The Futures of Entertainment, Narrative & Transmedia

Storytelling is at the center of a massive convergence of technologies used for everything from advertising to arts and culture building or to simply entertain. This past November The Futures of Entertainment Conference, hosted by the Convergence Culture Consortium, took place at MIT. The conference brings together scholars and key thinkers from television, advertising, marketing, and the entertainment industries to discuss the unfolding future of the media landscape.

Here are all the sessions from the conference along with complementary presentations, blog summaries, tweets and other related materials all in one convenient location for easy study. If you work in these industries and storytelling is at the center of what you create you must watch, they are an intensive course in the things that you will be expected to know how to execute in the very near future.

Before we proceed, it is in your best interest to become familiar with Henry Jenkins, his blog, and his book “Convergence Culture.” Mr. Jenkins coined the term transmedia in 2006, was the Co-Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies program and is currently a Provost Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts at USC. The future of entertainment owes a lot to his visionary study of the field. 


Keynote: Revenge of the Origami Unicorn: Five Key Principles of Transmedia Entertainment by Henry Jenkins
 
 

“7 transmedia concepts: 1.drillability, 2.multiplicity, 3.immersion, 4.worldbuilding, 5.seriality, 6.subjectivity, 7.performance #foe4” via @tomhimpe 

“brian clark: transmedia: media creators catching up to what fans have already been seeking and doing with stories. #foe4” via @PSFK

Through the whole conference Rachel Clarke live-blogged each session with incredible thoroughness. Her notes to this keynote are here.

Professor Jenkins expanded on his keynote at his blog:
The Revenge of the Origami Unicorn: Seven Principles of Transmedia Storytelling (Well, Two Actually. Five More on Friday)
Revenge of the Origami Unicorn: The Remaining Four Principles of Transmedia Storytelling 



Session 1: Producing Transmedia Experiences: Stories in a Cross-Platform World

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

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

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


“My undergrad degree is in religion, so I’m really digging this discussion of how religion is basically transmedia in pure form #foe4” via @flourish

@futuresof agreed! it’s a diff type of storyteller for transmedia. more curator, collaborator, steward, strategist braincells. #foe4” via @michaelhb 

Rachel Clarke’s notes.



Session 2: Changing Audiences, Changing Methodologies
 
Audience Research has long been a vital part of the media industries: research helps determine which ideas get produced, where content is distributed, and how content is monetized. Transmedia storytelling has forced media researchers to re-evaluate their notions of the audience since transmedia, by definition, allows audiences to engage at different levels across platforms. Research must now determine how to value audiences across different sites of engagement as they participate in different ways. 

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

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

“Jack Wakshlag #foe4 the 3 metrics of all projects in media: how many, how often, how long” via @dutchart

“‘how many, how often, how long’ is goal of audience measurement - absence of ‘why’ is disturbing. #foe4” via @jmittell

Rachel Clarke’s notes.



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

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

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

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


“A new name for Transmedia -> Deep Media #foe4” via @griffinfarley

“In transmedia storytelling: ‘Ideally, each medium makes it own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story’ - Jenkins #foe4” via @christinewhuang 

Rachel Clarke’s notes.



Session 3: Transmedia for Social Change


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

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

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

#foe4, World without Oil, ‘Just accepted that the world was transmedia and designed accordingly’ (Eklund)” via @henryjenkins

“Great transmedia experiences are contextually responsive, not reactively scripted. #foe4
” via @scott_walker

Rachel Clarke’s notes. 



Session 4: The ROI of ROFL: Why Understanding Popular Culture Should Matter to the C-Suite

Too many corporations outsource their understanding of culture to trend hunters, cool watchers, marketing experts, consulting firms, and, sometimes, teenage interns. The cost is in the billions, for data and insights that often don’t help companies better understand their role in the cultural landscape. In his forthcoming book Chief Culture Officer: How to Create a Living, Breathing Corporation, Grant McCracken argues American corporations need a new professional — a Chief Culture Officer — to prioritize cultural knowledge into the C-Suite level. American corporations need to look not at the internal culture of a company but instead outward, understanding entertainment, leisure, and word-of-mouth trends. This panel will explore how major brands and entertainment properties are, or should be, listening to the patterns of popular culture to make their brands, products and services more responsive to and reflective of the desires of relevant audiences. 
McCracken will introduce the concept of the “Chief Culture Officer,” followed by a panel discussion of the promise and pitfalls of applying cultural knowledge to a for-profit infrastructure, how the humanities intersects with this mission, and the benefits and limitations of concepts such as “the CCO” for advocating deeper cultural knowledge into a corporate setting. What new trends are developing that might impact the appeal of a brand’s products or services tomorrow, or even today? How does corporate America understand the developing etiquette and ethos of social media platforms? What benefit does knowing popular culture bring to brands and entertainment properties? What are the benefits to our society if brands are more tapped into cultural trends? 

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


“Speaking of Nielsen, I feel no need to watch shows I like live b/c no one will -ever- know and I hate it. #foe4” via @laura47

“the only way for companies to embrace popular culture is to not just take & steal from it, but add to it and open it back up #foe4” via @tomhimpe

Rachel Clarke’s notes.

Henry Jenkins interviews Grant McCracken.



Session 5: Producing Transmedia Experiences: Participation & Play 

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

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

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


#foe4, the first step is not to think of content as “widgets,” undifferentiated products for undifferentiated consumers” via @henryjenkins

#foe4, ARGS rely on “storymakers,” not “storytellers.” (Ken Eklund)” via @henryjenkins

Rachel Clarke’s notes.



Session 6: Unboxing the Medium

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

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


“The problem with trendspotting is that it focuses on WHAT is popular, when it should be trying to understand WHY it’s popular. #foe4” via @ivanovitch

“I think HBO is interesting, b/c it’s possible to interpret them more as a content brand than a network. #foe4” via @malbonnington
  

Rachel Clarke’s notes. 



Session 7: Free? Contemporary Media Business Models


While the industry discussion has meandered from questions surrounding the validity of the ‘Long Tail’ to a debate about the notion of “free” and the generation of value itself – viable business models have begun to emerge. In these models, fan communities continue to figure prominently, as do monetized value networks and innovative advertising exchanges. Questions remain: How are these models different for the artist, band, brand, media text or transmedia property (print, film, tv, music, etc.)? How are meaningful relationships forged in an online culture that values non-monetary exchanges? How do these relationships benefit people and how do they benefit brands? How have fan communities responded when companies and brands try to participate in their communities? What is being sold? Content? Access? Authenticity? Notions of community itself? And how are fans and audiences being engaged to conceive of, launch, and contribute to the growth of these new business models? 

Moderator: Nancy Baym- University of Kansas 
Panelists include: Lara Lee – Principal, Jump Associates; Mark Zagorski – Chief Revenue Officer, eXelate Media; Seth Arenstein – Editorial Director/Assistant Vice President, Cable Fax; Paul Dalen – Owner, Reverse Thread

“‘Free’ things still involve exchange — labor, attention, information, data. These are all commodities with worth. #foe4“ via @xiaochang

“What’s the business model behind YouTube or Twitter? “If VC’s keep giving money, that’s a business model”. Laughter #foe4” via @tomhimpe

Rachel Clarke’s notes. 

 

Twitter Lists to follow:
Researchers, alumni and affiliates of the Convergence Culture Consortium.
Speakers and panelists for FoE4.
Attendees tweeting from FoE4.




Antonio Ortiz

Antonio Ortiz has always been an autodidact with an eclectic array of interests. Fascinated with technology, advertising and culture he has forged a career that combines them all. In 1991 Antonio developed one of the very first websites to market the arts. It was text based, only available to computer scientists, and increased attendance to the Rutgers Arts Center where he had truly begun his professional career. Since then Antonio has been an early adopter and innovator merging technology and marketing with his passion for art, culture and entertainment. For a more in-depth look at those passions, visit SmarterCreativity.com.

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