7 8 18 22 34
The Concepts Catching Memories The Cultureshock App De Vries Random Acces Memory
44 44 46 47 48 50 52 54
Personal views on transmedia Anca's view Paul's view Jelle's view RenĂŠ's view Esther's view Mick's view Niels' view
Foreword This book is made for the theatre company Tryater (and anyone else who is interested in transmedia storytelling), made by students from the HKU, the Utrecht School of the Arts, from the faculty of Theatre. We did an assignment commissioned by the Frisian theatre group Tryater in which we were asked to research transmedia by developing several concepts and document our findings along the way. As a guideline for our concepts, we were asked to create concepts around the theme ‘Heimwee’ (homesickness). This theme was chosen because Tatiana Pratley, a young theatre director at Tryater, was developing a play around that same subject around the same time. The aim was to see if the process of our research about transmedia and her development could positively influence each other. What you are reading now is the documentation of our research on transmedia and the process that went along with doing the research. Along with our own work, we’ve also examined transmedial work made by others, in order to get a better view on what has already been done in this line of work. But because we, for example, can't put video inside this book, we've also made a website where we've documented our research and our concepts:
transmediarecipes.wordpress.com Our group consists of 6 students from the HKU’s Theatre faculty and one exchange student from Austria. We all follow different courses; Theatre & Education, Interactive Performance Design & Games and Writing for Performance.
Defining Transmedia “The technique of telling a single story or story experience across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies, and is not to be confused with traditional crossplatform media franchises, sequels or adaptations”. Because the term transmedia is pretty new we do wanted to give this general definition that explains it to people who have never heard of it before. We think the definition above is actually pretty accurate except for the notion that transmedia storytelling only uses digital technologies to tell a story. We think analogue media can have a large role in a transmedia storytelling. In our process we’ve discussed the term quite a bit, but we’ve decided that it was more useful and productive to answer questions on how to make something transmedial instead of endlessly trying to figure out what the exact definition is. We also tried to give an overview of projects that, according to us, are transmedial.
The Concepts Quite early on we thought it best to focus on three to four concepts. This was decided by us taking in mind the size of the group and the scope and depth of the research we wanted to deliver. We separated into work groups based on our affinities with parts of the Heimwee theme. We worked towards our first presentations developing early concepts to show our take on Transmedia Storytelling. After the presentations on the 20th of February we started working on new concepts based on the feedback Tatiana relayed to us. These became four concepts which take place in different parts of the transmedial experience. Tatiana indicated Tryater's interest in user generated content, or the use of information and material from the audience in the experience. You can find this in a lot of the concepts. We also looked at other forms of interaction and participation. The ‘De Vries’ project focuses on collecting content and interacting with people through social media, in this case Facebook. Because Facebook is such an immense platform we think it is a very important medium to research. The ‘Catching memories’ project and the ‘Culture Shock App’ are more focused on the actual experience. One of them uses a form where user generated content plays a part and the other uses game techniques. ‘Random Access Memory’ focuses on the aftermath, that's the long term effect that an experience has on someone. Like Anette Mees told us in the lecture she gave:
“An experience begins when someone hears about it for the first time and it ends when they stop talking about it.” We tried looking at this entire arc, that's why we chose this way of working with our concepts. The concepts, design choices and work process are explained in depth in this book.
Catching memories Anca Siegersma Jelle van Doorne
Theatre & Education Interactive Performance Design & Games
When you look up to the sky, you can be quite sure that, somewhere else in the world, someone else is looking up to that exact same sky, seeing the same stars. Someone suffering from homesickness can feel lonely, but if that person looks at the stars he knows he can share the stars with other people in the world. And that people might just have the same feelings. What if you could share your memories like stars? What if you knew your memories, like the stars, would always be there to look at and share? What if these stars would not be as far away as the universe, but just as close as your own pocket? Unfortunately, the stairway to heaven does not exist and we cannot hold the stars in our hands to keep them a little closer. And even if we tried, with augmented reality, there would be so many stars that it would be a lifelong task to catch them all. There is light closer to us. We would like to use the lights of the island Terschelling, starting with the lighthouse, the Brandaris. With a ‘glass bottle app’ on your smartphone you can catch the lights and the memories that belong to it. Those memories can show in different forms like video, audio, photography, text etc. At the central festival area we would like to create a wall made out of real glass bottles. People can share the lights they’ve found, shared and created with that wall, trading it for a clue to the next light. Every bottle is connected to a place and a light on the island. So the bottle connected to the Brandaris will probably be filled with a lot of lights quickly, because a lot of people find this light and can share it with the wall, so that the rest of the festival audience can see it as well. Other lights are more rare and hard to find, so the bottles connected to these will fill a lot slower. Throughout the festival the wall will light up more and more.
In-depth description Catching Memories is an experience that guides people through the island Terschelling and letting them follow a story, by letting the audience catch lights using their smartphone. The lights represent memories, which can be caught in a bottle on your phone. The memory is then available for the participant to view, which will give the participant a part of the content and guide them to the next catchable light. After catching a certain amount of lights (let’s say, five), the participant will be guided to the wall of glass bottles, where they have to put the lights (and thus, the memories) they caught into the glass bottles. By doing this, the participant will gain a clue to a new light, which will allow them to look for the next memories. Again, finding this new light will lead you to the next, until you’ve found a certain number more (perhaps three, or again five). At that point, you’ll be lead to the wall again, where you have to put the lights in again, and so on. The participant can find a total number of 30 memories around Oerol and only by collecting all of them can the memories (and thus, the story) be fully experienced. However, there are different levels of engagement: not everybody will look around for 30 locations on Oerol. The wall alone is a visible treat for non-participants and a way for people who want to join in to find out about the project (outside of marketing done through Tryater, such as flyers, using their website, posters, Oerol’s website etc.). The lights are first to be found using an app on your smartphone, by looking through the camera (accessed by the app) at the location appointed at an earlier time; either by hinting at it or explicitly telling the participant. Using augmented reality, we can make this little ball of light visible on the smartphone, and also make it capturable. This little ball of light is holding on to a memory, which you can then view on your smartphone after you’ve caught it. These memories can consist of, for example; text, audio, pictures and/or video. On top of the premade memories, participants can upload and share their own – by taking pictures, recording audio or recording video and uploading it through the app, they can put their own memories inside of one of the free bottles in the wall. This will allow user-generated content to be integrated into the experience. It’s up to the participant how he wishes to participate and to what extent. This experience will be free to join in as the participant wishes, as long as he/she has access to a smartphone. 9
Media Ingredients Smartphone App
- Augmented Reality
- Memories (Premade or user-generated)
3D Animation (light)
Video Pictures Audio (music, soundscapes) Text
- Interface to send lights into the projection - Selecting/uploading own memories - Installation
- Light inside glass bottles
- Finding specific lights
To capture on your smartphone
Catching Memories uses several types of digital media, with a bit of analog media. The most important platforms we use are the smartphone and the app, which shows the audience a lot of different things. The other big thing we have is the usage of projection on our wall of glass bottles. The app holds several types of media and purposes. Mainly, itâ€™s our way for the audience to interact with the work: the audience can catch memories, or share their own. The app uses augmented reality to show the lights and after capturing it, the app uses media such as video, spoken lines or photos to show the memories these lights represent. Combining digital and analog media, weâ€™ve made a wall of glass bottles for us to project on. Filling the glass bottles with a mixture of milk and water, we can project onto a nearly transparent liquid, which creates the illusion of a light being captured inside a bottle. Lastly, the audience can send their light to the wall, which will add a light to one of the glass bottles and give you a clue or hint for the location of the next light. Again, these clues will be displayed on your smartphone, using text, audio, pictures or video.
Process summary The idea for this project started with the idea of the night sky as a vista to your memories, which is funny, because the stars we are looking at are actually a memory in itself. Some of the lights we see are from stars that no longer exist! Thinking about augmented reality, the idea of catching lights that represent memories was born. The interest in the combination of digital images and physical images resulted in the wall of light. On top of that, we wanted to let people interact with these lights, so we came up with the idea that people could make their own light and connect it to a memory. We had to think about a way to put these three aspects into one concept that had one clear overall user-code. We did this by making a structure thatâ€™s build up in a way that every aspect is connected to each other aspect. For example; after finding five lights you have to go to the wall to progress further in the search of lights. We also thought about a way to reward the users of the app so that they want to go on with the search. We thought the reward should be the story that the memories bring and also the feeling of togetherness that comes with it. The sharing of your own memories is important for that feeling, but also the idea of people making an installation together of which only they know what it really means: having a secret together can make people connect to each other. Then we had to start visualising our ideas. We started with some small tests using a demo for making an app, one bottle, flashlights and a single beamer. With what we learned from these tests we got back into thinking about the possibilities of interaction again. We tried to think of visualising our ideas in a more creative way without making a big problem out of technical difficulties. Therefore we had to step out of the technical stuff sometimes, to think of what our idea actually was, what we wanted to tell and wanted to show. What was our first idea again and how did it change or improve from that point? We also had to make some content that could be used as memories and discussed the quality of it. In the end we decided not to put too much effort in creating this content right now, mostly because of a lack of time and lack of experience in video, audio and photography tools. Tryater probably has their own ideas about story, so we thought weâ€™d just focus on a general story for our concept, which is about the lights being memories. Next step was to start visualizing and then testing on a bigger scale with the bottle wall. Finding the best way to present that wall and improve the presentation of the app so that it includes a form of interaction. 11
Challenges and difficulties Process difficulties Working together in two different disciplines, Interactive Performance Design &Games (IPDG) and Theatre and Education (T&E), there’s a risk of seeing only blockades and not understanding each others way of working. For example: in a process with an IPDGstudent, who is mostly working with storytelling using technology and games, and a T&E-student, who is mostly working with storytelling using people’s stories in a theatrical space. They might try to work together in the same way, but that’s probably going to be either a compromise which is going to be frustrating for both or one will go along in the other’s idea, which is still going to leave one maker unsatisfied. Something similar to this will probably happen in most processes in which a theatre maker and a technician work together. The solution for this challenge is to accept that you can’t become a maker of another discipline and that you might just use your own interests and specialties and choose which parts of a concept you can bring to a higher level. In that way you can produce a complete concept including a story, game mechanics, interaction and other technical possibilities.
Technical difficulties We’ve run across several technical difficulties while making this. For one, using the Metaio Creator meant we only had access to the demo, which only allowed us to show a limited amount of things. So, we couldn’t show both the ball of light and the video in one go. We also couldn’t make it actually interact with the projection; we need another app for that. This is fine for the proof of concept, but not for the real thing. These kinds of issues can be solved with enough technical skill and money, since the full (purchasable) version of the Metaio Creator allows you to create your very own augmented reality app. Because we could not develop the technical side to the fullest and because of that could not connect each separate part of the concept to each other part, we could only test the interaction in parts. We could make several user scenarios over the total experience based on our own expectation, but unfortunately we could not test this for real.
Tests Our tests have consisted mostly of making and showing the wall and the app, making versions that would be good to show and prove the concept without actually creating it. We’ve worked on the augmented reality app using an app called “Junaio”. Junaio can connect with a program called “Metaio Creator”, letting you scan a QR code to load your own augmented reality project. However, without the full version most of the functionality can’t be used in this demo. Still, we’ve managed to get a moving light in space, and to let the app show one of the glass bottles. We’ve also managed to use the app and the creator to let the app play a video: perfect for showcasing a memory. Unfortunately, we could not link these two things together in this phase, but it is definitely possible in the full version of Junaio or any other app creation program. A big test was getting our lights into the bottles: how are we going to show this? With a little bit of research and guidance, we found out several ways to create an illusion within a bottle using projection. One was to project on transparent paper settled behind the bottle, projecting on a single bottle with two beamers. We used a pocket light to simulate this, but we quickly found out that the paper was very visible through the transparent bottles, and the projected light had to be projected really closely onto the paper. Since we wanted a lot of bottles and not just one, we decided to test using a different method: putting a mixture of just a little milk and water to create a murky, semi-transparent liquid to project on. Using our pocket lights, we quickly found out this was a more effective way of creating the illusion: you only needed one light, and the distance mattered less. These two QR codes link to two examples that we looked at as inspiration for the form: Links to a TED Talk from video artist Gabriel BarciaColombo, also using projection and bottles.
link to a small proof of concept for projection mapping inside of a glass bottle, made by Aldo Hoeven.
After these smaller tests, we decided to grab a beamer to make a better illusion. We started on only one glass bottle to make it easier on ourselves: if we could produce a working glass bottle now, we could reproduce the effect on several bottles later. Using the program Isadora to project lights, we managed to test forms of interaction and ways to make the lights seem more lifelike and less static. We tested how an audience member could ‘slide’ a light into a glass bottle, making it appear live. By using an interface on a tablet and letting it connect to our projection program, an audience member could stand right in front of the wall (away from all the technical computers in the back) and let a light appear in a bottle by himself. We also tested puppeteering: someone behind-thescenes would control one of the lights, letting the audience play around with it and creating a strong illusion of the light being alive. It was interesting, but would be really hard to replicate on a larger scale for a bigger audience, considering how many people you would need. We decided not to get into researching this too much (see Next step). Now it’s time for the bigger test: making a big wall of glass bottles and making the projection fit onto a lot of bottles. During the earlier test we only used one bottle and one beamer and by moving the beamer close to the bottle, we got a lot of light beaming straight through it. However, with this test, we’re using one beamer for 15 bottles. Since the beamer is behind all of them in the middle, the lights that are being projected the bottles on the outer edges aren’t straight: they’re at an angle. Because of this, you don’t see a dot but you see a line through the bottle. This can be solved by making them larger for that bottle, but then you won’t be able to fit as many lights in them. Another thing we’re trying to solve is the fact that, at certain angles, the lights are reflected strangely by the curvature of the bottle. If the light is projected on a corner, you’ll suddenly see two fractured lights. One solution for this would be to work with multiple beamers, so that the projection can focus on a few bottles, rather than a large area. 14
This QR-code is a link to a video of one of the tests we did with the wall of lights.
Next step The next step would be to make it bigger and more workable. This mostly means: a longer time to produce and the right software to make a proper app. For example the Metaio creator can be used to write custom augmented reality apps, which includes interfaces and interaction. The installation and projection will have to become bigger. More importantly, one big thing that we’ve purposefully left out (or at least, worked less on) is the content and story. Ultimately, the experience can fail if the content isn’t satisfactory enough for the audience to keep going. This is the perfect point for Tryater to step in and use their expertise. Thinking about what you’re going to tell, planning out a plotline and then making these small memories is a key part of the production process Tryater will have to do if they want to actually make this experience. For example this plotline might be connected to the story of the play or it might be based on user generated content. Some more experimenting with the amount of beamers, used for the back projection of the bottle wall, could be done. As we explained in our tests we had some difficulties with this because of the angle of the beamer. It might be possible to use miniature beamers, called piko-beamers, for each bottle to get the most designed image. But that has a price, maybe there are other solutions possible. One of the ideas that we thought of, but didn’t get to try out because of the technical difficulties in this project, was the idea of users uploading their own memories. In an app there should be a way of doing that, but as described before, the demo that we used wasn’t sufficient to create the app we made up. On top of that, the app would have to be programmed using a certain language, which neither of us had the technical know-how for. Actually creating (programming) the app to include this is an important next step
As we’ve written before we did some experiments with puppeteering with lights but couldn’t find a way to make this available for bigger groups. This is a research we didn’t really get into that far for now, because it was too much of a detail that wasn’t really important for the overall concept. We did think there might be a way to work with augmented reality again, by letting the light float into the pot on your smartphone, then making it appear inside of the pot using projection. This animation might also be projected for real, but then you’d have to think of a material that you can project on. If you would want this project to be realised another big step is making it a production for Oerol (or any other place). We’ve already thought a bit about location and PR (using the Brandaris, marketing it as an expedition in Oerol publications such as the website and the festival program, using the wall as a way to attract people to participate), but actually making it happen, making a good budget, a production plan, researching which locations to use and showing Oerol that this project should be done on their festival, is again something for the next step.
The Cultureshock app Paul Sturminger
The cultureshock app is a â€žtransmedialâ€œ game based on the idea of creating and losing places you call home. Using a GPS based app I put another layer of meaning over our world and by that I create the setting for the game. The big aim is to make a connection between a computer game and a hide and seek game to get people away from their computers out into the wild, real world.
Preparation The players can choose their own terrain for playing the game. They can decide to go to the forest to play or they can just start in front of their house. The only thing provided must be a smartphone with GPS connection for every player. To start the game you will need to separate in two teams. After that the space the game will take place in is defined by drawing the outline on the app-integrated map. Then every player has to put one homezone into the defined space. Every homezone has a radius of 25 meters and has to be at least 50 meters away from all other homezones. The two zones with the biggest distance between them are automatically chosen as the starting zones for the two teams. The remaining zones are turned into neutral zones. You are led through all these steps by the app. After every team has gathered in their starting zone, a countdown 18
starts the game and the players swarm out trying to convert as many zones as they can into their own homezones. They do this by being present in the zones. The first team possessing two thirds of the homezones wins the game.
How to convert a zone: Every player can have a maximum of 100 culture energy. The energy is displayed on the phone. If you stay in a neutral or foreign homezone your „culture-energy“ is transferred, one energy every second, into the zone until your energy is empty or the zone gets converted into your homezone. Every homezone needs 100 „culture-energy“ to be converted. As a result you need one and a half minutes to convert a zone. If you are entering with one of your teammates it only takes half the time, if you are three people only a third et cetera. If your culture-energy is used up you will have to reload it at one of your own homezones, also one energy every second.
The cultureshock There are two different ways a cultureshock can appear. First every player has a cultureshockbutton on his phone. This button can be only used inside of zones his team already owns. So if you spot someone trying to convert one of your zones, you can press the cultureshockbutton. Immediately a shockwave spread through the zone you are in. This wave drains al the cultureenergy of every opponent in this homezone. Your cultureshockbutton has a cooldown timer so you are only able to use your cultureshock every two minutes. Secondly an automated cultureshock is triggered if someone manages to convert a zone. If a cultureshock hits you your phone vibrates.
What is displayed on your phone The position of your teammates is always displayed on your phone. The position of your enemies is only displayed for 30 seconds if they got cultureshocked. Every cultureshock is displayed on your phone. The ownership of every homezone can also be seen at any time.
Media Ingredients Mobile application
- GPS - Map overview
- Energy counter
showing the zones
- Outdoor location zones - Game mechanics Running
- Social element
Decision making Playing with strangers
Process: I really canâ€™t tell what kind of process led me to the idea for this game. Inspired by different hide and seek games I played in my childhood, it actually just popped up in my mind. So the basic structure of the game was pretty clear from the beginning. The hard task for me was to find the right game mechanics to make the game a dynamic and unpredictable experience. One of my main struggles was to avoid a pure running game. It was very important for me that maintaining a low profile and playing tactical is rewarded in the game. I experimented a lot with different systems for the energy transfer, I theoretically played through a lot of different scenarios on paper and I also tried out a simplified non technical version of the game with my project group. Changing the ruleset again and again and talking about the game with many different people finally led to the ruleset I have right now. I am sure if I would have the possibility to test the real app with the ruleset I have right now many changes would still have to be made, but I am pretty confident that the game would be fun to play already. I'm afraid the possibilities of finding out whether or not people would enjoy my game are not very high. It is my first attempt at designing a game and when it comes to programming a GPS based app my knowledge is nonexistent. So now I can only hope that someone on this planet, with the ability to build an app, is going to see this project and will be inspired to build something similar. But even if nobody sees it, I am sure it will soon be possible to play a variety of games like my cultureshock app. 20
De Vries RenĂŠ van Dijk Esther van Overeem
Writing for Performance Theatre & Education
De Vries is a research into the artistic and theatrical possibilities of Facebook. How does Facebook work and what methods are needed to ensure that a Facebook experience can offer an added value for participants of a Transmedial Project or as an independent experience.
Is Facebook, the place where you consciously form an identity, not the perfect place to think about the why of that identity? - Karel de Vries For this project we have created the fictional character of Karel de Vries, a half Frisian man in his twenties for whom the recent death of his father had a large impact on his life. He starts to look at the relationship he had with his father and how he resembles him. His Father was a proud Frisian and exhibited many characteristics that are viewed as typically Frisian, some of these characteristics Karel shares. He starts to wonder about this and wants to look into the role cultural background plays in the forming of his identity. Karel takes his soul searching to Facebook.
Could it be that easy? That your profile picture is your identity? Puts a lot of pressure on putting up a good one. I mean if it has to represent me... - Karel de Vries Karel sets up a Facebook account and people are invited to become his friends and from there to join a Facebook group to help him look for the Frisian identity. They are not invited by Karel himself but rather by the makers of the project. It is also clear in the invitation that Karel is a fictional character and that they are participating in an interactive experience. The Facebook platform can be used to show videos, photos, text and link to other websites. It also facilitates a sharing environment viewable only by the group members. The uniqueness of Facebook is of course the sharing. A Facebook profile is even build up as a timeline, showing other people your life, memories and experiences. Karel 22
will ask people to share their views on (cultural) identity and share their own memories. He will try to provoke them into sharing by posting his own stories and memories looking to create empathy which prompts them to respond. Karel will also respond to peopleâ€™s input, weaving it into his search. You might for example tell him about where you went ice skating as a child and Karel can go there and look around, maybe even talk to people and he will tell you about this on Facebook. The ultimate goal of this is to get people to actively participate and create their own material, so to share their own memories, their own identity with the other people in the group. To take the fundamental principle of Facebook, sharing, and taking that from the superficial to a deeper level. Doing more than just showing people your party side. After this you can start including real life experiences for people. Getting together and meeting Karel for example.
Research Questions How do people act and react on the presence of a fictional character on Facebook? How do we get people invested in a character that they only know through Facebook? How do we get people to share their own stories and memories? De Vries differs from some of the other concepts in its focus on research. The concept itself was used more as a tool to look at working with social media. We have driven a car across a stretch of highway but in the end what we deliver is not the car but a map of all the potholes and bumps of the highway.
Concept Process We didnâ€™t begin with the idea of working with Facebook. We got interested in experimenting with a roleplaying form. Giving people a role and playing this out in a life event. Thinking about how we could use different media and to what effect, we started talking with the group about transmedial possibilities when we realized that Facebook is a very nostalgic platform. People post about their life and past so they and other people can see what theyâ€™ve experienced. We liked the idea of using Facebook as a set up towards a life event but after talking with Anette Mees decided to focus entirely on the Facebook aspect and do a small live event as a closure for participants.
From there we started to think about what kinds of roleplaying you could do on Facebook, but to us too much of roleplaying hinges on pretending to be someone else which is really hard to do on Facebook seeing as you are constantly projecting your own identity through your profile. You could have people create a secondary Facebook account but that does not seem a viable option because of the amount of work that people have to invest before they can even get started and the fact that they will have to log in and out all the time which people probably aren’t prepared to do. Facebook is a casual platform. It can be checked and worked with quickly, quietly and unobtrusively. Part of the success of Facebook is the possibility of quickly checking your page wherever you are. Larger time investments are made when at home. We talked a lot about how to set something up on Facebook which would be easily accessible. People will quickly lose interest if they have to do too much “work”. Perhaps the most important thing we discussed was incentive. How do we get people to want to take the time to talk to Karel and share their experiences? This proved to be a particular hurdle so we decided to start experimenting. We started out by creating the Karel de Vries Facebook account. Automatically you have to start thinking about your character because of all the Facebook information you have to put in. To create a realistic looking Facebook account you have to do more than just type in your birthday. You need, photos, a work history and you need to think about the background of your character. Then the character has to start being active on Facebook. One thing we ran into is that Karel de Vries existed only on Facebook and therefore had no real friends to add as Facebook friends. Contacting strangers doesn’t really work on Facebook as people tend to stick to their own social groups. We made the choice to approach people from an outside perspective. Outside perspective meaning that we stepped outside of the fiction to tell people that Karel was a fictional character and that they would be participating in a Facebook experience. This was a very conscious design choice which had a lot of consequences for the project. At first we wanted to look at playing with fiction and reality. Letting people think that Karel was a real person. We encountered several problems with this idea, problems that might be overcome but made us decide to tell people from the beginning that they were participating in something fictional. We had some moral qualms about possibly offending people who would think Karel was a real person and then find out that they had been manipulated.
Also we realized that it’s a lot harder to get people to invest in Karel if they thought he was a real person. This has to do with expectations. People will expect to be entertained or moved or otherwise spoken to when participating in something that has been set up for them. When they think something is real, there is no surety of reward. Real life doesn't have a black and white ruleset and they will view your character and the actions of the character differently. For example, quoting Anton Chekhov: "If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don't put it there." People will trust there to be a recognizable reasoning for a fictional character. They will not look at someone the same way if they think they are dealing with a real person. Of course people may discover for themselves that they have stumbled into something fictional and then decide to keep trying it. That form has been used before successfully but we decided to keep a clear view of the fictional and the real and not actively experiment with what they call the “It’s not a game” principle.
Cautionary Tales in Transmedia Storytelling Article from Wired.com
Invitations were sent to people from our own Facebook accounts asking them if they wanted to participate. People that responded got a friend request from Karel de Vries, after they accepted he would add them to a private Facebook group. We chose to use the Facebook group system because it is self-contained. On higher privacy settings only group members can see posts. This made sure that we did not intrude too much on people’s own Facebook page.
Next we started to actively interact with people on Facebook, posting comments and liking posts. We made a Timeline of what we were going to post and when. We started posting questions on the group page looking to elicit a first response from people. After that we started using different media. Sharing pictures, video and music with personal anecdotes attached. Sometimes Karel would ask people a question about their own memories and associations with for example a pair of old ice skates he supposedly found when cleaning up an old closet. We also posted some stories to see the reactions
The first post on the Facebook group was a poll which is by its nature very interactive.
The next step we took was looking at Facebookâ€™s other capabilities and we chatted as Karel with several people, looking for a way to get them interested in his story. After about a week and a half we decided to contact people again as makers and ask them some questions to evaluate their ideas and feelings about Karel. We eventually decided against doing a live event to wrap it up because we didnâ€™t see how we could give it the added value that we would need to make it relevant. In that way our research has kept itself focused on Facebook
Timeline of Karel his activity on Facebook. February 28th
Karel joins Facebook and sets up his account. Fills in personal information
Karel posts a few pictures of his vacaction. He likes some pages to show his interests.
Karel his old ice skates
Karel creates Facebook group. Invitations are sent to people about De Vries.
People respond to invitation and get a friend request. When accepted they get to join the Facebook group. Karel welcomes them to the group. Karel gets first responses on post.
Karel Adds lifetime event about death of his father. Karel posts Poll on Facebook about typical Frisian traits.
Karel his grandfather
Karel shares video he likes. Likes and comments on posts of his Facebook friends. Karel chats with some of his friends about how theyâ€™re doing.
Karel posts picture of old ice skates and asks people about their memories of ice skating when they were young.
Karel posts short story about his father. Karel has a long chat discussion about identity with Facebook friend. 27
Karel posts music video. Karel changes Facebook picture in response to chat discussion the day before.
Karel shares several funny and inspirational pictures that other people posted. Karel changes facebook profile picture again.
Karel posts video in which he interviews people in the street in Utrecht.
Karel posts another interview video.
Karel tells about his past and asks people if they want to share intense moments from their own past. Karel posts another poll asking people what they would do with their father if they could spend time with him again.
People get an evaluation form and are asked to tell what they think and feel about Karel.
Links to the interviews
Media Ingredients Social Media Facebook
- Video Interviews
- Pictures Stock images
youtube music videos
- Text Timeline updates Live chat sessions Short Stories
Possible live event
Findings and Conclusions As a duo with different disciplines (Theatermaker and Writer) we had to look for our own approach to working with social media. We’ve found a lot snares and traps on the way. Looking at the challenges we’ve encountered and the challenges we’ve seen in other transmedia storytelling projects that we analyzed, we’ve made a social media/Facebook checklist with some of the biggest pitfalls and some good things to keep in mind.
1 Make sure you have prepared material which you can use 2 Make regular updates offering new material 3 Post at times that most people are online 4 Make sure you respond to people as fast as possible 5 Make sure people are rewarded for participating
6 Think about how much time people are prepared to invest 7 Know that people will look for a meaning behind your posts 8 Be conscious of the decision to make something seem real or fictional. 9 Itâ€™s all about the target audience. Know them. 10 Give people a goal.
For a more in depth look at the checklist follow the QR code to our website which offers a complete explanation of each point on the list.
The De Vries project did not get people invested enough in the Karel de Vries character and his story to really participate. Most of our findings about the decisions we were confronted with and things that we would do differently are found in the checklist. We have had some mixed responses. We saw things that worked and things that didn’t work. Polls seemed to garner a lot of response while music videos and pictures were seen by people but didn’t give them the feeling that they wanted to respond to it except when a story and question were attached. Asking questions helped a lot to get people to answer because it made clearer what was expected of them. If this project would have gone better it could move towards different media channels and even real life events. Getting people acquainted with characters and the story thereby giving them a chance to really invest in the story. Also it could be a chance to build up an online community which could be used for more interactive projects and gathering user generated content. The transmedia storytelling possibilities of Facebook are very interesting. Facebook is a platform which can incorporate almost all kinds of media and content and spread that easily to people. Yet we see other projects having the same difficulties as we had with getting people invested. Where does this difficulty come from? There are, as always, several factors to take into account. 1 Inexperience We as makers have little experience using Facebook the way we’ve tried to use it. Maybe no one really has that experience yet. This means that some nuances of the way people act and interact on Facebook have eluded us the first time around. There is still a lot to be discovered. Another aspect of inexperience is the inexperience of the participants. This is something new to them as well. Most participants won’t know what to expect and as Annette Mees talked about in regard to the Coney project A small town anywhere, people need a clear view of what is expected of them or they will hesitate, be shy and withdrawn because they won’t know what to do.
2 The way Facebook is commonly used. At the moment Facebook is a lighthearted entertainment platform. It’s a quick snack. This is in part what attracts people to Facebook. As a good example you can look at Facebook games which are made so you can play intermittently for short periods of time. Facebook can be used in different ways but people will have to be convinced to try it out. 3 Time A lot of people can’t or don’t want to find time to invest. They don’t want to be active, they want to be passive. At least that’s what they think. These people need to be motivated. If we look at 77 days where they worked with a rather difficult target audience, teenagers, you can see clearly that they had trouble motivating the participants to be active. It all comes down to getting your audience to be engaged, to get active. Things that can help with this are keeping a very clear view of your target audience, being clear about what people need to do, making sure there are clear rewards for participating and of course good marketing. Looking at the Royal Shakespeare Company production Such Tweet Sorrow which was picked up by the British national media you can see that creating a hype or buzz really helps to get people past that first investment where after (if you’re good at what you do) they will be hooked.
Random Access Memory Mick Vonk Niels Dielen
Theatre & Education Interactive Performance Design & Games
In the First week of the concept development, the ideas followed each other at top speed. Starting with an audio tour, to an elaborate web of trees all over Terschelling that could talk to each other in Morse code, we ventured into the realm of treasure hunts and ended exploring maps.
The feedback we’ve got was that Tryater was interested in the audio tour and the user generated content. Using this as a starting point and using ‘heimwee’ as a reference, we chose to further investigate maps. Maps are such an abstract display of a real place, we can all read maps. But only if you have been at a location physically they become more than “oh, this is where we should turn right” Our research led us to the photo-map function on Instagram, two such simple concepts (photo’s with their gps location and a simple google map) brought together creates a real strong memory trigger for us. This has a lot to do with how the data (pictures and location) is visualized. Because the effect of this app was so big on us, this became a focus in our investigation. How to visualize memories. 34
Theme’s We found out that we (Niels & Mick) both have a strong aesthetic preference to do things analogue if they don’t need to be digital. The contrast between analogue and digital media was a theme we also wanted to dive in to with our research. Next to that we were also fascinated by using data visualization to create an immersive world in which you can navigate through.
Research questions How can we gather user generated content within a certain context from a target audience that is participating an event like Oerol ? How can we visualize the user generated content we’ve gathered to create something that triggers those participants to relive the event and the moments they’ve had being there ? How can we make an experience where the digital and analogue world’s meet each other ?
A summary of the concept Targeting Oerol, a theatre festival on Terschelling, most of the audience will have bought their tickets prior to their trip to Terschelling, this is done online so Tryater has access to their email addresses. Audience members who bought a ticket should be notified that in anticipation of the event there will be special Tryater camera’s at Oerol. Once at Oerol there is a Tryater stand where this camera can be picked up The task then given to the current owner of the camera is to take one picture that captures their Oerol experience. Once they’ve done this, they have to give the camera to another festival goer. Until the camera is re-collected by a tryater employee at the end of the day/when it is full. So as a participant to get a hold of a Tryater camera, you either have to get one of the 5 units before the event is over, (collectable at the Tryater location every morning from 9 on) or get one that is being passed on by another festival goer. 35
After taking this ‘perfect’ picture and passing the camera on, you probably will forget about it, enjoy the rest of your stay and see the amazing Heimwee naar hurdegaryp. Until three months after the festival, late September, when the first signs of Autumn are beginning to show, and you find an e-mail in your inbox. It’s from an e-mail address ‘heimwee mail’ and it mentions that camera you vaguely remember from Oerol. If you click the link in the email it takes you to a site where you can find your photo amongst all the other photos taken with those same camera’s. These photos are not just presented to you in a normal slideshow, they are actually presented on an interactive map of Terschelling on which every picture taken with the Oerol camera is automatically placed using gps coordinates. When the map is loaded you get dropped instantly on a random location on the map. You are asked to explore the map to find and catch your own memory along with four others. By navigating around, you also see the pictures the other participants made using the Tryater camera. Once you’ve found your own picture you are asked to describe the moment on the picture by typing a few words, when finished, your words enter the virtual map and are aligned with your picture for every other participant to see. If you explore the map some more, you can select four other photos that in your opinion reflect your own Oerol experience. After this, you tick a box which asks whether or not you have seen the Tryater performance. Lets say you tick yes, you get to see a video shot in the barn in Lies where you’ve seen heimwee naar Hurdegaryp The actors are there, still cleaning some stuff up like the last show has just happened.They talk to you, saying how nice it is that you’re paying them another visit, make a funny reference to the show and share some memories, then they talk about the whole Oerol event and all of a sudden one of the actors finds a picture in the mess and holds it up for you to see. It’s your picture! they talk some more about how much they enjoyed the event whilst showing you 4 more photos which were lying around, these are the other photos you’ve selected. (if you tick the ‘I have not seen Heimwee naar Hurdegaryp the actors make a reference to how good the show was, and how they regret you weren’t there). Once this video is over you can save it to your computer, send it to friends or have it put on youtube. After the video, you can spend as much time as you like on the memory map. Explore the island and it’s photos, adding memories (comments) to the pictures you like. 36
The three month gap It’s a conventional unwritten transmedia rule that if you make something transmedial that’s meant as an aftermath to a main event and you want people to get involved on a long term you need to give them well timed reminders. Usually this means that right after an event you want to keep them in the loop on your experience by giving them a small chunk of the whole experience.Like every app developer will tell you “If the application isn’t opened at least twice in the first week, it will be deleted by around 90% of the users. We deliberately break with this tradition because we think it fits with the theme we based our concept around, homesickness , anticipating that people will have more or less forgotten about the whole camera and the pictures they took on Oerol, we then trigger their curiosity by reminding them of the pictures they took. This is the hook we’ll use to reel them in, once they’re in, they will find their own photo and be pleasantly surprised by the dive into the collective memory where they will also come across the perspectives of many other festival goers. We've made a small overview on how our audience can participate. Below are the different steps a participant can take. It gives a nice overview on how many steps someone needs to make before they reach the potential climax of our concept.
Media Ingredients Live event - Oerol
Tryater Camera present
Spread on the festival GPS tracker attatched Used for user generated content
Website - Interactive environment
A map of Terschelling
Positioned using GPS coordinates
search for personal picture
Uses pictures of the viewer
Testing our concept During our process the opportunity of a test case presented itself, it was on a short notice, and did not exactly have the same conditions as Oerol. Nonetheless it provided a chance to go and test our whole concept on a much smaller scale; A party hosted in the small auditorium of our school, organized by students. In anticipation to this party we announced there would be a ‘heimwee mail member’ present with a camera. Folks could go to him to collect the ‘heimwee camera‘ take one picture at the party and then give the camera to someone else.To make sure the students were actually taking pictures, we rewarded everyone who took a picture with a nice cold beer. The next day we invited all the party goers to the same auditorium where we had a small set up. Every party goer that came by was asked to browse the pictures that were taken with the camera and select just five of them that in their opinion best represented the evening. After the selection process they needed to fill in their e-mail address so we could send them a ‘present’ later on.
After that day we started making a minimalistic recreating of the party using a 3D engine called ‘Unity’. We made a personalized environment for every participant that left his/ her email address, containing the five pictures they selected the day after the party. Video of the test case We then send an email to our participants with a ‘heimwee mail’ address that contained their personalized environment. When they start this app they can navigate through the 3d auditorium hear the audio from the party and find the pictures they chose two weeks earlier. These pictures are floating in the room and slowly moving upwards, away from the player. What the player can do is move towards the pictures and grab them to stop them floating away but one can never be fast enough to grab all the pictures. This means they need to choose which pictures are the most important to them. So with our test we wanted to find out if we could give people an experience after an event where they could relive their own memories of that event in a more dynamic manner than just browsing through pictures on your desktop.
Looking back Our ideas on audience participation in our initial concept were pretty vague going into the test phase, but when we started designing the test we chunked on all sorts of things that forced us to get to where we are now. It helped us crystallize what we wanted to do with the user generated content. This means that we actually used the test more or less to feed our concept and find out which direction we wanted to go with it. Instead of just using a test to find out if an already defined concept works the way you want it to work.
A few things we encountered in our test: What we’ve tested turned out to be somewhat different from our initial concept. People at the party took more than one picture with the camera, ignoring the instructions we gave them. Almost everyone that took a picture at the party also showed up the next day. People were confused about the way they could navigate in our 3D world. Our initial idea was to make a map of Terschelling and to test this out on a small scale, but because the party was a nice opportunity to test our concept we went with that form. But because the party was held in a space of around 30 m2 we decided to use another format instead of a map. So we decided to make a 3D model of the party space in Unity. It was a bit of a long shot but it seemed like the best parallel to the map. In this Unity environment we sort of lost ourselves. We were presented with so many possibilities that we didn't completely stay true to what we needed to test. Instead we started adding mechanics to the application because ‘we could’ and started to communicate a somewhat different message. This we think has a lot to do with the difference in context of the different media. We’ve used a game engine for our test, which led to us adding a few game-like mechanics to the test which didn't fit with what we wanted to tell with our initial concept. The reactions we’ve received from our participants on the application gave us a confirmation on this insight. The 3D environment we used to test our concept gave the participants the idea that they were playing a game with a goal or a clear ending, which was not what we wanted to communicate. This doesn’t mean the whole test was a failure. We actually did learn a lot about the things we needed to know if we actually were to develop our initial concept. There were certain questions we did get answers to, like; does placing a picture on the same location as where it was taken, give someone a more emotional experience than a normal picture slideshow? Looking at our feedback, yes it does.
In our phase of the process, the test case turned out to be more inspirational than conformational. you can use smaller scale events in a different context to test out certain mechanics. However if you want to test out if your whole concept works, you’ll have to try and do a test with as many similarities as possible. deduct, before you design your test, what it is you want to find out with your test.
General If you want to get people to participate, be very clear on ‘what’s in it for them.’ (e.g. give them rewards for taking action). When using multiple media you need be very consistent in what you're communicating to your audience. Use Ludic markers to show what is part of the experience. Try to use a consistent style throughout every media you use. Every media has his own rules.
(e.g. when you use a game engine people assume they can win or lose.)
The next step We think the next steps could be to: Make a website that explains the project and illustrates how the camera looks and how to use it. Spread a ‘Tryater Camera’ on a festival similar to Oerol Make sure this camera is very easily recognizable. So that when people see it their curiosity gets triggered. Put a QR code on the camera that links to the project website. Use a camera with a gps tracker so that you can pinpoint the location of every picture taken, and also know where the camera is when someone forgets/ refuses to give it back. Research how you can automate a camera to: only let someone take a picture after they’ve filled in their email address. so that you have their email address and are also able to limit them to taking one picture. Make a web application for the website that has a map of an event location and the pictures pinpointed on the exact locations. Email the participants with the link to the web application were their pictures are now uploaded to. Build in a ‘give feedback’ function in the application to ask them about their experience. So you can use this to further develop the concept to reach it’s full potential. 42
Individual views on transmedia
Anca Theatre & Education
"This form plays around with the audience’s playfulness and curiosity and doesn’t directly ask for an opinion." What does transmedial storytelling mean to you as a maker? To me, transmedial storytelling is telling a number of small stories using different media, that together turn into a bigger story. There can be a lot of difference in how these media connect the story together. For instance, in Jay-Z Decoded, it’s fine to only get one piece of the story, without having to see the rest of the story. Bear71 is a good example of a transmedial story where all of the different types of media are collected onto a single platform: an interactive documentary on the internet. By putting all these media together, the maker can more easily direct the audience’s experience. When you’re using an overarching platform it’s important to think about the code of that platform. In a theater, the audience will act differently from when they’re exposed to other media. The maker will have to think about ways to break the code for the platform he is using. Which aspects of transmedial storytelling do you find interesting or especially not? Annette Mees (from Coney) told us the following: “A show starts when you first hear about it, and only ends when you stop talking about it”. To me transmedial storytelling is a way to see a theatrical event as an experience that’s bigger than just the show. In my work I try to create atmospheres by using visuals en music that can immerse people into a show, to make sure that, for a moment, there’s nothing else but that fictional world. At first I didn’t know how to keep that immersion going, but I found out transmedial storytelling has several possibilities for this.
In own shows I wouldn’t use participation that much because it’s difficult to direct. My shows have been designed to perfection. Especially today there are a lot of media that demand mutual communication. Because of the popularity of social media people are used to participating and sharing their opinions. The experience of theatre and art is, to me, something that’s very personal. When an audience member gets to hear the opinion of someone else during one of my experiences, then I don’t think he can fully immerse himself into the fantasy. Because of that, I would never show uncensored texts generated through social media. Transmedial storytelling is a labor-intensive form, you always have to react to your audience and try to think about ways of participation that you might not expect. Which could be interesting for me during the development of a show, so I can get to know my target audience. It’s also important to see the difference between watching audience and ‘generating’ audience when you’re discussing user-generated content. If these are the same people, the generating audience will constantly be waiting until their part shows up, which would distract them, making the challenge to get people immersed in the show even bigger. Generated content from the audience could be an interesting inspiration, but then it would just be material for a documentary. The most interesting form of transmedial storytelling, to me, is the ‘explorative search’: actively looking for parts of the story using different types of media to collect the whole story. This also comes back in the concept I developed with Jelle. This form plays around with the audience’s playfulness and curiosity and doesn’t directly ask for an opinion. It’s important to note that all the little pieces need to be interesting stories by themselves, ones that have some sort of cliffhanger to trigger the audience to find the next piece of the puzzle. Do you think you’ll use transmedial storytelling in your further work? The explorative search I just described is something I find very interesting. However, I would ask for help from other disciplines to assist me: I’m a theater director and not a game designer or graphic designer. Although I’ll be able to use several technical skills and forms into my future work, such as projection mapping.
Individual views on transmedia
"So why do we suddenly invent a term like this to describe a phenomenon we already know?" Transmedia storytelling or the participatory lie The term Transmedia storytelling is mainly referring to a marketing strategy. Used in the right way it gives you the ability to reach a lot of people with your product. This product (or as the term states, this story) is spread through society by transferring it into all kinds of different media. For example, Disney not only creates a movie, but also a theme park, a TV series, a comicbook, an action figure and a computer game from the same story. All stories can only be spread through media and all sorts of media have been used to tell stories. This phenomenon is not new to me. The only thing new to me is the term transmedia storytelling. So why do we suddenly invent a term like this to describe a phenomenon we already know? The fast technical development during the last ten years has led to a variety of different unexplored forms of media. These new, as they are called, media platforms are mostly transferred through the internet and at the same time are mainly used for individualized communication. The big task now is to find new storytelling forms that are native to networked digital content and communication channels. Most of these new platforms are based on content that is created by everyone who uses these platforms. As a result the moment you start to use a media platform you donâ€™t only receive but you also have to give information. For this reason a story told through these platforms has to be highly participatory if it wants to exploit the potential given. This is the reason I decided to not tell a story in my project but to design a game. A game is a participatory medium in its nature. And in my opinion the outcome of a game is defined by the way it is played. But my decision was not only for a game but also against the story. For me as an artist I cannot combine the belief in a story that has been created for a certain reason and the idea to have this story ripped apart by its audience. 46
Individual views on transmedia
Jelle Interactive Performance Design & Games
"sometimes the 'being fancy with technical stuff'-part is a turn-off " Transmedia, to me, is the usage of several digital or analog media to tell a singular story. The story itself is usually split in several parts, needing the different types of media to tell this story. In games, this usually refers to having to use multiple digital media, such as smartphones or websites. Using interactivity and making the player an active, imaginative part of the story, somebody who is crucial, always interests me. Though sometimes the “being fancy with technical stuff”-part is a turn-off: some work will choose to have really cool tech, but only to show off the tech. Transmedial work is often used a marketing ploy and a way to show how cool a product is, or a way to get people to see some other, big thing. Transmedial storytelling is best used when it is its own thing, telling its own, meaningful story. I probably won’t work with transmedial projects in the future, reason being that I’m simply more interested in using and exploring a single medium and the possibilities within that box: namely video games. It’s this singular medium that I really want to make art with, pulling in a bunch of different media and making it transmedial pulls whatever concept I have away from what I want to explore and make.
Individual views on transmedia
RenĂŠ Writing for Performance
"I don't just throw my work out there, I have to challenge them to interact with it and make it their own" As a writer I'm used to working with different media. In a lot of projects you're only producing a part of something. That part is text and text will always be text. Different media have their own nuances but you're still working with text. As a writer you already have to be able to work with language flexibly so, as a writer, I'm still wielding the same weapon so to speak. But looking from a writers perspective it is interesting to have all the different forms working with each other. I think we have all found that an objective, universal definition of Transmedia Storytelling looks to be impossible. Thatâ€™s not strange considering it's a very new form. A lot of people still don't agree about theater and that's been around for thousands of years. Yet it might be wrong to think of Transmedia Storytelling as a kind of platform that you can place next to other forms. Working Transmedial isn't a real form per se. It's using all the means you've got to to tell a story. I see Storytelling as the essence. What we are actually doing is conveying something to people, whether we do that by telling them, showing them or letting them experience something. In that way the Transmedial approach is just lifting the self imposed restrictions on the use of just one method of conveying a story. We did come across an interesting question during our research. Is it Transmedia Storytelling if the different media are used in 1 framework? For example: A play which incorporates video, sounds and dance. The use of different media is clear but the audience will experience the whole as parts of the play and look at it the way they would look at theater. They are experiencing different media but only 1 form.
In a case like this I wouldnâ€™t say the project is an example of Transmedia Storytelling because the different forms aren't experienced in their own frames. By my definition true Transmedia is using the different media in their own way and frame to tell 1 overarching story. For example: People go to a movie, get extra information on their phone and then go to a theatre play where in the intermission a game is played which has an effect on the storyline of the play. The whole tells a story and the different media are the building blocks. What I find interesting about Transmedia Storytelling as a writer is the scala of experience possibilities and the way reality and fiction interact with each other. People can immerse themselves into a world you are creating. The fact that people aren't just going to a play or watching a movie but getting your story through all these different channels makes it a real experience. The interactive elements are also fascinating. Working with direct input from people make for a much more dynamic experience for both audience and maker. The audience doesn't just sit and watch but takes part. I don't just throw my work out there, I have to challenge them to interact with it and make it their own. I see a lot of possibilities in a Transmedial approach and possibilities make me enthusiastic. I think it's more a form that you find and less a conscious decision to go do something Transmedial. If you're open for and realise the possibilities then you can use the things you need. I know that I want people to experience something because I think an experience runs deeper than passively watching something. What I'll use to get the desired effect? I'll see that when I get to it.
Individual views on transmedia
Esther Theatre & Education
"I consider the audience as players, as I do with actors. I co-create the story with these players." Transmedia storytelling, to me, is telling a story across multiple platforms. I think that one of the characteristics of transmedial storytelling is that the audience can add to or change the story. For example, Harry Potter is a book series that has been adapted to a movie. This is crossmedia, a story told the same way twice using multiple media. But when you read the first book and then continue the story by watching the movie it already becomes more transmedial. But Harry Potter stays a static telling of a story that for example does not have any user generated content, something which I found is present in almost every transmedia project. I personally think that transmedia storytelling especially combines the physical with the digital world. Things that are present within this phenomenon are Mixed Reality, Alternate Reality Games and Pervasive Games. Peter de Maegd, an independent film producer who focuses on the new opportunities of the converging media, made a very nice metaphor on transmedia storytelling which I can agree with. He compared it with bullfighting, where the bull represents the active participant and the matador is the storyteller, but you also have the audience on the benches watching the two in the arena.
For me as an educative theatre maker, I am used to the traditional way of making a play: - Have a finished concept to communicate to the actors you are working with. - Work within the assignment to get to the requested product. - Do rehearsals where me and the actors are physically present. - Start to tell the story when the whole play is already designed.
The things transmedia changes to this traditional approach: - The notion of an audience changes. I consider the audience as players, as I do with actors. I cocreate the story with these players. - The process becomes part of the product. The borders of when a story starts or ends are blurring. - There are less physical aspects.
I am very sensitive when it comes to body language but this is not present in almost all of the digital platforms. So this asks for new ways of communicating to: - Find out how players feel. - Influence the development by giving assignments or triggers. - Figure out what the reward is. - When you start to tell the story, it doesnâ€™t mean you are done making the story.
I as an educative theatre maker, find creating content together with the participants is the most interesting aspect of transmedia storytelling. As with teaching you need to give your participants assignments and guidelines in order to get where you want to be. Some of the questions that are relevant for my area of expertise I can also ask when I work on something transmedial: - Which methods do you use on your players? - With what language do you address your players? - Do you address them personally or as a group? - Are there similar group dynamics? - Is online improvising the same as improvising on a physical floor?
Transmedial storytelling, for me, still is a very new way of making theatre and I donâ€™t have any plans yet on what I would like to make, but it does really fascinate me. I do think it is something Iâ€™d like to utilize for my future projects.
Individual views on transmedia
Mick Theatre & Education "you are working with your audience’s imagination and that is always more complete then what you can show them as a maker." What does transmedial storytelling mean to you as a maker? Using different way to tell you story. Or better yet make it experiencable. You should be able to travel each path on its own. But if you travel different paths, you start to see more than just the path. You see the forest. Which aspects of transmedial storytelling do you find interesting or especially not? The multiple levels of engagement. Every media that you use has its own engagement level. That way you can serve a large target audience in one project. (the fan of new media, the festivalgoer, the web surfer, the light theatergoer, The fanatcial theaterlover) By engaging them on their own terrain you can challenge them to try a different platform. If this works they’ll also become more generally engaged. What I find difficult about transmedial storytelling is the term itself. After long and hard work we have an approximation of what transmedial storytelling is, or could be. So I don’t think it’s a label that you should communicate to your audience. Promise them theater and then they will be surprised at how versatile it turns out to be. I sometimes trip over some examples that are clearly transmedial but don’t feel like storytelling. While the ‘experts’ have branded it as transmedial storytelling.
Do you think you’ll use transmedials storytelling in your further work? Not as a goal but as a means. Scott Mccloud talks in his comic book analysis about ‘the gutter’, a strange term for the space in between two panels that the reader interprets as a lapse of time. If a reader is into the story he will make the logical connection between panel 1 and 2 himself. Even though this is alway influenced by the maker, you are working with your audience’s imagination and that is always more complete then what you can show them as a maker. As a theatermaker I find it interesting to show your audience two seemingly unrelated stories which they can connect themselves without you spelling it out for them.
Individual views on transmedia
Niels Interactive Performance Design & Games
"you need someone who knows a lot about all these different media and their possibilities" As a maker I almost always use multiple media and interaction to tell a story. Because of that, the term transmedia for me is mostly useful to label the projects I make to explain the things I make to other people. I’ve personally noticed that when I need to make something transmedial I get confused, because I tend to get into a discussion with others or myself about what the term means, and if this project still fits the criteria of being transmedial. But if I look back at the projects I’ve made that did not need to be transmedia, they still tend to fit the criteria. This means, for me as a maker, it’s not that interesting to talk about transmedia while I’m working on something. I think for me it’s more of a term I can use to communicate to the outside world what I’ve made. What I’ve asked myself in this project is: Would transmedial projects benefit from having a director, like movies and theatre pieces do? This thought also crossed my mind when I was involved in making transmedia projects before I started this project. I think this is a very relevant question if you’re talking about transmedia: when you’re working with a lot of different media and therefore with different disciplines, you can almost count on having a bit of confusion at some point in the process. This confusion I think has to do with a loss of focus and I think this is usually a result of miscommunication. Which is why I think you need someone to keep everyone involved in the project on the same page. But is this a task for a director like we have in the movie and theatre industry?
Maybe, but there might be a nuance here. I think a director has a vision and tries to get everyone to move in the same direction, which of course is useful for any type of project. But transmedia projects tend to be a lot more dynamic than a linear movie or theatre production. This has a lot to do with anticipating user interaction but also working with ‘iterative production cycles’ (doing little production cycles which are all part of a bigger plan.) And that brings me to the notion of a dramaturg, a role that the theatre already knows of course. This is someone who is usually an assistant of the director, he/she keeps a bit more distance from the whole process and carefully inserts feedback to get everyone on the same page so that the story can be told as best as possible. And I think, because you’re always working with different disciplines in transmedia which all come with their own rules, language, workflow and people, you need someone who knows a lot about all these different media and their possibilities, but also knows about the social dynamics that come along with the different disciplines. This role differs a bit from the role of a dramaturg, but has a lot of similarities. While working on this transmedia project I noticed that it’s hard to tell who’s responsible for these things. So maybe we should, for now, give this role a name. Maybe we should call someone that does all of this, a Transmediator, because hey, we could always use more confusing terms. As a conclusion I’d like to note that having a very clear message or vision on what you want to tell is, I think, very essential for making a successful transmedial project. Mainly because your participants are probably going to consume your story in a non-linear manner or even interact with it, you as a maker need to be very clear and consistent in communicating your story to your audience. Especially when you think about the constantly evolving media that are slowly all merging together in one big sea of possibilities in which storytellers, but especially your audience can get easily lost in. I think I will definitely make more transmedial projects in the future, even though they are challenging to make, mainly because it’s hard to make something when the form you’re using is still being invented. Besides, there are a lot of possibilities in transmedia storytelling that still need to be discovered, something I wouldn’t mind doing.
Group Conclusion Even though we're presenting four distinct research concepts, a lot of our process has been a general group process. As a group we've done a lot of research on Transmedia Storytelling. This book wouldnâ€™t be complete without a look at this group process which, especially in the first phases of the project, helped us create our concepts. Looking at the general process, there are a couple of clear phases the project went through.
Phase 1: Discovery
This was the very first beginning of the project. Getting together with a group of makers from different disciplines. Some of us were acquainted but most of us were unfamiliar with each others work. We went into a whirlwind start. Presenting our work to each other and talking about our expectations of the project and the very next day traveling to Leeuwarden to meet the people at Tryater, looking into and communicating about the specifics of our assignment. These first days we really inundated ourselves with all the new information. Looking into examples of transmedia, attending lectures, getting to know each other as makers and forming our first ideas about the theme. As soon as we got back from Friesland we started brainstorming about the theme and distilled some subthemes that captured our personal interest. We had a skype conversation with Ira, Tryaterâ€™s artistic director, to clarify the last things about our ideas about the assignment and the expectations of Tryater. We went into our first weekend doing research about transmedia storytelling, looking up examples, reading articles and doing preliminary research on our subthemes. After the weekend, we talked about our ideas with each other, talked with our mentors and discussed their feedback. The day after that we tried out some ideas in the Maplab, trying things out and learning about the possibilities of the Maplab. This part of the project was all about taking our first steps into the world of transmedia and taking the first steps into the project, getting a clear idea about the assignment and getting to know each other as a group of people with their own artistic views.
Phase 2: Developing ideas.
After getting the first idea of what to do, we started looking at how we were going to plan our process. We focused on our first presentation moment and formed into 3 work groups that would work with some of the subthemes we had looked into. These 3 groups each started developing their own first concept. Working in these groups we kept 56
communicating as a whole: talking about where we were in our concept and using the feedback from the rest of the group. The wednesday before the first presentation was focused on the form of the presentation. Not just doing a powerpoint presentation and a talk, but looking at the presentation creatively and making it more of a representation of the nature of our transmedial work.
Phase 3: Reflection and research
We documented the presentations and the next day we reflected on the feedback and talked about our own ideas about it. We looked at where we stood, how to interpret the feedback and how we could take it with us in our process in the coming weeks of the project. We went into a short research process, analyzing examples of transmedial projects and talking about what form the documentation of our research should have. We had a lot of group discussions about the definitions of transmedial storytelling, trying to grasp the breadth of the concept. We then formulated general research questions and communicated these with Tatiana. We skyped with Tatiana who gave us more extensive feedback. We also formed new groups, basing ourselves on the interests we shared with Tryater in some aspects of the concepts we had presented.
Phase 4: Creating the concepts
We started out by thinking about and developing the first concrete ideas about our concepts. We had some preparations to do for the lecture from Annette Mees from Coney who would come over from England to give a lecture and work with us for a day. We documented her lecture and the next day we went to work with her. Annette gave a new impulse to our ideas, we had short brainstorm sessions, analyzed our own strengths and weaknesses and talked about the different media we could use. Working with Annette our ideas crystallized quickly. We decided on media forms to use and started thinking about how to utilize these media. We then pitched these ideas and looked at the feedback we got. We quickly made a lot of progress conceptualizing our ideas.
Phase 5: Research day
We took a bit of a breather from the concepts and looked at analyzing different media examples. We made and presented several â€œtransmedia recipesâ€? to each other. This was a productive day which gave us a chance to recharge before plunging back into our concepts. We took hold of the bigger picture, looking at our research and presentation forms. 57
Phase 6 Production
At this point we went into a development and testing phase. The groups focused on their own concepts and really started their own production schedule. This was the main part of the makersâ€™ process where we really started creating and testing our material. We kept communicating and incorporating feedback from mentors and each other into our work process. We moved into the production phase, setting our individual group plannings and finding a workflow with set moments of general feedback and updates. Each group moved more into its own production process, dealing with productional issues like budget, planning and editing.
Phase 7 Presentation
Working out the concepts on paper and writing down research findings, thinking about and preparing for the presentation. A lot of work on the book, making sure that the documentation has the same format, planning the building up of the presentation space, inviting people and setting last deadlines for our concept and research papers.
Watch out for definitions
When venturing into new territory we want to define what we encounter. We want to label it so we can wrap our heads around it. In the beginning we felt challenged to find the universal definition of transmedia storytelling. The harder we tried, the more we started to realize we were in over our heads. Reading articles, attending lectures and talking to experts we learned that the discussion over an universal definition is still going strong among the experts and might be endless. What we learned is to try not to find a definition that will fit perfectly for everyone, but to find the definition that works for you. Don't get bogged down in endless discussions, however interesting they might be, because there probably isn't one definitive answer.
Getting a group of independent makers with their own ideas and work approaches to get on the same page about a new concept takes some time. You really have to be sure that youâ€™re talking about the same thing in the same way. Take some time to look at the 58
different ideas, analyze each individual's strengths and develop an understanding with each other. We found that we really needed to talk about our definitions and learn to develop a shared vocabulary.
Having taken the time to talk to each other there’s the danger of getting stuck in the “sitting and talking about it” part of the process. When you get to the point where you are developing your ideas it is important to start testing. When working interactively with people you never know what is going to happen. Sitting in your seat and dreaming up scenarios is not the right way to find out. Test your ideas out on people. You can even isolate parts of your concept, testing one or two things at a time. The theater group Coney extensively tests its interactive performance even going as far as to go on testing tours. Testing out the concept in different parts of the country with different people. They do this earlier in the process than regular performances do with try outs so they can take their findings with them in their process. In games they call this beta testing. Working out all the small problems is something you will have to do with all participants present and with an interactive performance that includes the audience.
Form follows content follows form
There is a synthesis between form and content. The story is influenced by the way it is told and the way it is told is influenced by the needs of the story. It is difficult to work with just an idea of form or content because you need both eventually. If I know a story I want to tell I have to know how I’m going to tell it before I know what my possibilities are. If I know in what ways I want to tell my story, I’ll need to make the story to use all the possibilities. These two are so intertwined that picking a form before you have content or vice versa complicates the making process. You have to keep thinking of both and let them inspire each other. This is especially true when working with different media because of the inherent differences between the ways you are telling your story.
Show and tell
Know how to present your work. It does you no good if you are presenting an exciting and innovative concept by just standing there and talking about it. When working with new media you want to be able to showcase the possibilities and if experiencing something is an important part of your concept then you should have some of that experience prepared for the people you are presenting to. You want to give them an idea about what you’re talking about, especially with more innovative concepts that means you will have to do more than just talk to get them to grasp the idea and really get a feel for what you are trying to accomplish. The presentation should be suited to the concept. 59
Recipes We have researched and analyzed several transmedia projects, to give ourselves an idea about what's already been done with transmedia and to present a look at some examples. We've organized the findings in â€œrecipesâ€?. These recipes are a look into the way these projects were build up. We've called them recipes, because the different media are like ingredients. We analyzed what ingredients were used, how they were used and to what effect.
Media Ingredients Website
Interactive virtual environment
Data visualization GPS trakcing of animals and humans
Trees, water and height maps
Surveillance camera pictures
Surveillance camera fragments
Instrumental background music Forest ambient
First person perspective Of the bear
Bear71 is an interactive documentary. It starts with a piece of film which shows a bear being captured by human and labeled with the number 71. After releasing the bear, the documentary starts to become an interactive documentary, a virtual environment based on the actual habitat of the bear in Colorado. In this environment, people can click on different elements and find photoâ€™s, film of surveillance cameraâ€™s etc. This concept was once live, now you can still interact with it through previously shot film. Bear 71 is a transmedial concept inside a frame that is an online interactive documentary. Different media are used inside this collective platform. Altogether these platforms inside the frame platform create a story together.
Trailer on youtube 61
A Small Town Anywhere
Media Ingredients Video
Role/Job descriptions Acting Taking on roles
Projection Live camera feed
Weather animations Day and Night visuals
A Small Town Anywhere is a theatrical performance by Coney where they want the audience to be or feel like the protagonist. The story should be for them, about them, but also by them. To achieve this, Coney used transmedial elements. By using elements that weren’t necessarily theatrical, they created an enormous level of ownership and participation with their audience. For instance, there are no actors involved in this theatrical performance. The story is to a certain extend created by cleverly manipulating (directing) the audience into certain directions. But Annette Mees, one of the directors, isn’t one to fear losing control: “this is one of the things that makes the show exciting, over and over again”.
So how do these participants have an influence? It all begins with the buildup, once you have purchased your ticket you will get access to an online environment where you are encouraged to interact with a character called â€˜Henriâ€™. During the performance the absence of actors is compensated by videos, soundscapes and an elaborate stage design. And you are not alone in this environment, for the rest of the audience is given a role and given a chance to dress up in the costume collection of Coney. So once the whole group has a role and a costume the plot unfolds. The beginning is the same every time, but where it goes from there is up to the audience and the writers who monitor everything behind the scene. They can infiltrate the postal system the audience members use to communicate with each other. So even though a big part of the show is that the participants can write each other notes, theyâ€™ll never be sure if the message they receive is genuine.
Video of the whole experience
Media Ingredients Alternate Reality Game
Video Urban Game Phonecalls Email Instant messenger Fax Majestic is an alternate reality game developed by Electronic Arts. Majestic was disguised and bought as if it was a video game, but would transcend into the real world, connecting you with other players as well as digital characters/actors. The game moved in real time and you’d work together with players that were as far along in the story as you were. So different groups of players were playing with each other and the different groups were at different times in the story. The video game provided an interface to guide you through the experience, but information about the game’s conspiracy theory story was provided through the other media. The game’s story was based on the conspiracy theory of the Majestic 12, a shadow government supposedly involved in cover-up stories for UFO’s and other mysterious happenings. The goal was more to showcase the fundamentals of an ARG - it was made in 2001, when ARG’s were still relatively new. It was a way to show how media can interact with each other to tell a singular story and get a group of players involved in it. However, the experience and story itself wasn't enough to keep the project afloat, and it was cancelled after the first ‘season’ - the game was split into five episodes, creating one season. Despite the commercial failure, it was recognized by game developers and press alike, winning several awards in categories such as innovation and originality.
Media Ingredients Television series
Facebook group HSC Mercurius News updates Live chat sessions Event invitations Fake character accounts
Actors in character present Treasure hunts
Inspired by BNN’s TV series Feuten about a student corps, Spektor Storytelling made a group account on Facebook to invite 'people into a 'fake' corps called H.S.C. Mercurius. This student corps would pretend that the show Feuten was actually a reality show about their group, rather than the show being purely fiction. They organized parties and member gatherings, and uploaded pictures of members on Facebook. At these events, which were ‘parties’ organized by the student corps, stories developed as the audience interacted and these stories were uploaded to Facebook in different media forms. They even reached the newspaper and radio because of an unethical hazing at a party. What’s remarkable about this is the vagueness of the boundaries between fiction and reality: Facebook accounts are almost theatrical.
Facebook has been used by people to be connected to other people, to share their lives, to put up advertisements or to warn for things, for example computer viruses or wanted criminals. Facebook can also be a very good platform for transmedial projects, because it can contain different sorts of media (photo, film, music, text). The questions I find intriguing are:
How real are you on Facebook? Most people only show their 'happy-me' on Facebook. Is it true that, in a way, people already play a role on Facebook?
Case video of the whole experience
Media Ingredients Website
Bing Digital satellite map
Bird-eye pictures Search engine Online game
User generated content Twitter
Guerilla advertisement Fashion design
Urban Architecture Furniture Advertisement Billboards Posters
News broadcast Television radio Websites
This is an example of a transmedial story told for commercial goals: to get people to use Bing Maps, which uses both digital maps, satellite and Bird eye pictures to give you a view on the world. Another goal is to let people buy the music and the autobiography of JayZ. I would say that the media that Bing uses in his maps are the three parts mentioned earlier.
Then they use text and design in a lot of different disciplines, like fashion and product design. To get people involved in this project they use social media and radio, so they can reach a broad public. On top of that, rather than just having people look at maps, they made an online game to make it more exciting for the audience. An extra media layer that comes in with this kind of example is the reaction people have on the story. For example, using social media, user-generated content (like pictures of people finding a part of the text of Jay Z) can be thrown out into the world, without the makers designing or developing for this: it’s just something people do when they find something special in the public space. They were not intended to be used by the maker, but they do add to the overall experience. It’s interesting to see the audience that’s receiving the project is also becoming a maker of content that can be shared by different (other) media. And as a maker, it might be interesting to also respond on that user generated content, even though it’s not embedded in the original concept.
Case video of the whole experience
Media Ingredients Movie
Advertisement videos (within story context) Fake Ted Talk (within story context)
HTML5 games Recruitement minigames
Puzzle solving Video calls as cutscenes
Online corporation business card
Social Media Linkedin
Game progress updates Story clues Fan artwork Pictures of live events Twitter Progress updates Q&A's
Live interaction An actor at concventions
Spreading business cards
Leading up to the release of the sci-fi movie â€˜Prometheusâ€™, a transmedia campaign was launched to get fans involved in the story world of the movie. Quickly after the first official movie trailer, a viral video was launched to start off the transmedia campaign. This video showed one of the characters from the movie attending a Ted Talk in the year 2023, talking about his corporation and the new technologies they have created.
This video leads to the website www.weylandindustries.com, where the whole campaign comes together. This is the website of the fake corporation Weyland Industries, which is also present in the movies. On the site, visitors can find articles about the products the company supposedly makes. A few days after the site has been launched, a job application for the company appears. Visitors are addressed by a character from the movie and asked to fill in personal information and to do some tests to prove they are worthy. These tests are actually minigames that, for example, test the player’s responsiveness. When you’ve completed all the tests, you get a grade. Participants with high grades have a higher chance to be chosen for the ‘next step’. This next step means that you are hired by Weyland Industries to help them discover new technologies. You do this by solving puzzles and doing research using a mini game. The efforts of all the participants in these games are combined to get an average. When this average amount met a certain cue right before the release of the movie, a new trailer was unlocked for every participant as a reward for their efforts. The trailer showed more background info about one of the main characters in the movie. This was the last piece of the transmedial puzzle before the actual movie premiered. The campaign added a lot of value to the movie and its story world, the way the story world was presented outside of the cinema experience gave the movie more depth. This phenomenon is sometimes called 5D Worldbuilding. This means that you spread the content of your story world over different media platforms which are best suited for the story you want to tell. You actually, in a way, almost recreate the world you have imagined by using the correct media and making it public. What made this particular campaign so successful is the amount of consistency they’ve kept up throughout the whole project and the different media. Every element is greatly embedded in the context of its story world and it almost never breaks this illusion. This amount of detail creates a suspension of disbelief that can lead to a participant immersing himself in the story world and asking himself theme-related (in this case philosophical and ethical) questions.
Transmedia Campaign Trailer 70
Media Ingredients Website
Virtual environment Video
Short documentary videos
Information files Character backstory News articles Explanatory text
Prison Valley styles itself as an interactive documentary. It uses multiple online platforms and several different media, using video and audio in a similar fashion to other interactive documentaries. However, a few things set it apart: it uses a virtual environment where you can get extra information through videos, pictures and text. The virtual environment is styled as the motel room where the documentary makers are staying during the filming. A very interesting feature is the ability to go to a forum where you can talk with people that are featured in the documentary, although it turns out this feature is rarely used by people. A possible explanation for this is that people are too shy. Itâ€™s an interesting feature though and gives a real feeling of being connected to these people. It makes it feel more real and really drives home that these are actual people living their lives right now.
Videos are typically short, around the ten minute mark. When you start you create an account, so the website remembers where you left off and you can continue from that point. This means it lends itself to a more internet like viewing, coming and going and choosing your own viewing pace. At set times in the documentary you are given the choice to watch a slideshow of an event or place. The slideshow uses a soundscape of local sounds and has some text with each photo usually giving background information. The documentary also asks your opinion about certain events by letting you pick from a list of several keywords with a short explanation, for example, if you find a ceremony pointless or impressive. When you have chosen your keyword, it shows what other people chose in percentages. This makes you feel more connected to other people viewing the documentary and gives you an insight into public opinion.
Prison Valley Trailer
Afterword We would like to take the opportunity to thank all the people who helped us make this project come to life. Without the help from the HKU, Tryater, Coney and all other inspirational artists that gave us plenty of examples and research into transmedia, we would not have come this far. Thanks to our mentors Joris Weijdom, Arnaud Loonstra, Lidy Six and Pam de Sterke for helping us mold our process and giving us the time and help we needed. Thanks to Roderick, Ferdy and Machiel from the z25.org foundation for helping us out at the Media and Perfomance Laboratory (MAPLAB) of the HKU when we needed technical support. Thanks to Anette Mees of Coney for coming over from the UK to help us kick-starting our projects. Thanks to Ira Judkovskaja, Tatiana Pratley and all of the people we have met at Tryater for being great clients, co workers and for having us over to introduce us to Friesland.
Our personal journeys arenâ€™t over yet, this book was just a step into transmedia. Some of us, and some of you, might take it further, and others may not. Either way, we hope that this book has been inspirational, intriguing, interesting or helpful in any way to the people reading it.
Utrecht School of the Arts www.hku.nl Media and Performance Laboratory (MAPLAB) www.maplab.nl Stichting z25.org foundation www.z25.org Coney www.youhavefoundconey.net Tryater www.tryater.nl/nederlands/
This is a research document about transmedia storytelling, made by students of the Utrecht School of the Arts in assignment for the theatre...
Published on Apr 8, 2013
This is a research document about transmedia storytelling, made by students of the Utrecht School of the Arts in assignment for the theatre...