Cross-Media Entertainment

This Blog shares Christy Dena’s research into cross-media entertainment. It is about storyworlds that are experienced over more than one medium and arts type. (Previously ‘crossmediastorytelling’)

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November 14, 2005

Another Researcher & Dedicated Panel

by @ 7:00 pm. Filed under Cross-Media Design, Research, Stats, Theories

Jill Walker, the theorist behind ‘distributed narrative‘, has organised and participated in a panel on Viral and Distributed Narratives (as arranged by Jessica Henig). The panel is part of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts 19th Annual Conference held recently in Chicago. It is the first time that electronic literature has been included in the conference streams. But back to the panel:

Scott Rettberg, Arts and Humanities, Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, “Implementation in Context: Viral, Locative, Situationist”
Implementation by Nick Montfort and Scott Rettberg is a novel about psychological warfare, terror, identity, and the idea of place, a project that borrows from the traditions of net.art, mail art, sticker art, conceptual art, situationist theater, serial fiction, and guerilla viral marketing. Implementation was first published as a serial novel printed in fragments on stickers distributed in monthly installments. Readers then posted the stickers in public spaces around the world, photographed them, and returned those photographs to the project site, where they are archived by date and by location. This paper presents Implementation in three distinct relevant contexts: that of recent viral “meme-based” sticker art and street graffiti projects, that of recent locative media and mapping narrative projects, and finally in the context of situationism, a movement of an earlier era that advocated participatory “opposite of works of art” and demanded that “the inner city to be laid out as field of activity for artists.”

I’ve spoken about Implementation before, especially at talks I’ve given, but this talk is from the co-creator of the project. As I do, Rettberg situates the work within the paradigm of meme-art and locative arts, and then adds in situationism.

Jessica Henig, English, University of Maryland, “As Thin as Reality: Shelley Jackson’s “Skin”
In her short story “Skin,” hypertext author Shelley Jackson moves her canvas from the screen to the body. “Skin” is published only as tattoos on participants, each of whom becomes one word in the story. In addition to challenging our usual notions of reading and authorship, this raises critical questions about the location of the story: Is it on the participants? Is it the participants themselves, their own stories as they go about their daily lives? Does it exist only inaccessibly on Jackson’s computer, waiting to be distributed? In fact, “Skin” exists on all of these levels, but the strategies for approaching it differ depending on which story one wants to read. This paper examines “Skin” in the context of Espen Aarseth’s “indeterminate cybertext,” and looks at the ways in which it requires us to revise our algorithms for finding, reading, and understanding a story.

Henig has made her powerpoint available for download. She talks about ‘emergence’ and systems, which is good. [If you haven’t already read it: I’m using polysystem theory to map CME.] Henig talks about John Holland’s Hidden Order and focuses on ‘aggregation’ and ‘flow’. It seems this is a taxonomical analysis, which I find immensely interesting as I’ve been battling with it for months. [See comments for details on the correct talk] Henig would be good to talk to, it seems, about the CME software I’m conceiving. Here is a nice quote from her presentation:

Recognizing the identity of these works as complex adaptive systems allows us to read them, but it also allows us to investigate, predict, and improve future emergent narratives.

Jill Walker, Humanistic Informatics, University of Bergen, Norway, “Pattern Recognition: Reading Distributed Narratives”
In earlier work, I have proposed the term distributed narrative to describe the increasing number of texts where elements of a story are distributed in time or space. By using the term narrative, rather than discussing the larger group of texts variously called “contagious media” or “crossmedia”, I wish to emphasize the ways in which our basic knowledge of narrative structures allows us to see connections between fragments that may have no explicit links. In this paper, I will look closely at fragments of a distributed narrative, examining how each segment signals to the reader that there is more to be found, and arguing that repetition and variation are prime tropes in distributed narrative. Comparing techniques used in weblogs and their surrounding co-texts to techniques used in Marc Saporta’s Composition No. 1, a novel written in 1962, printed on loose sheets of paper that the reader was asked to shuffle. The comparative reading will build on narratology, hypertext theory, and theories of emergence.

Okay, Jill is here distinguishing herself from “other” approaches (as I have done with her). The difference, she says, is that she is claiming distributed narratives work because of narrativisation. I have been thinking about this for a year or so and have been moving backwards and forwards between seeing what the audience member does in CME as narrative-based or something different. Currently I view what the audience does as narrative- AND play-based. I do see them as different and as both having a role. This is where I think ergodics is the unifiying concept of these areas. But back to her points, she cites two tropes: repetition and variation. This makes sense. As we’ve seen in countless simultaneous media usage studies, youth are using media in different ways.

The explanation for this behavior is the constant search for complementary information, different perspectives, and even emotional fulfillment. [Finanzen]

Indeed, what all three presenters cover is correct, valid and true. I’m excited that there are panels happening about the area, and that there is another couple of researchers. What I’m keen for, however, is an advanced discussion about CME. I know it is important and necessary to have the explanantions of the phenomenon, its antecendents and proof of existence, but I’m yearning for hardcore debates about its cogs.

Mobile Industry Creators Podcasts

by @ 5:55 pm. Filed under Industry, Mobisode, Mobile Arts

Keren Flavell has a great blog, The Mobile Media Show, that distributes podcasts of interviews she has with mobile arts creators (and other news and reviews). Here is a bit of her description:

I have turned my attention to what this marvelous little gadget can do for us in terms of distributed entertainment. To that end I am kicking off this podcast show which will feature a whole host of guests who are producing content for the mobile phone. The show will also cover news, reviews and discussion about the latest happenings in the mobile media space. The show will appeal to both producers and consumers of mobile media.

She has interviewed Joe T Velikovsky (who I just blogged about) and also interviewed Jim Shomos and Paul Baiguerra of the Forget the Rules multi-platform soapie(who I’ve blogged about before too). I love the pics too. Great stuff Keren! I’ve added your blog to my Mobile Arts section.

November 13, 2005

Max’s book on Cross-Media!

by @ 10:23 pm. Filed under Cross-Media Design, Cross-Media Navigation, Research, Industry, Interactive Narrative

Max Giovagnoli has completed a book on cross-media: Fare cross media. From Big Brother to Star Wars. Theory and Techniques of the Integrated and Distributed Use of Simultaneous Media. Check out this description:

Performing cross-media entails carrying out information, entertainment and communication campaigns in an ‘integrated’ manner, thereby simultaneously utilising a range of media forms within large editorial projects. From reality show (Big Brother, Operation Triunfo, Talpa) to film promotion (Star Wars, Harry Potter, The Ring 2). From multi-medial journalism (BBC news, SKY TV 24, RAI news 24) to video mobile telephone use and internet serials. From inter-business, institutional and political communication, to the creation of emotional marketing campaigns and new formats for cable links. The book describes, through examples, simulations, and contributions by leading international scholars, the techniques, the scenarios and the fundamental rules necessary in order to carry out communication project distributed across various media forms. Among the first publications in Europe on the subject, the work uses the research on collective imagination, emotional competence, project management and alternative dramaturgies to give order to a discipline where, to this day, too much scope is given to the talent of the individual and to an improvisation that generates mysterious successes or unexpected flops in the sectors: information, entertainment and communication.

I so look forward to getting the book (not reading it, as it is in Italian!). I was lucky to have Max interview me for the book, I was unfortunately REALLY busy and wasn’t able to contribute as much as I would of liked. [How can anyone be too busy to contribute to a book?!]

But anyway, it is a great sign that cross-media books are coming out and Max’s should be fanatastic. At present, I’ve only been able to find one book that address the cross-media phenomenon: that is Angela Ndalianis’ academic treatment of the subject in her book Neo-Baroque Aesthetics and Contemporary Entertainment (2004). There are some books on convergent journalism and some interesting ones on alternate reality games (ARGs). The later ones are highly relevant, as ARGs are the most developed form of CME. However, they are only one type of CME. MIT Media theorist Henry Jenkins is set to bring out a book Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Intersect, which should be great. And Drew Davidson has been commissioned to write one too. All very exciting. I’ve added all of these to the Cross-Media Books section on the right sidebar.

Congrats Max!

Meet Joe

by @ 9:56 pm. Filed under Mobisode, Mobile Arts

I met Joe T. Velikovsky yesterday, a passionate game/story creator. He showed me his mobile comic, a sample is available at Mobster for free, which I really enjoyed. He’s playing with some nice geek/tech/philosophical areas. I took a look at his site, and found him to have a very accomplished career:

* award-winning professional screenwriter and director in the fields of Film, TV, Games and Digital Media;
* published Game Designer and writer, and a published short story author, and professional cartoonist;
* Creative Director and founder of A-Rage Pty Ltd, an augmented reality videogame development company.

He also is fully aware of, and has a stand on, the Narratology/Ludology debate:

`Games’ and `Story’ shouldn’t be mortal enemies. He’s made a career out of bringing them together, to live alongside, in peace and harmony.

And he likes bots! Yay!

Another talented individual that is working with both story and games in innovative ways. Great to see.

Oz Gaming Updates

by @ 8:18 pm. Filed under Research, Industry, Video Game

The Australian Game Developers Conference is happening on 1-3 December at Federation Square in Melbourne. Keynoters include: Ian Livingstone, Creative Director of Eidos; Dr. Ray Muzyka, Joint CEO and Co-Executive Producer at BioWare Corp; Rob Pardo, Vice President of Game Design, Blizzard Entertainment; Aaron Lieberman, Bungie Studios. There is also a conference and a School & Computer Games Summit. For those who cannot attend (which includes me) there are two cool ways to receive updates (other than blogs) : Control Freaks will give daily video updates during the event, and 3G subscribers (that is me!) can also get updates on their mobile — the first game event updates through a mobile.

November 12, 2005

Okay, so what is WiMAX?

by @ 11:19 am. Filed under Industry, Technology, Mobile Arts

I’ve been reading about WiMAX alot and receiving email notifications about the technology for a while. I’ve never really known what it is, just concepts around it: ‘connectivity’, ‘mobile’, ‘wireless’ and so on. C.J. Mathias sets a narrower understanding:

The idea of carrying one’s broadband connection around, perhaps over very large geographic areas, is more than powerful and compelling – we expect it to become the norm over the next decade.

So, WiMAX is a technology that will supply wireless broadband access for laptops and mobile phones etc in urban and rural areas, and then ultimately applications. It is not out yet, it is in-formation. The was recently a conference held on the technology: WiMAX World.
Here is a podcast of an interview with Eliot Weinman (CEO, Trendsmedia, Inc.) explaining ‘the technology, industry, players, research, rollouts and its future’. There is a report on WiMAX Business & Technology Strategies available via email too.

CMS to CME

by @ 12:10 am. Filed under Terms, Blog Admin

Well, I’ve just undertaken the only kind of facelift I’ll ever have: a digital and conceptual one. Firstly, the digital: I’ve migrated to WordPress. So, you’ll see alot more functionality, like categories on posts and (coming soon) subscription. I have to finish the categories, and add more resources, but there are plenty of new items to feast your cross-media minds on. Also, I haven’t been able to migrate the comments (which isn’t a big deal as I don’t have many!). I’ll be entering them manually.

The second facelift: conceptual. After many months contemplating the shift I’ve made the framing switch from ‘cross-media storytelling’ to ‘cross-media entertainment’ (CME). These are the reasons:

I will keep the crossmediastorytelling.com URL, I still love it, but if you use that address it will forward you here. Also, I should note that the narrative aspects of CME will be the focus of my academic research (my PhD). So ‘polymorphic narrative‘ is still relevant too. Hope you enjoy the new-look site and resources. Please feel free to contact me with your own suggestions for inclusion.

November 7, 2005

Cross-Media Focus in Big Business

by @ 9:58 pm. Filed under Industry, Conglomerate
News from itvt is that at least 3 companies that are shifting their business emphasis to address cross-media (edited quotes):
Discovery Communications has consolidated its digital media operations via the formation of a global New Media group.

“To expand our reach as the leading global real-world media and entertainment company, it is crucial that we capitalize on the possibilities new media affords to showcase our brands, content and businesses,” Baer said in a prepared statement. “Our goal is to develop leading-edge applications that take full advantage of quality Discovery content on multiple platforms, emphasizing the flexibility and utility of our programming while maximizing the benefits of new platforms.”

Warner Bros. Entertainment has consolidated all its businesses that are involved in the digital delivery of consumer entertainment content into a new group, called Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

According to the company, the establishment of the group signals recognition of “ongoing changes in the way consumers view entertainment product”; heralds a desire on the part of the company to “maximize current and next-generation distribution scenarios to make [its] content available to audiences through as many channels, platforms and devices as possible”; and “furthers the company’s mandate to harness the benefits of emerging technologies, as well as manage the risks these technologies pose to the economic value of the content.”

MTV Networks has promoted Jason Hirschhorn to the newly created role of chief digital officer. He will be responsible for developing and carrying out cross-platform strategies for growing MTV brands–including its Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and Spike channels, as well as its various music channels–across all current and future digital platforms. Whether it is through a broadband network, a wireless application, interactive television or online gaming,” he continued, “our goal is to live at the cross-section of entertainment and communications where we can continue delivering the most unique experiences to all of our audiences.”

Very good.

November 6, 2005

Mobile Phone TV and Media-Specific Traits

by @ 1:23 pm. Filed under Cross-Media Design, Industry, Mobisode
I mentioned earlier that Channel 4 was commissioning mobile content. Well, Channel 4 has launched their Mobile TV channel, and it is the same ol stuff, but ON YOUR PHONE! You can view the mobile site online: which is showing clips from Lost. Vodaphone 3G customers can view the clips for free until Jan 06. Other news is that:
Sky and Vodafone launched a mobile television service called Sky Mobile TV with 19 channels earlier this week.

All Vodafone 3G customers will be able to watch up to 19 channels, including 24-hour news, sport, entertainment and documentaries from channels including Sky News, Sky One, Sky Sports, Discovery and Living TV.


Repurposing again, which is good. But gee, where are the shows that are made for mobisode delivery? This same argument has been going on in academia regarding interactive storytelling: if you can print out the pages of a website and read the story just like print, then it isn’t a hypertextual/cybertextual work. Pure/real interactive works only make sense in their mode of delivery, they are media-specific. I’m not all for that theory, but I understand the principle. What are the defining characteristics of stories on mobiles then? What is a story, game or artwork that only works on a mobile like? What is it about a mobile phone that is unique? Mobile phones are portable; you can have conversations with people; can receive and send SMS, MMS, tones, images; can have GPS; surf web; can download java, games, etc. So, how can you use these attributes to create unique storytelling?:

1) can receive story updates anywhere (not limited to computer, TV etc);
2) can receive story updates in SMS, phone, MMS form;
3) can forward story components to friends on the same device;
4) can converse with characters and other players (represented by humans or bots), textually, aurally & visually;
5) can have GPS (location) triggered events;
6) can contribute to a story with captured images, video, text and audio;
7) can play games as part of story and vice versa;
8) can be directed to websites for clues & downloads etc;
9) can download storyworld elements for the phone (eg: wallpaper, ring-tone etc.).

Most of these break the fourth wall, of the storyworld. This means that the stories or games need to be realistic, or an ‘alternate reality’. Which then means that the interactions need to be plausible and urgent. Given the activity a mobile phone can be utilised for, shows currently being delivered on mobile phones seem like corpses.

November 5, 2005

All Roads Lead to ARGs?

by @ 3:27 pm. Filed under Creative, ARG, Lost
Adrian Hon, THE designer of ARGs blogged an extended abstract he has written for a paper to be delivered to a gaming conference sometime soon. He puts forward that:
[A]ll types of entertainment have been unconsciously converging on an ARG-like destination.

I’ve spoken about ARGs many times on this blog and in papers and industry talks. You’ve all heard me banter on about them. There is a reason for it. ARGs are the, as yet, purest form of cross-media storytelling there is. Hon continues to explain the phenomenon:
ARGs are characterised by their development of a rich, involving universe and story spread across varied media. ARGs also take place in real time and are played collectively by thousands or millions - they are made to scale. Similarly, writers and designers are seeing the benefit in creating rich and involving universes for their stories, whether they be for books (Harry Potter), movies (The Matrix), TV (24 and Lost) or games (Final Fantasy) - partly because they engage the audience, but also because they provide the necessary depth that allows the story to be told in other media.

On a basic level, the extent of the ‘Harry Potter universe’ allows for the creation of entertaining movies and games based on the books. The Matrix universe goes one step further, in that its spinoffs (multiple games, comics, DVDs) do not merely rehash the existing storyline but in fact enrich it by filling in backstory and looking at other characters. Any self-respecting TV show or movie is now compelled to add ‘in-story’ websites and minigames to provide more depth to their viewers (Lost, Doctor Who, The Island).

This trend of ’story universes’ spreading across different media is not simply a case of inconsequential bolt-ons to the ‘main story’. Instead, it is accelerating, perhaps due to the demands of audiences who are used to multitasking across different media. Alternate Reality Games demonstrate the culmination of that trend, where the internet serves as the glue that holds the different media together in real time, but in the near future, the term ARG will not even be used any more - it will merely be assumed to be the case for every type of entertainment or game.


I agree with everything Hon is saying (I call them storyworlds and narrative universes though), except for one thing: ARGs type entertainment will be the only entertainment. What I’ve discovered with my research into cross-media storytelling (whatever you want to call, insert your own term here) is that there is no one type. Yes, ARGs are on the EXTREME right of my cross-media continuum, because of the narrative dependencies between content across media channels, but the point of cross-media (to me) is that there is a huge range. That is why I see them not just a new work, but as systems, and not just a system, but polysystems. Cross-media storytelling is on top, in addition to, what is already offered, not replacing it. Books still exist, so does TV, film and radio, heck, even phonographs are around. Yes, people are changing, the way we engage with media, with entertainment, with each other and life is changing, but we’re layering, adding extra dimensions, not subsuming others. Hope I don’t sound negative about Hon’s remarks. I think his points are fantastic and need to get out there. I’ve added them to my fading quote slider on my project page.

Cross-Media Paradigms: alternate reality branding, alternate reality game, ARG, assemblage, a-cross media, branding, buzz marketing, CME, convergence, convergent journalism, cross-media, cross-media communication, cross-media entertainment, cross-media game, cross-media storytelling, digitextuality, distributed narrative, episodic, enhanced tv, franchises, games, inter-media world franchises, intertextuality, locative-arts, mixed-reality game, multi-channel, multi-platform, multi-modal, multivariant narrative, neo-baroque aesthetics, networked narrative environments, new intertextual commodity, new marketing, participatory culture, participatory design, polymorphic narrative, second-shift aesthetics, superfictions, transfictionality, transmedia intertextual commodity, transmedia storytelling, transmedial narrative, transmedial worlds, viral marketing, worlds, X-media, XME...

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A cross-media creator is a conductor of an orchestra of media channels & arts types; an imagineer, constructing fictional worlds that cover the planet; a programmer, interpreting conversations between technology and nature; a sorcerer conjuring awesome events even they are surprised by; an audience member that wanted more, and so made a pact with The Creator to change the world.
— Christy Dena, 2005

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