Video: Ethics of Immersive Digital Storytelling

(image via Andrea Phillips)

A conversation recently unfolded on Twitter about Transmedia Storytelling, in which author and transmedia storyteller Andrea Phillips joined in, adding an interesting wrinkle to the discussion.

She voiced concern over the ethics and responsibility of digital storytellers, particularly those who use media to trick/entertain viewers to enter into the story from different angles. (Transmedia is the idea of a story unfolded over different media, technology and platforms — the pieces joined together to tell a story, although each piece could stand on its own.)

(image via Pinterest)

Andrea then shared this Ted-style talk she did on this topic, and I think it is worth viewing, if only to remind ourselves that there is a fine line between reality and story, and between responsibility and creativity.

Meanwhile, I got Andrea Phillip’s book — A Creator’s Guide to Transmedia Storytelling — out of the library and dove in last weekend, reading as she shared her experiences as creating Transmedia experiences and interviews with others. She brings a lot of great insights into the mix.

I enjoyed the inside look, although I came away with the notion that Transmedia pieces are mostly geared towards selling a product — a movie tie-on or a commercial aspect or marketing campaign.

Perhaps this is because that is her job — and if companies are the ones paying your fees, you make what they want you to make — but it struck me as unsettling, that my naive idea of “story for the sake of story” might be out of sync with the world.

Peace (sharing it responsibly),
Kevin

Technology as Art/ Art as Technology


Will, drop my brass panties – you feel my text up flickr photo by LastHuckleBerry shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

“… we can try out completely different ways of (art) expression.” — Douglas Eck.

Douglas Eck – Transforming Technology into Art

In another video from an interesting series I have found on digital storytelling, Douglas Eck looks at how technology is transforming art, but also notes the human influence on technology. Eck work at Google, on a project called Magenta that is centered on brain thinking, neural networking, technology and art.

Eck’s observations about the role of humans in the world of technology-created art rings true to me (or perhaps I am naive enough to believe it), but I also know the future is an expected place where AI and VR and AR and other advances just over the horizon offer possibilities and pitfalls. Who knows what places like Google are going to unleash into the world of storytelling?

Peace (telling its story over and over again),
Kevin

#NetNarr Discovery: Lost In Hyperland (A Fantasy Documentary)


Hypermedia flickr photo by Dominik W. Neuffer shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Thanks to some sharing of an article by Wendy in Networked Narratives a few weeks ago, I stumbled on this 1990 film about where hypertext might be going, with novelist Douglas Adams.

The Internet Archive site explains a bit more about Hyperland:

In this one-hour documentary produced by the BBC in 1990, Douglas falls asleep in front of a television and dreams about future time when he may be allowed to play a more active role in the information he chooses to digest. A software agent, Tom (played by Tom Baker), guides Douglas around a multimedia information landscape, examining (then) cuttting-edge research by the SF Multimedia Lab and NASA Ames research center, and encountering hypermedia visionaries such as Vannevar Bush and Ted Nelson. Looking back now, it’s interesting to see how much he got right and how much he didn’t: these days, no one’s heard of the SF Multimedia Lab, and his super-high-tech portrayal of VR in 2005 could be outdone by a modern PC with a 3D card. However, these are just minor niggles when you consider how much more popular the technologies in question have become than anyone could have predicted – for while Douglas was creating Hyperland, a student at CERN in Switzerland was working on a little hypertext project he called the World Wide Web…

Peace (link it beyond),
Kevin

In Celebration of Reading and Writing: Mobile Storytelling

In a time when so many of us bemoan a seemingly apparent decline in writing and reading in young people, this video reminds us that maybe we are looking and observing in all the wrong places. Check it out. Candice Faktor shows us where and how young people are engaged in stories and fiction.

This is part of a cool video series I found that dovetails nicely with my thinking of how to use technology to transform writing and literacies. I’ll sharing out other videos in the coming days, too.

Candice Faktor – Mobile Storytelling: The Rebirth of Reading and Writing

Peace (read it, write it, live it),
Kevin

Inside the #NetNarr Alchemy Lab: An Open Invitation to Collaborate

NetNarr Invitation to Collaborate

A group of us who are in the Wide and Wild Open Community of Networked Narratives decided we want to put into practice the elements of those networks and narratives with a collaborative transmedia project. Transmedia concepts involve various forms of digital media, and digital platforms, connected together into one larger story thread.

We’re calling this project “MediaJumpers”, and our tagline is “Every Object Tells a Story.”

We’re using the concept of the magical “Alchemy Lab” as the setting for the backbone of our narratives, and folks like you who join in will have their own digital art and stories connected inside elements of the lab. We’ve got a cool idea brewing in the background for how this might all work as a final project.

Come play the invitation and sign up to be part of what we think will be an interesting collaboration.

We hope the students in the Networked Narratives classes (Mia Zamora and Alan Levine are professors in the US and in Norway this semester, and Maha Bali will be joining in later from Egypt) as well as friends and collaborators from other networked spaces — like CLMOOC and DS106 and beyond — will join us.

We hope YOU will join us.

The first step is to play the invitation … then sign up at the form at the end of the game … the Master Alchemist will be in touch in the days ahead with further instructions (basically, create some digital work).

It’s going to be a blast! And the more, the merrier.

Peace (and MediaJumping),
Kevin

#NetNarr Flash Echo: Watching the Unfolding of Digital Art

Recipe for Story

The folks in Networked Narratives have held two “flash” events on Twitter, examining a piece of Digital Art and tweeting to a series of questions. Both of the Flash events happened when I was either working or sleeping (which is fine, since part of the NetNarr community is overseas).

I decided to keep exploring, anyway. So, this is a bit late. Consider it an echo.

The first piece of Digital Art examined is called Sky Magic Live at Mt. Fuji: Drone Ballet.

The artist group explains: “This was done so by utilizing more than 20 units of these flying machines, flight swarming formations, music, and 16,500 LED lights to combine into a single audio visual extravaganza.”

Sky Magic Live at Mt.Fuji : Drone Ballet Show from Sky Magic on Vimeo.

My reactions:

That was stunning in its coordination and synchronization. I almost felt like I had too many lights on in the house as I watched. What came to mind is how the drones and the LED lights was the art in movement and Mt. Fuji was the landscape backdrop to the art. You never lose sight of the mountain, even as the lights on the drones dance to create the ballet. You do lose sight of the drones, however, which is interesting. The technology disappears. The mountain is left in sight. The lights dance. I wondered about the ways they pulled this off, with the music (which I really loved) and the dance and the drone flight patterns. I’d love to see the blueprint for this ballet, and be the fly on the wall as they grappled with the technological challenges. Is this art? Yes, this is art.

The second piece is entitled Eunoia II.

The artist, Lisa Park, explains: “Throughout the performance of ‘Eunoia II’, the intensity of my feelings at the time are mirrored in the intensity of the sound in terms of volume, pitch, feedback, speed, and the panning of the sound output. The result was that the water responded in real-time creating different formations of ripples and droplets in unpredictable patterns.”

Eunoia II from Lisa Park on Vimeo.

My reactions:

Huh. First, I liked how we could see her setting up the art, the water. The views of the world, of humanity, at the start led me to expect something else, entirely. Maybe a piece of public art. But this art was very private, and I was having trouble making the leap from that public space, and her emotional response to the crowd and city, to the ripples on the water. It wasn’t clear to me what emotions she was tapping to make the water dance. The intention — of using emotions to create sound to create physical interpretations with nature — is intriguing. There was something very beautiful of the views of the water in motion, connected to her feelings, but I wanted more from this piece, although I would be hard-pressed to say exactly what I wanted.

I wonder and marvel at how artists see the media and technology around them and think, can this be used to create art? Is this art? Like our struggles with defining (or not) the term Digital Writing, this concept of Digital Art continues to be something we grapple with, play with, argue for and against, and celebrate when our hearts are touched by the experience.

Further investigation of Digital Art continues with the Net Art site, which has all sorts of intriguing possibilities.

Peace (it’s in art),
Kevin

Visual Thinkery: Elements of Digital Writing and Networked Stamps

Elemental Design... (1)

I saw Alan Levine sharing out an element he made the other week in a tool created by Bryan Matthers, at his Visual Thinkery site, and I decided it might be fun to give it a try. Bryan’s tool is pretty simple to use, and yet, the visual design is appealing. I made four elements, all connected to the concept of digital writing.

Elemental Design... (2)

Give it a try. Bryan has licensed his images and tools via @bryanMMathers is licensed under CC-BY-ND

Elemental Design... (4)

And he encourages folks to play with making.
Elemental Design...

And now he has just added a tool for making visual stamps. I had to try it out.

CLMOOC Stamp

and

NetNarr Stamp

Peace (making it happen),
Kevin

Transmedia Digital Storytelling Course: Final Thoughts

Transmedia Storytelling Narrative Universe

I recently finished a free online course through FutureLearn entitled “Transmedia Storytelling.” I wasn’t all that impressed, but perhaps that is due more to covering ground I’ve already covered on my own in the past than the course itself, which is a mix of videos, articles and a comment strand. (Look: the course was free. I’m not really complaining. But FutureLearn ain’t no NetNarr!)

What I really wanted to see was some transmedia digital story projects showcased as exemplars for how digital stories can jump from platform to platform, creating an overarching arc of story while still maintaining independence on the platforms. Unless I missed them, I didn’t see nearly enough of those kinds of projects.

Transmedia Storytelling Branches

There was quite a bit of information about what transmedia is, and why it is an interesting new twist on the age-old elements of storytelling (which began with oral tradition, moved into print tradition, and now seems to be coming back to oral tradition with digital media, according to the course instructor.)

Transmedia Storytelling Media Works Together

I had the vague sense that the course was aimed more at business folks, who are learning how best to market in the digital age through digital immersion of content. That was never said outright, but that was my inferential take on some of the material presented.

Transmedia Storytelling No Barriers

Perhaps as Networked Narratives explores digital stories more deeply, I will try my hand at another transmedia composition. I’ve done a few before, and always felt like they pushed me to think differently as a writer. Writing across platforms and spaces, with threads to tie all the pieces together as a whole, requires deep thinking and extensive planning.

Transmedia Storytelling Platforms

When transmedia works, it’s magic.

Peace (in stories),
Kevin

One Little Word for 2018: Compose

The One Little Word project is a yearly endeavor to think about a guiding word for the year ahead. I’ve used words like reflect, and remembering, and pause, and last year: filter. I had trouble coming up with my word this year, but decided upon “compose” for a variety of reasons.

First, my One Little Word for 2018 — Compose — captures how I see the shift in the way people write with media. We’re back to the word “composition” in my mind, using video and images and audio and words as a sort of stew of ideas. We compose when we write on digital platforms.

Second, the word is a remember to me to keep my anger fueled by national politics, yet also to keep it under control. Don’t get all riled up by every headline and every act. Keep focused on the task at hand: removing the GOP from power and kicking Trump to the curb (while not handing the reins to Pence). Stay composed.

So, that’s my word for 2018. I usually put it on my desktop as a little file in the corner of the screen, as a reminder. Time to archive “filter” and add “compose.”

What’s your word?

Peace (more than a word),
Kevin

Transmedia Digital Storytelling: Week One Reflections


Storyworlds flickr photo by ZenFilms shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

I’m taking a free online course through FutureLearn about Transmedia Storytelling. I aim to reflect every now and then on some of what I am learning or thinking about.

This is not the first time I have been exploring this concept of Transmedia — of how different media platforms might be used collectively to tell a story, and how each platform (think: from blog to  social media to image to audio to video, etc.) might be utilized for its own attributes to help a ‘reader’ experience the story in different media and different mediums.

Here are some quotes from the first week’s segments that stood out for me:

Transmedia Cultural Production

This is a key concept: the idea that a writer views multiple media and multiple platforms one of of the same, and not as separate parts, in a composition (although some suggest that the parts of Transmedia should be able to stand on their own, too, separate from the whole. I’m not sure about that.)

I imagine this concept as a painter with a canvas, and the painter is using not just paint, but other materials. The canvas is the composition, but the materials are the different elements that will bring the larger vision to reality. With Transmedia, the ‘composer’ views all of the platforms as possible places to thread a story. The story itself is the canvas. The platforms, and how we compose there, is our ink and paint.

Transmedia Writer Reader

Transmedia has the possibilities of collaboration — between writer but also between writer and reader, narrowing that gap between who creates and who responds to the creation. The course notes that shifts in technology have allowed more of this to happen, particularly as more mobile technology has emerged. Many apps blend experiences, opening the door for potentially interesting interactions.

This is also how many companies are now marketing products to consumers, leveraging our attention into cool storytelling techniques with product placement and immersive commercials. We, the reader, have to be aware of how our storytelling senses can be manipulated by corporations in this way.

Transmedia Novice VeteranThis concept of Transmedia is rather new (although forms of it have its roots in earlier designs — such as the Magic School Bus series of picture books that became a television show that became video games, etc.) and the technology possibilities are becoming more and more available to more and more creators. But having examples – mentor texts — is a key element here, and we are learning from each other how to do this, and why one might do this.

In one year’s Digital Writing Month (the site is now offline, alas), I tried my hand at a Transmedia piece. Want to see it? Follow the leaf.

Leaf in Motion

Peace (shifting spaces),
Kevin

Story hint: Literally, follow the leaf with a mouse click and clues to where to go next will emerge  … some of the platform may not work well on mobile devices .. sorry …