by Gabriela Pedranti
The first edition of the Transmedia Literacy Seminar. From Storytelling to Intercreativity in the Era of Distributed Authorship took place last Tuesday, December 10th, 2013 in Barcelona. It was organized by the research Program in Digital Culture (IN3 — Universitat Oberta de Catalunya) and it was a great experience. Many researchers and content creators were there to share ideas and projects related to this big area that is being increasingly talked about both in academic and commercial/professional areas and projects.
After the presentation of the seminar by Matteo Ciastellardi (one of the organizers), Derrick de Kerckhove, Research Director in Digital Culture (IN3) among many other interesting things, talked about “Connective Intelligence from Writing to the Web”. It was a real delight, not only for the contents but for the spirit and way of communicating his ideas. Until last Tuesday, I had only read some of his work, and it was a great experience to listen to him “live”. He took us on a trip from the origin of Western narrative to the multiple concepts of literacy, and how fiction has always furnished our imagination. Screens, participatory culture, hypertextual intelligence and wearable technology also were part of his reflection. From Second Life to mash up videos and wells with screens instead of water, he observed that the transition in our reconstruction is really messy : “We are new people, we are going through a very profound change, and we need new strategies.”
So here we are now. Many of the papers presented in the seminar tried to shed a little light on some of these issues. As there were parallel sessions in the morning, I could only attend some of them (nevertheless, you can check the complete programme here). I attended this one: Session A1: Transmedia research methodologies and analysis. The Chair was R. Koskimaa.
The first talk was “Proposed methodology for analysis of transmedia news stories. Study of the Globo Television’s Flutuador Project” by Geane Alzamora and Lorena Tárcia. The latter was here to talk about their analysis of an interesting project of this Brazilian TV company (along with the São Paulo University): they developed a machine with temperature and oxygen sensors, and also small cameras in it, which travelled along Tietê River (the most important in the state of São Paulo) in order to work with people from JCC, the Brazilian version of Youth Crime Watch, in protecting the environment.
Mariana Ciancia talked about her research “Transmedia Design Framework. Design oriented approach to Transmedia Research”. It was a clear methodology that can help in understanding the multiple levels of meaning and social functioning a transmedia story has. She is currently working with students who are developing their own transmedia projects. Some of the examples she mentioned are really worth seeing/being read, such as Cathy’s book and El Cosmonauta.
Nohemí Lugo Rodríguez came next. She talked about “A case for Interactive Story Creation as Transmedia Literacy Promotor”. The proposal of her thesis is to understand transmedia as a strategy; regarding this, she made a remark that I think is quite accurate: she is concerned about how to teach teenagers, who are supposed to be “digital natives” and still, they don’t have all the skills for the current media landscape. She gave interesting examples on how to apply this “transmedia strategy”: building stories based upon some content or a thrilling topic in a History class, using it as a projective technique in hypothetical situations (What if in 2025, the world…) Of course, as she puts it, “The problem in education is time and the complexity it takes to prepare these kinds of projects”. Nevertheless, her Pinterest boards on these subjects are quite a “quick” (or at least, quicker) way of finding and sharing inspiration.
After a coffee break (which included fresh fruit and typical Spanish Christmas pastries) we got together again to listen to the second keynote speaker: Raine Koskimaa and his presentation “Playing with Time in New Media Fiction”. Professor of Digital Culture at the University of Jyvaskyla, Department of Art and Culture Studies, writer and co-editor of the Cybertext Yearbook. He shared his research about the “multiple times” that are part of our transmedia experiences. He gave illustrative examples from video games (such as Braid and Spore) and and video-immersive reality/experiences (The Screen).
His conclusion was quite interesting (and maybe a little scary): “Transmedia fictions bear a potential to transform our sense of duration.”
De Kerckhove was the Chair of Session B2: New audiences and sustainable (trans)media. The first speaker was Valentina Bazzarin, who shared her research “Is the community a medium? Is ‘That’s me!’ the message? (The story of #Placevent: we are using social media to hack the academy)”. This is a project based on a workshop at the University of Bologna that reflects on the changing working profiles in EU, in the area of Sciencies of Social and Public communication. They have a blog,
PlacEvent, in which they talk and share ideas in order to fulfill their main objective: facilitating the creative processes for becoming critical and active entrepreneurs in communication and related areas. (I loved the name of one of the activities she mentioned, because it´s a great concept to express what they are doing: Communi.Action!)
Then came Lucía Amorós-Poveda and her “CINEMA.TIC. Interactive city as interpersonal communication with ICT” project, based upon educational communication “in and out” of the city of Murcia, Spain. It’s a broad proposal, that links social intervention with collaboration, interaction, cooperation and volunteering. As she put it, “the city as a classroom and people as pupils.”
It was my turn then. I talked about the first ideas of a research I’m currently developing, regarding new models for print and written media in the 21st century. I did so through a case study (on one of my favourite projects ever, Orsai). The presentation can be seen here. Its name is “Friends, partners & Co: a sustainable model for the media?”
We had a good (and sexy) time with the next talk, “Games and advergames: a new type of interactive narrative and transnarrative in the digital universe” by Patricia M. F. Coelho. She talked about “Madame D”, a project by the Brazilian Lingerie brand Duloren.
After the lunch break, it was the third keynote speaker’s turn. Asun López-Varela, professor at Facultad Filología, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, visiting scholar at Brown University (2010) and Harvard University (2013) and visiting professor at Delhi University (2011), Beijng Language and Culture University (2012) and Kazakh National University, Almaty (2013). Although her original idea was to talk about “Comparative Literature and Transmedia Poetics: from analogue to digital formats”, she started having a great conversation with the participants, about the ways we perceive the world. She started to tell us about the terms she uses in her research, such us “multimodality” and “intermediality”.
She pointed out something that we tend to forget when we fall in love with a new trend (in this case, transmedia narratives and storytelling): not everything works narratively. There are texts that don’t want to be read. Surrealism was one of her examples: it was breaking the linearity of narratology on purpose. “The emotional part of our brain breaks these patterns”, she said. “Think about art, about dreams.”
She also made us remember that “The change and ‘movement’ of texts is not something new” (here we can think about avant garde movements, Shakespeare prints, “A Mouse tale” from Alice in Wonderland…)
Then it was time for the last paper session: Session C: Best practices and transmedia experiences. The Chair was Carlos Scolari.
We had a great time listening to Antoni Roig Telo (co-author: Gemma San Cornelio), talking about “Being lucky. Transmedia and co-creation practices in music videos.” He talked about their analysis of an experience conceived as a game offered to the users that had some predefined rules but supported creative visual freedom with an open call. Here you have the clip of the evolution of “Get lucky”.
After this talk, it was time for ” ‘I am’. An online short-film editing machine with a fixed structure and pseudo-infinite combinations (An artistic artifact to reflect on the violent balance between humans and technologies today).” Quelic Berga (co-author Julià Minguillón) talked about a tool that is going to be released on December 18th, 2013. It’s about generative storytelling and multiple points of view when editing a short film. It allows millions of combinations, both of scenes and frames. The provisional site is this one: http://quelic.gnun.net/
(I’m really interested in seeing how does this evolve, so I´m going to stay tuned…)
“Chronos: a transmedia educational project at the Museo Naval in Madrid. Exploring transmedia to engage children in the museum” came next. Dolores Galindo Fontán (co-authors Yaiza Tacoronte Santana and Silvia Aguilera Enciso) showed us an interesting transmedia project for children. From a museum mascot to Pinterest boards, they use many memes and paratexts to build a story that flows and engages the younger audiences. It sounded really well-thought and appealing; what I really liked about this proposal is that it keeps going on, expanding itself, what is one of the main features of any transmedia project.
After a very short coffee break, because it was already late, Carlos Scolari surprised us with a great question: “Is Don Quixote a transmedia experience?” Whether you believe it or not, it is! “Don Quixote and the grey zone. Towards of an Archeology of transmedia storytelling” was very much about the expanded versions of Don Quixote, such as Avellaneda’s sequel, films, TV serials, “aleluyas”, Joan Amades‘ version for “common people”, videos for learning Spanish, and so much more… For Scolari, Don Quixote is “a transmedia narrative world.” The “grey zone” he explored in his talk is that blurred line in which the industry and the fandom share content production.
The Transmedia Literacy Seminar. From Storytelling to Intercreativity in the Era of Distributed Authorship was a great initiative to talk, think and find about new ideas around storytelling in the 21st century; even if nothing is completely new, Carlos Scolari made a fundamental observation: the access to digital tools that make it possible to produce stories in different formats and “spread” them is a possibility we didn’t have before. Let’s take advantage of this and go on experimenting, trying, thinking and reflecting. I’m glad I can be part of the game. And I hope it goes on (in different formats, of course!).
Bonus track: an excellent interview with D.de Kerckhove in Jot Down, one of the magazines I mentioned in my presentation.