fix the civil services. We want to fix the government officials. We want to fix the relationships between people. We want to fix the government and stop the corruption.”

All well and good — anything that gets people thinking must encourage engagement, right? Unfortunately the jury seems to be out on that one. University of Toronto Professor Megan Boler — whose work we know from the iDC mailing list — has been researching the online culture around TDS as a focus of her studies into ‘digital dissent’. She told BigShinyThing via email that:

Interestingly, our research (including survey of and interviews with bloggers, meme producers, political multimedia producers and TDS bloggers) indicates that TDS fans are possibly less politically motivated than the other groups we are studying who engage in political online networks. There are some surprising instances as well when an author of a political meme states that his motivation was not political but to produce humor.

Research which backs up Iannucci’s claims about the importance of topical comedy as a news source also indicates that watching TDS actually correlates with increased skepticism about politics as a whole amongst its core youth audience. According to study co-author Jonathan Morris, an Assistant Professor at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C.:

We are not saying The Daily Show is bad for democracy. I’m a fan of The Daily Show. I watch it very frequently. We’re just pointing out that exposure to this show among young adults is associated with cynicism toward political candidates and the political process as a whole.

It seems that contemporary topical satire may better represent the worldview of the ‘excluded middle’ than do the incumbent news media, yet still not provide a meaningful ‘call to action’ to get them off the sofa and onto the streets.

Read more of Boler’s researches into the transmedial world of TDS in The Daily Show, Crossfire, and the Will to Truth, in Scan Journal of Media Arts Culture. Vol. 3, No. 1 (Summer 2006) — an excellent dissection of a key moment in the development of the show’s mythology.

We tried to find some choice Hurry Up, He’s Dead moments on YouTube, but alas it doesn’t seem to have ‘crossed over’ yet.

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Sleeping With The Enemy

The music industry starts to work with — not against — Web 2.0.

We’re not entirely surprised to see that four of the music majors — Universal, Sony BMG and Warner — have each quietly negotiated to take small stakes in YouTube as part of the video-and-music-licensing deals they struck shortly before the site’s sale to Google. According to reports in the New York Times, the music companies collectively stand to receive as much as $50 million from the arrangements. These deals should also help shield Google from the dreaded and much mooted copyright-infringement lawsuits — something that rival Yahoo! has admitted prevented them from swooping on YouTube first.

As the article points out, this pre-emptive and cunning action by the record companies to befriend the ‘enemy’ contrasts with their behaviour a few years’ back:

The decision to take a stake in YouTube is a sharp departure from the tack that the record companies took regarding Napster, the pioneering file-swapping service that transformed the industry in 1999. Back then, after the major companies filed suits against Napster, the two sides discussed various settlements that involved the music companies receiving a big equity stake.

The Napter talks, which were led on the industry side by Edgar Bronfman Jr., then the chief of Universal’s then-parent Seagram — eventually broke down [although Bronfman now helms Warner -- the first record company to join forces with YouTube -- so he eventually gained his chops].

The record companies went on to win a series of legal victories that ultimately forced Napster to shut its site, but the labels have been fighting an uphill battle against free peer-to-peer services ever since.”

As this battle as proved not only extremely expensive but rather ineffectual, the companies have finally decided on a ‘if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em’ approach. Not only have they found a way to actually make money from YouTube, they’ve also finally cottoned on to the marketing potential in file sharing. Techdirt notes with no little schadenfreude an article in the Wall Street Journal (of all places) titled Record Labels turn Piracy into a Marketing Opportunity. Because file-sharers are first and foremost fans of the music they distribute.Hence Jay-Z has allowed distribution of an eight minute clip of his recent live concert — full of promotional clips for Coke. According to Jay-Z’s attorney:

The concept here is making the peer-to-peer network work for us. While peer-to-peer users are stealing the intellectual property, they are also the active music audience… and this technology allows us to market back to them.

We like to call it crowd surfing — using the P2P network as both media and audience. It’s probably the future of music marketing — or at least one future. Watch and learn.

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One to Watch: Revver

“Better than YouTube”, apparently.

Techdirt reports that:

User-generated video-sharing site [God we need a proper short word for this stuff!] Revver has landed an intriguing partnership with a new UK TV station called FameTV. Revver users will be able to opt-in for TV broadcast and those [clips] selected will be shown on FameTV. Viewers will vote for their favorites by SMS [just like erm 'real' reality TV] and revenue sent to Revver will be split 50/50 with the video publishers.”

As the article notes, there have been previous deals along the same lines — for example, Rocketboom’s with Tivo. Revver is also pretty and smart: “Revver is very 2.0, with post roll still frame ads, revenue splits for publishers, social bookmarking integration and an API.” But even though it’s an interesting idea, Revver has yet to build the crucial critical mass that has made YouTube so huge. And as we’ve noted before, prettiness and efficiency are not necessarily the key to success — just look at scrappy old MySpace. Let’s wait and see.

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Get a (Second) Life

Ad agencies might want to think twice before using Second Life for PR stunts.

second life.jpgSo the *shock horror* news from last week was that London ad agencies BBH and Leo Burnett are to open premises in Second Life. Leo Burnett think a virtual office will be a good way to run international business and BBH see possibilities in a virtual creative office. Well whoopee doo: virtual offices ain’t that new. HHCL did it back in the day (1998) with their MOO-based HowellHenryLand [full disclosure here -- BST's designer built hhland and BST's editor worked at HHCL]. As that experiment showed us, there is a valid space for virtual offices, but we would suggest that Second Life isn’t it.

This photo of a Second Lifer from The Economist this week shows why. Folks, the clue is in the name. Second Life is a place where people come to exercise their fantasies, not their reality. Second Life users don’t want this space to look like London’s Soho — they’ve already got one of those.

Maybe, if ad agencies and brands are smart they’ll use their Second Life presence to probe users’ ‘other’ life — the one where they have leather wings and flying rollerskates — to find out what drives peoples’ desires and leads them to want innumerable handbags. What ad agencies have to recognise about SL is that it’s (deep breath) Not Real. If they must be in Second Life, we’d like to see ad agencies get genuinely creative: how about BBH fire-bombing Leo Burnett from flying Llamas?

Anyways, isn’t SL well, just a bit emo? In our idle moments, we dream of the day when ad agencies and other brands try and invade the blood-and-guts online game World of Warcraft. After all, that MMORPG boast an impressive 7m subscribers to Second Life’s paltry 700,000. We’d also love to see who would win in a fight of Second Life users vs World of Warcraft but it would appear for now that these virtual worlds are not mutually inclusive. Shame. Designer Adidas vs. Broadsword +3? That battle would be short but very sweet. Ah well…

Here we have a classic example of ad agencies’ tendency to simply appropriate a new space as opposed to thinking about how to contribute to it. Witness the numerous feckless experiments we’re seen already with street art from the likes of PSP and Saatchi & Saatchi.

As Henry Jenkins tells The Economist, Second Life deserves credit as “a world of hypotheticals and thought experiments”: it’s not just another territory — like New York — for ad agencies to plant a flag on as a PR wheeze.

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Jesse Shapins on The Yellow Arrow Project

‘Urban Dramaturge’ Jesse Shapins talks to BigShinyThing about locative media, reality programming and Washington DC hardcore.

Yellow Arrow is a long-running international media project which explores urban narrative through physical tagging of locations, text messaging and the Internet.

Not content with a nice brand, global reach, and thousands of participants, Yellow Arrow has recently launched Capitol of Punk, an ambitious, city-wide exhibition/media trail in Washington D.C., tracing the places and people of the city’s harcore punk scene. They are also very keen to work on a UK-based project: if any of you have opportunities or ideas, please get in touch!

YA’s Project Director, Jesse Shapins, kindly granted BigShinyThing this exclusive email interview.

BST: First of all can you tell us what the Yellow Arrow project is and how it works?

SHAPINS: Yellow Arrow is a new way of exploring cities. It began 2.5 years ago as a street art project on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Since then, Yellow Arrow has grown to over 35 countries and 380 cities globally and become a way to experience and publish ideas and stories via text messaging on your mobile phone and interactive maps online. The project offers curated tours of specific cities and the ability to browse thousands of single points of interest submitted by people. We call this first dimension Yellow Arrow CityTXT Tours and the second The Yellow Arrow M.A.A.P. The “M.A.A.P.” acronym signifies that Yellow Arrow itself is a new map, and specifically means “Massively Authored Artistic Publication.”

The project is built around the general philosophy that every place is distinct and engaging if seen from a unique perspective. With this foundation, Yellow Arrow enables every place to become an attraction. Stories are always tied to unique details such as back-alley murals or unique street markers, as well as classic locations like the Empire State Building in New York or the Reichstag in Berlin. Overall, the aim is for Yellow Arrow to provide a frame and platform to see the world in a new way.

The first CityTXT Tour takes place in Washington D.C. as part of our recent Capitol of Punk project. To begin a CityTXT Tour you send the keyword for the location (e.g. Mall) to the number 67067 and then you begin receiving a series of messages that guides you through the streets. People publish to “The Yellow Arrow M.A.A.P.” by placing uniquely-coded stickers at locations of their choice and then sending a text message from their phone with the story they would like associated with that place. When someone else sees the sticker, they send the unique code and then receive the author’s original message back.

In more general terms, we see Yellow Arrow as evolving a true 21st century publishing platform that merges conventional editorial publishing and user-generated content. The structure leverages the power of community publishing set forth by new media, while maintaining elements of a traditional publishing model to support cohesive curation and foster high-quality content.

How many MAAPers do you currently have and what is the traffic like? How many countries do you now cover?

There are MAAPmakers in 35 countries and 380 cities internationally. The largest communities are in Northern Europe and the United States, but arrows have been placed in Kenya, Mexico, Argentina, China, India, and Russia among others.

Is it completely self-supporting financially? You sell the stickers and merchandise, but does that pay for the SMS traffic etc?

Yellow Arrow is one of many initiatives we have. Counts Media has invested heavily in the project and the dedication has been to the integrity of the brand and content. On the other hand, The Yellow Arrow M.A.A.P. is streamlined so that expenses are very low.

Now that American Idol has made Americans engage with text messaging, have you seen an explosion in interest and are you planning to publicise the project more in the UK where text messaging has been popular for years?

It’s no coincidence that initial creators of the project all spent extensive time in Europe. That’s where we were introduced to text messaging. When we first started the project here in the US, what seemed very natural to us was definitely very new to even more advanced technology circles in the US.

Now, though, text messaging has definitely taken off here and we don’t have to explain really how it works anymore. We’ve been very excited about that. We’ve never considered this a technology project. It’s always been a cultural project, and the most unique technological aspect is the creative application within the overall philosophy of Yellow Arrow.

We already have a small MAAPmaker community, and like everywhere, would be very excited to see it grow and have more curiosities on the map from the UK. And we’d be thrilled to create a CityTXT Tour anywhere in Britain. Maybe some completely conventional tourist destination like Newcastle or something [smiles] But seriously. I love the cities of the UK and think there is a huge opportunity to create some great projects there with the right partners.

Do you think that accusations of creating (street)space junk and litter may hamper the project as it proliferates? Do you have a contingency plan if it does?

We’ve been asked this question now for over 2 years and to date there has never been a complaint or a problem. There is a clear culture established in the community that encourages stickers to be placed carefully either with permission or in places where stickers and street art already proliferate.

That said, the Capitol of Punk project is the first instance where you can experience Yellow Arrow without any existing physical marker in the landscape. You can download the PDF map online that has all of the location information and keywords for the tour starting points. This definitely points in a direction where Yellow Arrow is a completely digital experience.

Can you tell us a little bit about Counts Media and its relationship to the project/locative media in general?

Counts Media was founded by the well-known New York experimental theatre artist Michael Counts in 2005. The company grew out of the past work that Michael had done that placed audiences at the center of the experience and took them on a journey through space. Yellow Arrow was one of the first projects the company took on. We see the future as a convergence of information and entertainment across multiple channels, and we work to produce experiences that from the beginning are conceived with specific elements multiple media channels. So, it’s not about writing a book like the “Da Vinci Code” and then making the movie and the game. It’s about creating entertainment that spans different media from the start.

No media company today can deny the importance of “reality programming” due to the mass access to digital media production. From this perspective, our opinion is that place is a very interesting lens through which to engage reality. By approaching reality through place, you necessarily engage collective stories and history. And if place is a key subject, locative media are a natural means of making this content available and interactive.

Here in the UK everyone is getting very excited about the potential of mobile content (especially with regards to marketing) but very few people seem to have a grasp on an actual exciting and engaging deliverable. Counts Media seems to have an idea — can you illuminate?

In our mind, the future of mobile content is in many ways the same as the history of content to date. People are engaged by interesting stories — both fiction and non-fiction. Of course an SMS novel or an SMS documentary is different than a standard book or feature length film. The format is different, so things like the length and pacing have to adjust. And the potential for interactivity is much greater, so content should be designed from the beginning with the experience of the user in mind. But the same general principles of compelling stories and inspiring ideas apply.

It also seems to us that you are creating a new medium of urban stories — it could also be seen as a wiki. Are you concerned that it will be hi-jacked by crass commercial messages (i.e. ‘McDonald’s this way’) attempting to gain a bit of street cred or — like YouTube — do you have the attitude that it’s all content/helps you on the way to world domination. Is there a masterplan (that you can tell us about… )?

I’d say our approach incorporates both Wikipedia and YouTube. This is illustrated by the multiple dimensions of editorial publishing and user-generated content. We see the major value of Yellow Arrow as bringing together these two models, such that the philosophy, brand and community drive high-quality content. This is then supported by the technology, that both enables the delivery and submissions of content. There will surely be crass location-based marketing and it might use a system similar to Yellow Arrow. However, if we stay true to the values of providing a new way of exploring cities and a frame for seeing the world in a new way, I’m confident that the community and marketplace will respect and support that.

On that same point, do you think your brand strong enough to resist the incursion of commercial brands entering the same space?

We hope so. And our brand is commercial, in that we aim to make money to further our goal of enabling a new form of travel and publishing that enriches people’s relationship to the world around them.

Finally, can you tell us a bit about your current project and how it has been received in the Washington DC area?

This project is something we’re really excited about.

Both in the U.S. and internationally, Washington D.C. is known for the White House (and therefore home to good ‘ol Mr. Bush), for the hundreds of national monuments and thousands of politicians from all over. But Washington D.C. is also home to one of the seminal movements of American music: D.C. hardcore and punk. The music scene is deeply tied to the city and a powerful embodiment of creative localism. We thought it fit very well within the philosophy of Yellow Arrow to showcase this music scene that emerged in the late 70s there and still continues on today.

We asked musicians and others involved in the music scene to tell stories about places that meant something to them. For the past year, we’ve been collecting these stories and anecdotes to create short documentary videos and the text message tours.

The tours include quotations from D.C. luminaries such as Ian Mackaye, Ian Svenonius and Marion Barry. To take the tours, people download a PDF map on the site with the starting points and specific instructions.

People can also watch the 10 documentary videos that give insight into the stories of each location. The videos feature original music from the scene and extensive interviews with musicians. People can view the videos on the website or download them directly to an iPod as a video podcast in iTunes.

And people have asked “Why is D.C. the “Capitol of Punk” instead of “Capital of Punk”? Our choice was intentional. We do not proclaim that D.C. is the “capital,” in the sense of the global center of punk music. “Capital” implies power. The word “capitol” specifically refers to a building, and in particular in Washington, it refers to the “Capitol,” the place where the nation’s congress meets. In this sense, “Capitol of Punk” is a metaphor for the city of Washington as a place where the musical cultures of punk collide and grow. By extension, this is a provocation for thinking about the collision of ideas and values that takes place daily in the “Capitol” building. As with everything in D.C. and true to the democratic values of Yellow Arrow, politics are unavoidable in this project.

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The Legend of LonelyGirl15

An online fiction with a life of its own.

We’ve written before, and as believers, that a future of narrative involves transmedia: the tactical use of multiple media to build and spread a many-faceted story, or to sketch a fictional world. Transmedia, at its best, promises to punch through the screen, tear up the page, and engage audiences in a fluid, immersive experience somewhere between traditional story-telling and alternate-reality gaming.

With a few notable exceptions, transmedia is as much media-geek theory object as it is template for successful fictionalising — but it’s a hot topic getting hotter by the day. This week’s case study is the story of YouTube star-in-the-making LonelyGirl15, whose transmedial existence is described in loving detail by New York magazine. Word on the Internet is that her site is set up to promote a film. Or not. Whatever. The sign’o’the times is the degree to which the fantasy has been bought into and built on by others online:

Ironically, her most prominent critic—a YouTuber named ­Gohepcat, a film-geek hipster in mirrored sunglasses and a cowboy hat—has become a mini–YouTube star in his own right. And because anyone on YouTube can post responses or theories about Lonelygirl (and plenty have), her story now has its own metastasizing, David Lynch–worthy cast: Not just Lonelygirl, Daniel, and their ­monkey puppet (don’t ask), but the ­Javert-like Mirrored Cowboy; her defender, Nerd With the Headset; a nemesis called Lazydork; and Richard Feynman. (Yes, Richard Feynman, the famous physicist. He doesn’t appear personally—it’s a long story.)

There’s always been a section of the fan community willing to dive into co-creation, but post-Reality-TV, post clip culture, everyone wants their 15 click-throughs of fame. LonelyGirl15 is just the kind of cultural attractor to encourage them on their way.

If you haven’t read Convergence Culture yet, now’s a good time to get it on order: the wave of transmedia is still gathering speed, and when it hits the mainstream, it’s going to hit hard.

[Thanks to Andrew for the tip-off].

UPDATE: The LA Times has an interview with the LonelyGirl15 film-makers. In a nutshell, like the charming ‘How to be a chav’ Film, the work is the creation of aspiring film-makers:

“We did this with zero resources. Anybody could do what we did,” Flinders said Tuesday. The sum total of the equipment they used to create a sensation on the Internet, as well as perhaps the web’s biggest homegrown mystery: “Two desk lamps (one broken), an open window and a $130 camera.”

Goodfried said Creative Artists Agency in Beverly Hills got involved about a month ago — well into the lonelygirl15 story — through a friend who works at the agency. “We went in there one afternoon. I walked around the place, and met some cool young guys that got the idea and said they would help us,” he said.

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Transmedia: The Future of Television Isn’t What It Used To Be

Anyone see the season finale of Criminal Minds?

The Fisher King, Part 1 [just aired in the UK, apologies to US readers] was, of course, a cliff-hanger in the traditional season send-off style, with one member of the central team about to get blown away by an evil serial killer. So far so ‘who killed JR’.

But bonus points to any of you who noticed that the episode was also a textbook exercise in transmedia production, as defined by Henry Jenkins in our recent interview:

[T]ransmedia storytelling or more broadly transmedia entertainment [...] [is] a system where each medium makes a distinct contribution to the media franchise, each is left to do what it does best, and the reader is able to expand on their experience of a favorite story by pulling together bits and pieces of information from various sources.

The plot centred around a cryptic series of macabre clues sent by the Bad Guy to the team members — a severed head, a music box, a British butterfly — culminating in a book code left uncracked at series end. But rather than remaining tucked away in some character’s notepad, the whole code was written up on a large whiteboard, next to all the clues, in frame long enough for anyone with a PVR or PC to screengrab, upload and spend the rest of the summer pondering.

And of course that’s exactly what’s happening. Rather than forgetting about the series until next season, fans are working together online to crack the code ahead of the characters. A Google search on ‘”Criminal Minds” book code’ proves that the series maybe be off-air, but the action has simply moved online. Transmedia indeed. And noteable for being so neatly executed in a mainstream drama series — while Lost is built around the idea of puzzles within puzzles, Criminal Minds is still, at heart, a post-Thomas Harris police procedural.

Remember when the future of television was interactive (which always, frankly, sounded a bit tedious)? Turns out it’s transmedial. And fun.

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