Monthly Archive for: ‘January, 2008’

The Wright Stuff

The Wright Stuff

by Greg Weinstein

Principle #1 of Jeff Gomez’s 8 Defining Principles of Trans-media: “Content must be originated by one or very few visionaries.” Or, as my grandmother liked to say, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”

This principle, of course, holds true for most creative pursuits. DaVinci didn’t bring in a team to help paint The Last Supper. Rodin did not rely upon focus groups to sculpt The Thinker. And Bach did not leave it up to his orchestra members to write their own parts.

Frank Lloyd Wright is another fantastic example of an artist who exerted full control over his projects. Wright’s vision extended far beyond simply designing structures… he crafted complete environments, putting his stamp on virtually every detail — both external and internal. He managed macro level decisions like community planning and site layout, and narrowed his focus down to the finest details — designing carpets, lamps, doors, windows, even silverware. Walk into any one of his buildings and the effect is immediately apparent. Because everything sprung from the mind of Wright himself, it all works in harmony.

Chances are you’ve seen architecture that’s not quite as harmonious as Wright’s work. Some of the most striking examples can be seen in homes that have undergone renovations. More often than not, renovations are dictated by personal taste or budgetary constraints… not by honoring the designs of the original visionary. Picture a turn of the century Victorian with a 1950’s car port, or a modest Cape adorned with stately Greek columns. Ill conceived design can leave you with the subtle feeling that something isn’t quite right. Psychologists might describe this feeling as “visual dissonance” — psychological tension caused by a discrepancy between what you expect to see and what’s actually there.

Building extensions onto a media property is not unlike building an addition onto a house. Fans will know what looks right and what doesn’t. Get it wrong, and the resulting dissonance will pull even the most casual audience member out of the story and ultimately weaken the franchise. Get it right and you’ve increased the value of the property exponentially.

Frank Lloyd Wright understood the value of balance, harmony, and consistency. Successful trans-media architects understand that these principles are just as important in cross-platform story-telling.

Is Twitter now an enterprise productivity tool?

I would have to concur with Marshall Kirkpatrick. I also now use Twitter as a working tool, not just for ‘status upates’ (which I don’t really do any more unless I can say something vaguely informative or funny). I use it to interrogate and interact w…

Anti-Hoaxing Strategies and the TINAG Fallacy

A few days ago I published a post highlighting one possible reason why alternate reality games are perceived as hoaxes by some, and posit one strategy to circumvent the problem. The point seemed to…

Tired of Gods and Atoms having all the fun? You too can create Universes with Universe Creation 101.

Here's why TV is in trouble

People in the TV business are some of the most creative people you will ever meet. So why is it that the body set up to market the major broadcasters to advertisers (Thinkbox) allows you, via their site, to watch some of the most creative, clever adve…

"Cult Media" MIT Style

“Cult Media” MIT Style

by Greg Weinstein

On November 17, the PGA New Media Council member Jeff Gomez was a featured speaker at MIT’s Future of Entertainment Conference. (Download audio or video podcast here

Jeff was joined on the “Cult Media” panel by Jesse Alexander (co-EP and writer, Heroes), Danny Bilson (Film/TV writer/director, Game Producer) and Gordon Tichell (EVP of Business Development, Walden Media). The discussion was moderated by one of the leading voices in trans-media, Professor Henry Jenkins (Director, MIT Comparative Media Studies Program)

The three hour conversation flew by faster than an action-packed episode of Alias (one of the shows Jesse Alexander cut his trans-media teeth on before Heroes). When Alexander and fellow Alias writers began building out storylines across multiple platforms they had never heard the term “trans-media.” For them it was primarily an exercise in creative self-expression. Today, the Heroes staff approaches multiplatform extensions more formally, with what could be the first team on a network show dedicated to trans-media. This team provides oversight on all things related to the Heroes fictional universe. Their work, ranging from online comic books to “Create Your Own Hero” contests, has been wildly successful.

So why are shows like Heroes, Alias and Lost so popular today? The panel had a number of interesting insights. These shows draw heavily upon elements from Comic Books, Science Fiction and Horror. In the past these were not considered legitimate genres and relegated to B-status. But kids loved this stuff and now they’re grown up and calling the shots. They’ve combined the best features of these genres with top flight talent and story-telling techniques to bring them into the mainstream.

The shows appeal to a mass audience on one level and a niche audience on another. Archetypal characters allow the broad audience to easily recognize and identify with their stories. But beneath these archetypes lie a deeper and more complex universe for hard core fans to discover. Technology is the great enabler here… helping fans connect in ways never before possible. DVRs and DVDs allow viewers to watch and analyze dense storylines over and over again — discovering details they might have otherwise missed. And the internet provides an ideal outlet for fans to share knowledge and interact with additional content.

But low tech trans-media can be just as effective, as Alexander pointed out. When his team was approached by a toy company to license and sell a Heroes sword, they saw a trans-media opportunity. Writers created a comic book story for the back of box that told the story of the sword’s origins – contributing even more detail to the Heroes canon.

Using a variety of platforms to flesh out a property’s universe is an important component of trans-media, encouraging participation is another. Once kids crack that box open and start creating their own Heroes adventures, they’re connecting to the property in a significant and meaningful way. Jeff Gomez, in one of the most thought provoking statements of the afternoon, asserted that next generation story telling will harness the energy of fan participation and feed it back into the eco-system. Fans will become part of the story and their participation will be rewarded by moving them closer to the center of the action. The result will be more dynamic and engaging entertainment than anything we’ve seen from mass media to date.

The experts on the “Cult Media” panel expressed a wide array of opinions on trans-media story telling. Yet they all agreed upon one thing: for trans-media to be successful, the core property must be treated with a deep level of passion, integrity and respect. Fans will accept nothing less.

Possibility Post: Will Integrated Media Homes Kick the Holodeck’s Butt?

In 1997, academic and designer Janet Murray published a book called Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. It not only gave voice to the dreams of technologists, fans and…

Tired of Gods and Atoms having all the fun? You too can create Universes with Universe Creation 101.

Launching Strategy: Birth Your Alternate Reality in an ARG Community

One of the issues when creating an ”alternate reality game” is that it may receive negative backlash from being perceived as a ”hoax”. Alternate reality games (ARGs) if you…

Tired of Gods and Atoms having all the fun? You too can create Universes with Universe Creation 101.

Admin Update: What’s Happening?

Hello! Sorry for the break in transmission. I intended this site to be a place for sharing design information and thought that with my concentration on finishing my PhD, that podcasts would be a…

Tired of Gods and Atoms having all the fun? You too can create Universes with Universe Creation 101.

FanTrust picks for NATPE 2008

Happy New Year! FanTrust has hit the ground running, carrying out assessments and recommendations of top conferences and distribution markets for our clients to attend in 2008. First up, and the “It” North American digital entertainment conference of the year

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