Christy Dena took the stage a began a very erudite presentation about what Transmedia is in terms of the disparate art forms that it marshals together to tell a story. Her own work to date has been defined by a simple question: “What separates us and what unites us?” Oftentimes, it’s a case of perception.
She gave an anecdote of a short story she had written once upon a time of a girl living in a village who faces a coming-of-age ceremony. She is anxious in the knowledge that it may irrevocably change her life. When Dena thought about how to enrich and enhance the story into a novel, it occurred to her that she could tell the story on the Web, too, in some other form. She chose to transpose the same story – told from another perspective – from the point of view of a teenage robot that must face a rite of passing in which new code will be downloaded into her digital brain. Towards that end, she employed Chat Bots to interact with her readers – allowing them to ask the robot questions and have a dialogue with her.
The point of this story was to illustrate some of the design challenges of Transmedia. Dena had to find a way to guide readers from the book to the Web and, ultimately, back to the book. Instead of choosing to tell two separate stories in two separate media, she looked for a way to integrate the two. Both had very different restrictions. On the one hand, the fixed narrative form of the book; once written and put out there, it couldn’t be changed. On the other hand, a much more fluid and interactive narrative form of the Web and the Chat Bot.
Over the next 8 years, she worked on other people’s projects and pursued a PHD, while looking for answers to this design challenge. She was inspired by the words of Dick Higgins, who coined the term ‘Intermedia’. She read a quote by Ken Freedman – a Fluxus artist – who interpreted the Fluxus movement as an increasing number of the most interesting artists to cross the boundaries of recognised media…
..to fuse the boundaries of media with media that had not previously been considered as art forms.
Dena sees one of biggest impediments to Transmedia going forward is the acceptance that all forms of media are equally important. There is a perception in our culture that some things are art forms and other things aren’t.
Films are art, games are not. Theatre is important, TV isn’t. TV is important, New Media isn’t.
Instead, some of the more interesting work comes out when each of the art forms are considered equally meaningful.
There is a trend towards ‘Gamification’ – game-ifying life. The most simplistic iteration is earning points for checking into a website, completing a puzzle, or attending an event. But for many years, game designers, commentators and academics have been fighting for the game to be recognised as a legitimate art form. Games were traditionally analysed in academia through narrative theory. Story is the way that we can understand the world.
Before the argument was “All the world’s a story.” Now it is “All the world’s a game.” Where is the recognition of difference? Some people understand the world through game. Some through other forms of media. Some, a mixture of many media.
Each media platform is something that cannot be changed – a TV is a TV; a newspaper is a newspaper; a computer is a computer. But what unites all these different elements is what the designer and user perceives as what is happening.
Unity is perceived, but variety is manifest.
An object is comprehended as beautiful when it offers unity and variety. There is a pleasing variety within unity. Perhaps the most beautiful art form is all the art forms combined.
Mass communication has a cultural heritage that one channel can reach everyone. Transmedia says that each media and each artform is a different way of reaching people through their medium or art form of choice. And you can communicate more that way.
Dena put it to us that those working in Transmedia will in some ways no longer be a broadcasters, filmmakers or novelists. We’ll be thinking of what unites everything – the message. But we must look upon each area or artform as equal. Dare to design for a wider embrace.
Personally, I think the most important part of her presentation is this point about unity and a unified message. In Transmedia, the toolset is very big. The scope can be very wide. But the message must be clear and profound. It is the seed from which everything else sprouts. And it must be there from beginning to end.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Thnx! David G Wilson aka Transmediator for summary of Christy Dena's TEDx Talk – Unity is perceived, Variety is manifest – Transmediator
Posted by siobhan at 6:24 PM