DIGITAL MEDIA FROM THE INSIDE OUT: My focus is digital content -- production, distribution, collaboration, innovation, creativity. Some posts have appeared across the web (HuffPo, Tribeca's Future of Film, The Wrap, MIPblog, etc.). To receive these posts regularly via email, sign up for my newsletter here.

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'Sanditon' - A Town Built by Digital Immigrants

Welcome to Sanditon”, the highly anticipated sequel to the hit web series “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” launched on the web this week with a new, interactive twist: fans can create their own characters who interact directly with the storyline, thanks to the Theatrics collaborative storytelling platform. More than 100 Personas were created on Sanditon’s Theatrics site in the first 24 hours after launch, thanks to the huge and very involved fan base of the Bennet series.

Join the show to create your own Persona and learn more about how the Theatrics platform is helping this team of 21st Century storytellers bring their fans into their story world. The story’s home page is here. Pemberley Digital, the company producing both projects, selected LLC to provide a new component to their newest transmedia experience, complementing story and interaction on popular web platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

Key to the Sanditon strategy is the formulation of their Theatrics site’s value for audience engagement. The overall storyline calls for residents of the town of Sanditon to “ beta test” a new type of online video software called Domino. The Theatrics site is where that “test” is being conducted, allowing fans to create their own characters and interact directly with the storyline in a completely new interactive experience.

Over the next four months the Sanditon content creators will use Theatrics tools to:

  • manage the characters created by the fans
  • download fan videos to share socially and for compilation edits
  • send “Calls to Action” to accounts that have created personas, so they can help drive the story forward
  • connect the Theatrics experience to the other social platforms where the story is also unfolding in other forms

If you have questions about how to use for your project during this beta test period, please feel free to contact me at 

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‘Twas a first for me, talking to an audience in costume: glance up from the computer screen to see a gal in a Victorian bustier or a couple life-sized Star Trek action figures.

Welcome to Wyrd Com, a convention for live action role-playing gamers – LARPer, as they are commonly known. Throughout the halls of the Orange County (CA) Hilton one encountered humans impersonating every type of hero and villain, from pop culture icons to steam punk figures, with pit stops along the way for furries, pirates, and Middle Earth peasants. Kind of a bus-and-truck version of ComicCon.

LARPers at WYRD CON. Photo courtesy WyrdCon

“From Live to the Web and Back Again” was the topic of the panel, moderated by Brian Seth Hurst, who asked four speakers to bring examples of transmedia work that inspired us (even though he doesn’t like the term).

I went overboard, providing a slide deck packed with history, examples, and a little analysis, which I share with you in this post. (After which, if you scroll down, I present a selection of the projects shared by my co-presenters, Jay Bushman, Esther Kim, and Lori Schwartz.)

The entire presentation is now live on SlideShare.

Here are some key points:

The transmedia landscape is broad, encompassing entertainment franchses, multi-platform and cross-platform stories, alternate-relatity games, interactive media, and new forms of connected entertainment.

Over a period spanning more than 30 years, key creative examples illustrate aspects of the story form, including:

  • Performance
  • Interactivity
  • Immersion
  • Multiple platforms
  • Mysteries and puzzles
  • Scavenger Hunts
  • Parallel casts
  • Merged interface design

The new millennium has given rise to a canon of interactive and multi-platform “greatest hits” list that includes HeroesLostThe Truth About Marika, I Love Bees, Why So Serious?Year Zero, Conspiracy for Good, Head Trauma, and Collapsus.

Many transmedia successes have featured stories that movie from live-action to the web and back again. So it’s useful to look at some of the aspects of web-based story formats that are happening these days. In other words, learn how to Play on the Web.

Today’s creators can weave components of an audience member’s own life into the story by leveraging the power of web-based tools like Facebook Connect (and other API integration tools) as well as HTML 5 and WebGL. Examples include TAKE THIS LOLLIPOP, THE WILDERNESS DOWNTOWN, COBALT:MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, 3 DREAMS OF BLACK,  and AIM HIGH.

A unique and powerful storytelling tool from the web is video created via direct address into the webcam, as exemplified by Lonely Girl 15, in which the story centered on the lives of webcam-using young people. For months most users thought that the “story” being unfurled in this fiction was actually real, because this format for storytelling was available to Everyman. Indeed, the audience posted videos of their own, deepening and enriching the story.

An site called BECKINFIELD,  which I wrote about earlier this year, uses the same user-video paradigm, but with a more defined story framework. Users assume the personae of characters in a fictional town, and through their contribution the story unfolds.

Impact on Live Theatre

Live theatre itself has been impacted by the audience demand for interactivity, with the success of SLEEP NO MORE a perfect example. NO GOOD DEED adopts the multi-platform model, with versions of the story presented as both live theatre and a graphic novel, as well as a web-based hub. ACCOMPLICE  is a urban exporation game/theatre piece that takes place in the real world (New York and Hollywood). THE SEED brings “theatre” to Facebook, with an account in the name of a fictional character. HAUNTED is an interactive haunted house story from “Carnivale” creator Daniel Knauf. 

Book authors are impacted by the availability of powerful new interactive storytelling tools. Photographer Ethan Russell’s ebook memoir AN AMERICAN STORY includes photos and videos and a user-contribution area of the companion website. Children’s book author Michael Grant has turned to the web to unfurl new stories

Corporate brands have turned to transmedia storytelling in a big way with a prime example being Wrigley’s collaboration with 42 Entertainment on the widely diverse multimedia ARG called PROJECT ICEFLY.

Independent filmmakers with relatively scarce funds for their primary work have become inventive with business models, identified brilliantly by key practitioner Brian Clark, whose “Remembering 9/11” project with the Smithsonian shows how audience engagement with a delicate subject can work effectively. Other indie examples from Christy Dena, Lance Weiler, and Jan Libby round out the presentation, which finishes with an inspirational quote from author Neil Gaiman:

When you start out a career in the arts you have no idea what you are doing. It’s impossible to do anything wrong. Because nobody’s done it before, they haven’t made up the rules to stop anyone from doing that particular thing.

If that doesn’t stay your hunger for great examples, here are a few more:

Friendly panelists. Photo courtesy of Angelique Toschi and WyrdCon

Jay Bushman presented DIRTY WORK, the first interactive online series from Fourth Wall Studio, where Jay is a key creative. The series, and several to follow, utilize the company’s interactive platform. 

Jay also discussed his work presenting unique Twitter stories twice a year, most recently the “Game of Thrones”-themed #SXSWesteros and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a social media retelling of Pride and Prejudice.

Among the projects discussed by Esther Lim were Clue Tracker, a game inspired by ABC Family’s Kyle XY;  Superstruct, and several corporate games she authored. 

Lori Schwartz presented CORAL: REKINDLING VENUS, as well as a powerful example of social media and social movement: the “Million Hoodies March” in support of the memory of Trayvon Martin which was started by a young African-American who also happened to be employed as a social media employee at McCann, her former ad agency, which released a very interesting study of youth and media, PDF here.

Brian Seth Hurst showed a great satirical clip featuring characters from SUPERNATURAL, discussed DAYBREAK, and Conspiracy for Good.


• Nick's Great Information Friday for 11/25/11

Pardon my turkey, but I guess I'll blame Thanksgiving for a tardy edition of my Friday summary of the best tweets, posts, and quotes from the past week.

THE FUTURE WAS YESTERDAY. This prescient piece in the NY Times looks at web-based predictive software: “The Web has come to reflect the world,” says Christopher Ahlberg, the co-founder and chief executive of Recorded Future. “We can use that to predict things.”

DIGITAL DARWIN: Brilliant biz strategist Brian Solis nails it in this Washington Post post: “Digital Darwinsim and why brands die.” Key quote: “ If organizations cannot recognize opportunities to further compete for attention and relevance, they cannot, by default, create meaningful connections, a desirable brand or drive shareable experiences. The brand, as a result, will lose preference in the face of consumer choice, which may one day lead to its succumbing to digital Darwinism.” 

E-TEXTS: Textbooks aren’t just any books, says Christopher Scheutze in the NY Times, and then explains why  “Textbooks Finally Take a Big Leap to Digital”

900 POUND APPLE: Fear of Apple iTV has manufacturers ‘scrambling’ says the LA Times. “Could any company other than Apple could be leaving its competitors in the dust in an industry it hasn't even entered yet?”

BUNDLE UP: Everyone knows that the cable bundle is a business model that is bound to collapse sooner or later – consumers hate It. Biz observers watch closely for signs of the chinks in cable’s armour, and this rundown on Starz’ options after it exits its Netflix deal may be one.

MPAA VS. TORRENT, AGAIN: The battle lines over piracy have been drawn for many years, with the studios on one side and “information wants to be free” team on the other. This post on TorrentFreak does something different: analyze the potential cost of copyrighted movies using Netflix as value. Not scientific, but interesting.

FUTURE OF TV: I summarized my opening remarks for a Future of Television Panel at Georgia Tech’s Future Media Fest.

WEB SERIES: Bill Robinson urges viewers to take a seat “in the Booth at the End” in a post on HuffPo about the much-loved made-for-broadband series.

DANISH MODERN: The Guardian reports that UK TV is getting more non-English series from other countries, due to the phenom success of Denmark’s THE KILLING, which returns for a second season. I watched season one, thanks to a secret friend, and am jonesing for season two of this most-brilliant police procedural, better than the American adaptation.

ONLINE REPUTATION – can’t live with it, can’t live without, evidently, given the heat and light around social reputation site Klout, like this scorcher from self-described geek Pam Moore, who tells why she has deleted her account. Check out this new reputation site with an even better name: Flout. How about Flaunt? Or Pander?

STATS: YouTube is now serving 3.5 billion videos per day, and that’s 1.5 million more per day than just a year ago. Jeez! A new study reports that one-third of online consumers will use a tablet by 2014.

SOFTWARE WARS: The headline says it all in this CNET post by Rafe Needleman further analyzing mobile content development in the post-Flash era: “HTML5 will kill mobile apps. No, it won’t!” 

SOFTWARE LOVE: You don’t see love-letters to software applications like this one every day, in which web designer Paul Boag sings the praises of Evernote. Since I happen to agree, I gave this tweet a star! Seriously, if you don’t know about Evernote, read this.

TWITTER LOVE: I learned much from this Business Insider post: “Twitter is Quietly Building a Huge Business” – fave quote: “Twitter is the new TV.”

TRANSMEDIA. My coverage of StoryWorld conference – What Transmedia Has to Teach (and to Learn) was published on The Wrap, an online showbiz trade, in case U missed it. Jen Begeal’s coverage of the same event has a decidedly feminist approach, due to the pronounced impact of females on stage and in the audience. Check out: “Where the Transmedia Girls Are”


• Introducing #NGIF: Nick's Great Information Friday

One of the first widespread uses of the #hashtag convention on Twitter was #FollowFriday, a goofy, but effective way to spread the love all over one's favorite fellow "tweeps." Kind of a #TGIF for the twitterati.

In tribute to this enduring social media meme, I'm starting #NGIF, or Nick's Great Information Friday, in which I shall review my favorite tweets of the previous week.


Well, mainly because it’s so easy to miss the good stuff. Services like Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other social networks are "life streams” – you must be on the shore watching as the information flows by.

Twitter and the others offer filtering systems that help (Lists, Circles, etc.). Even better  third-party tools automate curation and discovery in useful ways (Summify and Zite are my current favorites. And of course, we all subscribe to newsletters to get information shoved into our crowded in-boxes.

Which brings me back to #NGIF, my humble attempt to call your attention to some interesting items to chew over after a busy week. 

Transmedia & Story Telling

It’s only natural that transmedia storytelling was on my mind this week, since I attended two events (#DIYDAYS and StoryWorld Conference), and posted my thoughts as “Stories and Worlds: What the Transmedia Movement has to Teach… (and to Learn)” which appeared here on my blog and was published today on Tribeca’s Future of Film

I also learned a lot from Dan Levy’s coverage of #swc: “Finding the Story: Five Lessons from StoryWorld 2011

Brian Clark, who was everywhere at #swc, began a series of posts this week on transmedia business models at Henry Jenkins’ blog to spark a debate among practitioners about how to use lessons from past movements to move beyond what he calls the “patronage” model. This post will become more valuable over time, so bookmark it. I have.

Along the way, as is often the case, I turned to Quora during the course of my writing, only to discover a really interesting thread called “Storytelling: How will the craft of storytelling change in the future? 

Social Media

I was preparing a presentation to a group of college film and television professors about the future of television this week and, like many pundits, used the phrase “the social graph,” which is how Facebook describes the extended grid of people and brands generated by your voluntary associations and behaviors. No wonder this post on the Pinboard blog by Maciej Ceglowski stood out: “The Social Graph is Neither."

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