I’ve had my rants in the past about ‘transmedia’ and unhealthy obsessions with social-media as creative platform, indeed, one of the most widely read posts on my site is entitled ‘Transmedia Storytelling is Bullshit’. Yet whilst I’m certainly as excited as the next guy about new opportunities to put creative projects on screens of all sizes brought about by new technologies and fresh ways for audiences to engage, I’m also plagued with nausea by the horseshit dribble of Transmedia exponents. These social media, multi-platform marketing, transmedia-storytelling gurus wouldn’t know a good story idea if they tripped over it drunk as they are on their own consumption of the Transmedia Revolution cool-aid.
But all of my ire pales in comparison to the sheer satiric genius of the website WHAT THE FUCK IS MY TRANSMEDIA STRATEGY . COM
On demand WTFIMTMS.com delves into the dark-matter nether regions of idiocy to conjure forth entirely plausible strategies ready for any Transmedia Guru to regurgitate to the helplessly unthinking. As I laughed out loud I could not help but be simultaneously confronted by the familiarity of the expressions - indeed I swear Ive actually heard some of these used verbatim as various self-obsorbed bleeding-edge types try to convince us that everyone wants to play Augmented Realty Games with Mobile Apps in Gamified Cross-Platform Stories.
I play 40+ hours of video games every week alongside my addiction to web-series, tweeting and blogging but I’m calling terms like Gamification, Playable Brands, Badgifying, Personalised Media and Incentivising for the bullshit weasel-words they are.
Here are some of my choice favourites from WHAT THE FUCK IS MY TRANSMEDIA STRATEGY . COM
“Augmented reality cloud based locative social virtualization, just-in-time delivery for mobile-based platforms, with co-branded guerrilla-viral media gestalt hacking.”
“Socialising the broadcast layer with two-way audience led conversational narrative.”
“Improving brand ROI by augmenting the reality layer with narrative layer dynamics on HTML5 platforms.”
And a personal favourite…
Massively sharded holographic search opera behind a location-aware paywall
The slogans of Transmedia are “Participate”, “Personalise” and “Be part of the conversation”, but this arrogantly assumes there is a conversation to be had or that its even worthwhile to have people speak. Many creative projects would be much better if they just Shut Up..!
My message to screen narrative creators is that Your Story is NOT inherently better, improved, more valuable or worthwhile because it has Transmedia Strategy! Your viewer’s experience is Not necessarily better because they signed up to your show’s facebook page. You wont by default care more about a fictional character because you followed their Twitter feed.
The core problem with how Transmedia is promoted and presented - the very language by which it is articulated - is the Assumptions it makes.
I am white, middle class, well educated, under 35yo, professional white-collar knowledge-worker in the creative arts and academia with specific association with digital media production. I live in the middle of a major city, im a chardonay sipping, Green Party voting Lefty and - more importantly - virtually everyone i know, associate with, work with, hang out with and live next door to fits much the same demographic…
If i total up all the people i personally know who have an actual active blog or website it hits the grand total of about 6. Add active and engaged Twitter users and it grows to 20. If we throw facebook users into the mix we obviously encounter a bigger number. But even here, the total of all my academic, artist and filmmaking work colleagues who do NOT have, or do not regularly use, a Facebook account is a significant number - myself included. Remember we are talking about urban, educated, white collar creative industry professionals between the ages of 25-50.
There’s a slightly larger number of people i know who use LinkedIn but when i dig a little deeper scanning to see who is really and actively using LinkedIn, the number plummets. The classic “set up an account because it seemed like a good idea only to never look at it again….”
And then there’s my students…. virtually all between the ages of 18-35. I have hundreds of them that i am in contact with and thousands over the years. And whilst they may all be using facebook to chat about their drunken party antics and romance flirtations, the number of students I’ve had that actually have a blog, are active forum contributors, who tweet or engage with social media connected to creative projects is probably no more than 2 out of 10 at best. No, I am not exaggerating. In almost all courses i teach i directly ask my students about the online media they use, I invite them to speak about the creative online projects they are engaged with, they stuff online they are watching, the interactive projects they have found interesting and compelling….
And tumbleweed rolls past in the silence.
At least 7 out of every 10 students I’ve had in the past 5 years have Not had a blog, Never uploaded a video to YouTube, do Not Tweet or have Ever used an online forum. I could probably count on 1 hand the number of students I have EVER known who have played an Augmented Reality Game and dont get me started on general computer literacy in under 30’s which rarely even gets close to commonly held expectations of their generation.
This is an unscientific survey but since I am a modern urban digital person under 35, working with educated middle class, urban young people, who are all involved in some way in creative media production and who live in a major urban city, it would be profoundly foolish not to see these observations as indicative of an elephant in the room…. If this demographic isn’t whole-heartedly doing what the Marketing departments and Transmedia Gurus all tell us we are supposed to be doing; then what does that say about our misguided obsession Trans-Media?
My message to creative storytellers is that it is foolish to make grandiose assumptions about what your audience do and dont do online. Or more particularly, to assume that they Want to interact, that they Want the story on more than 1 platform.
I’m excited by the possibilities of Transmedia creative projects - when they are done Well. But Im also more interested in observing where the audience is than where I arrogantly expect them to be. Likewise in regard to fellow traditional media practitioners; Im more interested in inviting them over the fence, extending traditional media, than standing on one side and shouting at them that they are wrong or out of touch - a practice that seems all too prevalent and not in the slightest bit helpful.
The digital media age is NOT a revolution, its just Evolution.