Monthly Archive for December, 2009

happy two-thousand ten…

happy two-thousand-ten.

Changes abound,
… afraid?
The spell is broken.

music by
also viewable on youtube

theorycast.63 :: What is Transmedia?

Download theorycast.63 :: What is Transmedia? (.mp4 / 52mb), or watch this on Youtube, Facebook and Subscribe to theorycast on iTunes.

At the Futures of Entertainment 4 conference in MIT, I asked academics Xiaochang Li, Sheila Seles and William Uricchio of the Convergence Culture Consortium on their definitions of transmedia.

As defined by Henry Jenkins in his book Convergence Culture (2006 // see book and video), transmedia storytelling is published across multiple forms of media with each element making distinctive contributions to a viewer/user/player’s understanding of the story world. By using different media formats, it attempts to create “entrypoints” through which consumers can become immersed in a story world. Jenkins also compares highlights sticky media vs. spreadable media, where we once stuck viewers into specific media, now we’re now encouraging the content to be perpetuated across media and users.

MIT Press Bookstore FOE4 selection
MIT Press Bookstore selection @ #FOE4

Why is transmedia a big deal now?
I expect that the first point is technology, where we see the proliferation of networked media forms, such as video games, the Internet, and mobile platforms. The second point is cultural, such as the Web 2.0 movement, where the participatory design, distributive ease and integrative form of digital media lends itself well to stories flowing across media platforms.

Inspired from Lucian’s analogy of greek mythology, one of the obvious questions on transmedia lies in its distinctiveness. If stories have been reiterated across media (even tablets and statues) since the early B.C., isn’t that already a form of transmedia? If so, how is it different from cross-media or intertextual forms of productions?

From our video interview, Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program, Prof. Urrichio, describes transmedia as a new “lens” for us to make sense of experiences, both present and past (thus history is ever exciting). The concept clearly existed long ago, but only now are we gathering more precise vocabulary and practice for it. Perhaps it’s like seeing new colors for the first time.

An instance of transmedia in the everyday is Wikipedia, where users are co-creating and co-sustaining the continuity of the online encyclopedia, as well as reproducing the content in print and through development of mobile applications. Prof. Urrichio argues that the magic of transmedia practices, like Wikipedia, lies in its algorithm. In any transmedia practice, it is the algorithm (I offered rule-making) which defines the social outcomes of the story. If a transmedia story were an organism, it seems to me that the algorithm is much like its DNA. Open user participation on a transmedia story means that we can’t really predict how users (or fans) would re-shape the storyline, but with its algorithm in place, we can expect how it would eventually look like.

Futures of Entertainment 4
FOE4 session 3: Transmedia for Social Change (video). The Harry Potter Alliance is ingenius!

Transmedia inevitably offer a canvas for free-play, which leads us into the idea of games, specifically alternative reality games (or ARGs). To explain, Cayden Mak shared with me a neat paper by Henrik Örnebring entitled Alternate reality gaming and convergence culture: The case of Alias (2007). In it, Örnebring describes Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) as a form of internet-based mystery game in which participants are immersed in a fictional world and engage in collective problem-solving.

What makes this paper particularly interesting, is that it takes into account the potential exploitative aspect of transmedia (and ARG) practices. While part of fan culture, the paper problematizes the fact that many ARGs are actually marketing tools.

An ARG I’ve personally observed was called, in which a seemingly innocuous web site gets hijacked by an A.I., offering clues throughout the site. As documented by ARG researcher, Christy Dena, “I Love Bees (42 Entertainment, 2004) was a radio drama delivered through fragmented sound files that were released one-by-one to the players as they answered over 1,400 payphone, in over 50 states, in eight countries. Once a call was answered and a challenge was successfully completed, an ‘axon’ (sound file) was unlocked for the players online.” Thing is, I Love Bees was essentially a marketing campaign for the Halo 2 game.

While not explicitly a game, we do see online services such as Facebook come under fire when their terms of agreement seizes the copyright of media shared by its users. On the other hand, Wikipedia threads the line carefully as it remains non-profit and posts no ads. This awareness of potential online exploitation brought about the recent conference called The Internet as Playground and Factory (Nov 12-14, 2009).

I vote @mikemonello for Best Laptop Lid Theme evar  #foe4
@mikemonello, best known for producing The Blair Witch Project, has awesome laptop stickers from Vinylville

FOE4 Conference Aftermath
If you’re wondering how the Futures of Entertainment 4 conference went, let’s just say there’s way too much for me to write about. Thankfully @rachelclarke liveblogged all the sessions, so just scoot over to her blog and search under “FOE”. Here’s my favorite session which she documented, FOE: Producing Transmedia Experiences: Participation & Play. Also, videos from the FOE4 sessions are out on MIT TechTV. I video captured some of the sessions and tweeted them from my iPhone OWLE rig, but they’re not as professional.

Update 1: This theorycast video is now featured on (thanks Sheila!) and the MIT Comparative Media Studies web site (thanks Andrew!).

Update 2: I have to point you to the Futures of Entertainment 4 conference videos. If you have time, they are a treasure throve of real-life case studies and experiences. A must-watch is the keynote session by Henry Jenkins entitled “Revenge of the Origami Unicorn: Five Key Principles of Transmedia Entertainment”. Session 3 “Transmedia for Social Change” is relevant to folks like me. Very inspirational session, esp the Harry Potter Alliance project (mindblowing!). Session 4 “The ROI of ROFL” is where Grant McCracken, author of Chief Culture Officer, lead the panel on the disconnect between “corporation and culture”. I’ve yet to blog about my interview with him. Watch them all 8 sessions here, or download all 8 videos to iTunes, then sync to your iPod to watch.

Unlocking the wife achievement (comic)

Unlocking the wife achievement

This twitter comic was brought to you by @schoebdoo and @k3v2.

theorycast 61 & 62 :: Imagining Classroom 2.0 – John Larkin & Kevin Lim @ NTU

John Larkin & me @ NTU talk
Me, my papa and John Larkin at NTU. See photo slideshow.

Alex Halavais, John Hendron, and AcademicDave are just some of the education folks who have been exploring the future of learning, and how schools as institutions are going to have to adapt to stay relevant in an increasingly participatory media age.

On 14th Oct 2009, as part of the edUtorium series at the Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), Aussie educator John Larkin and I delivered a comprehensive look at the ways social web tools have been implemented within our classes in order to enhance learning interaction among students. I did a pre-talk synopsis here and so did John.

theorycast.61 :: Imagining Classroom 2.0 @ NTU (Part 1 by John Larkin)

theorycast.62 :: Imagining Classroom 2.0 @ NTU (Part 2 by Kevin Lim)
BTW, here are my slides…

Presentation Overview:
The democratic nature of the social web means that the ability to learn and produce meaningful work can now happen at any level – from the independent student, to the individual teacher, to the entire education institution. Now, more than ever, instructors are able to motivate active learning among students, by empowering them with relevant online tools that allow for more creative approaches to go beyond the traditional class-based education.

In this two hour session, we showed instructors how they could…

  • cultivate learning beyond the classroom
  • encourage participation in the class conversation
  • inspire student pride through greater sense of ownership of their work
  • include new literacies in research, organization, and synthesis of ideas
  • support multiple learning styles
  • create exemplars by raising the bar of student achievement
  • archive learning by creating a record for both you and the students

John Larkin & me @ NTU
Kevin, Hazman, Carolyn @ NTU talk
Hazman and Carolyn Lim came by too!

Big thanks to cameraman Christopher Tan of Singapore Polytechnic for coming down, capturing the event, and providing us with video footage. Very thoughtful fella!

Minds for Sale: Jonathan Zittrain explores the rise of Cloud Labor

It’s been a LONG while since I’ve blogged, mostly because I’ve been:
a. out of it
b. at mindblowing conferences
c. swamped with short-term work (while job hunting)

While working on my paper, I chanced upon a video of Jonathan Zittrain’s talk entitled “Minds for Sale”. It’s similar to the one he presented at “Internet as Playground & Factory” which I recently attended (*yet to be blogged). You can download the video via Berkman Center’s page.

Here’s his abstract:

Jonathan Zittrain, Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, explores the evolving world of cloud computing. Cloud computing is not just for computing anymore: you can now find as much mindshare as you can afford out in the cloud, too. A new range of projects is making the application of human brainpower as purchasable and fungible as additional server rackspace. What are some of the issues arising as armies of thinkers are recruited by the thousands and millions? A fascinating (and non-scare-mongering) view is offered of a future in which nearly any mental act can be bought and sold.

What’s so significant about this talk is that it not only encapsulates the buzz I’ve picked up from the transmedia conferences I’ve just returned from, but he recognizes a pattern which finally takes us beyond the material, and into the conceptual. I’m referring to the emergence of shared cognitive power or rather, cloud labor as he calls it.

In his hour long presentation, he discusses…
2:05 Ubiquitous Human Computing or “Minds for Sale”
2:32 The Tween Bot
4:14 Crowdsourcing “The Future of the Internet”
7:36 A tour of the Ubiquitous Human Computing pyramid
8:37 Example 1: The X-Prize
10:24 Example 2: Innocentive
12:08 Example 3: LiveOps
15:43 Example 4: SamaSource
16:16 Example 5: Amazon’s Mechanical Turk
20:13 Example 6: The ESP Game
22:47 Example 7: Human Computing for Electronic Design Automation
24:01 Example 8: Google
25:24 Why Should We be Pessimistic?
26:38 Child Labor on PBS
28:11 Laboring for a Devious Cause
29:23 US Border Webcams
30:05 Smart Drive
30:45 Internet Eyes
32:09 Identifying Protesters
33:21 A Speculative Example
35:05 Mechanical Turking your way to a Fake Reputation
39:36 Mechanical Turking your way to a Political Movement
41:20 Captchas Sweatshops
43:03 “Crowding Out”
44:41 The Future of Crowdsourcing and How to Stop It
47:14 Clickworkers of the World Unite!
50:45 Monetizing Kindness