Transmedia: story telling, cross platform and beyond


I first read about transmedia in Wired, and since it seems I’ve been talking more and more about with people (anyone who can get their noodle round it) I thought I’d quote the parts from the article (all of which can be read here).

Esther Robinson got off the R train in Astoria, Queens, and started walking to the American Museum of the Moving Image. It was a warm July evening in 2007 and Robinson, then 37 years old and a filmmaker, had come with a friend to see a movie, Head Trauma. As they approached the cinema, she noticed that the payphones were ringing — all four of them. “You forget payphones exist,” recalls Robinson. “That was the first thing I noticed.” She picked one up: all she could hear were fragments of a conversation, “sounds of madness”. Outside the cinema, a preacher in short sleeves and a tie was raving, handing out apocalyptic comic books to passers-by. He pressed one into Robinson’s hand as she hurried past, anxious to get to the film. The opening credits prompted the audience to send in a text to a given number. As the film rolled, they started receiving “weird text messages”; phones were ringing.

The film was about a drifter who inherits his mother’s house and starts to lose his mind. The next day, back in Brooklyn, Robinson found the comic in her handbag. On the back was written: “Do you want to play a game?”, along with an address, headtraumamovie.com. She typed it in to her computer. What she found was an online game that continued the story. “In the middle of it, the phone rang,” she says. She recognised the voice. It was the film’s “hooded villain”. He started asking questions: “Do you feel guilty? Have you ever lost consciousness?” Last, he asked Robinson to tell him her darkest secret. Her answer started playing back on a loop through her computer speakers. Robinson clicked on the exit box. She kept clicking, but nothing happened. Her phone buzzed with a text: “Where are you going? We’re not finished yet…” At that point, Robinson was dumped into a conference call with other cinema goers who had just gone through the same experience. “We were all like, ‘What the fuck was that?’ It was totally nuts.”

I love this idea. The example given is perfect. But when you are in the mood for some culture you are in a different type of head state than when you are shopping online for example.

The above reminds me a little bit of the Michael Douglas film The Game the premise of which involves a bored wealthy businessman realising himself by being enveloped in circumstances beyond his control as part of a birthday present from his brother.

However this does initially also come across as sinister. In the same way there seems to also be a backlash against display advertisement retargeting being perceived as a form of online stalking. I’m inclined to agree, particularly after my girlfriend passes my laptop back to me after researching which pushchair we are going to buy!

Nevertheless I believe this is just a new phase of the web we are living trough which we must adjust to as the benefits will inevitably outweigh the annoyance, particularly when the creative interactive elements of transmedia work in synergy with the virtual experience in as effective a way as they can work offline.

The only problem is – when will they know that we have brought the pushchair!

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