PETER VON STACKELBERG
structure and design of transmedia narratives
context: started career as journalist, about 20years, then into designing IA systems, text animations, simulations, web design, MA in Future Studies, impact on his approach on storytelling
future shock about the information age
we're approaching maturity level of tech area, moving from one tech area to the next, significant changes for every aspect of society
we can't simply present variable futures to people: „we must tell stories about the future to shape it“
professional futurists have to do a better job at making people experience the future
emotion one of the key elements to figure out meaning of things
emotion is often drained from discussion about future; involves data as well as emotion
misses the opportunity to have an effective conversation
images (emotional) provoke reactions
as human beings we respond on an emotional level and we respond to emotions
data is simply not enough
„europeans and biotechnology in 2010“ report
img & txt about futuristic skyscraper (from the 1930s)
both basically about the same thing
story can have substantial impact for a long time
„we need to move from data to wisdom“
data – info – knowledge – wisdom
circles: experience – context
info consists of a mix of experience and context, knowledge even more so
if you are trying to make ppl understand more than the data, it is important to bring in the context (→ storytelling)
icefields in a state of collapse, result: 10foot rise in sea levels
reaction in the US? Didn't have much meaning to ppl in NY bec people are lacking context, different in Florida where ppl live right at sea level
politicians who don't believe in climate change
data and info is there, but it hasn't gotten any further (no context, no experience)
as futurists these critial issues need to be addresed
discussion about what transmedia storytelling is [from here on, I shorten transmedia storytelling to tms]
it is one or more related stories told across two or more types of media (f.e. graphic novels, facebook, youtube videos, multiple related stroies, live erformances, etc)
beauty of tms: it can come in all sorts of media. This is also one of its greatest challenges.
growing use of tms can be observed, esp in entertainment industry.
ex.: Dr Who
BBC spread it over various media
ex.: future states
website, IA components, etc to communicate diff issues that relate to the US in the future
ex.: welcome to pine point (paul shoebridge, michael simon)
area in the northwest of canada
town disappeared when the mine closed up, eradicated town from the face of the earth, buildings destroyed, etc
canadian national filmboard sponsored research on history of this community from perspective of ppl that lived there at some point, through photos, videos, etc
prj shows how to talk about disappearance of community from a human perspective
ex.: img of an open door,
lots of tms prj are like this, an invitation to come in and enter, story takes you to a point where you are not sure how to proceed
careful design important when you develop a tms: how to connect the pieces, how to distribute it via diff media and link them, how to show ppl how to make their way through
worldbuilding: you're essentially the god that creates these worlds (Tolkien prob one of the best worldbuilders → languages, histories, geographies,...)
ex.: volta (autobotika)
started out as script for an animated feature film, targeted at children and young teens, looks at life from perspective of these characters around the year 2100; creator wanted to create a series of tms, were not sure how to proceed and wanted a future perspective on it. How to develop a single story into sth much broader → by worldbuilding. Layout of the process of story architecture and worldbuilding (by vStackelberg) for volta
often begin w/ characters, basic plotline, putting around a world around these characters (f.e. Why do these characters have different skin colors?)
basically you start worldbuilding w/ nothing. After creating the rich storyworld you can start to create the stories. From there you start to be able to see how diff stories play out in terms of diff media. It invlves 3 diff design taks: narrative (designing story elemtns, plot, characters), audience engagemnet design (how are people invilved in the story, how does it look like, how to psychologically get them involved), interaction design (how to navigate ppl through diff elements of the story, from web to live theatre performance f.e. and how do ppl find all those diff pieces?)
timelines effective tool for organizing storyworlds
(pdf of this template is online)
lots of info can be put into a single visual form this way.
Narrative design: focus on design of story elements
framework, not a formula
but need to address all of these issues at some point
- select genre: important bec it contributes to how you set up the story, also you start to define expectations about what the stories are, it affects what you are trying to tell and how you are going to present it
- identify premise: a 1-sentence hook that teases ppl into the storyworld, q how you will survive in an increasingly more dangerous world bec of climate change f.e., why things have changed
- identify designing priniple: in one sentence provides overall logics and strategies within the storyworld, ex: explain consequences of failing to act
- identify central conflict: 1 sentence: who fight s who over what?
Each of these involves 1 sentence, purpose: think through it concisely what you are trying to say; once you got those, it gives you a focus on the storyworld level. On level of individual sories there are variations.
- set storyworld timeframes: look at it fairly broadly, f.e. From year 2000 to 2100, makes it easier to look at stories that exist not only at time of actual story, but also what happened 50y earlier or later – not a point in time, but look at things changing over time in a world that is essentially dynamic. Classical mistake: everything focuses on one point in time, you start to lose sense that you are looking at dynamic systems where characters and settings are always changing.
- Create events: external events, actual historical events, future anticipated events, start to lay out key event sin the history of this world and that are critical to your characters' developments. No need to go into the full complexity of characters yet, they will start to emerge/evolve quite organically into rich characters.
- Creation of significant objects: f.e. The Ring in Lord of the Rings, submarine in „Hunt for Red October“,... without the significant object – no story. Objects can have symbolic meaning, financial value, etc.
- settings: esp important for developing future storyworlds; settings defined by
- topos (physical laws of storyworld, f.e. Faster than live travel in SF; geography, flora, fauna, infrastructure, etc);
- demos (people, society, technology, ethics, languages, social structures, ho do the associate w/ each other, social hierarchy, poitical or economic system, values, nomrs, etc)
- chronos: un/official histories of these worlds, mythology about past, present, future as seen from ppl in these societies
you lay out all of these things in the timeline
then you set out individual sories in time, add detailed info and data (historical news reports, climate change, advances in bio/technology, etc)
from all of this, potential for a second, third,... story emerges
creating a hybrid of fictional and non-ficitonal world
mistake: many storyworlds seem to be frozen in space and time
good ex: „red / green / blue mars“ series, q: how to get from here to there?
Timeline as a tool to help your stories emerge
stories emerge from the storyworld
audience engagement design:
- how to keep audience's attention and what are you going to do with this attention?
- What kind of audience do you want to attract?
- What do you want them to do?
- What is the audience expecting, what is their gratification?
- What messages are you trying to communicate? (closely related to individual stories you created)
- select messages' function and effect:
- function: acquire, trigger, alter, reinforce;
- effect level: cognitive → what do you want them to know, affective → feel, physiological, belief, attitude;
- determine audience's agency: do you let them control outcome of story, characters, etc
User Interaction Design:
interaction of users with story
big challenge: friction when moving from one form of media to another, reluctance that ppl have of breaking story flow and moving on
mobile devices help smooth some of these transition effetcs
- identify types of interaction / participation: social participation, do ppl need to be involved at specific location or also via web
- determine media platforms
- entry points for storyworld: one only or many? Conventions
- inter-story transfer points: plaes in story for jumping between story lines
- identifying points for action: how are you going to ask your audience for action and how to encourage them to do sth
example about a storyworld he is developing about the rise of sea level in the Houston area, map showing which areas would be under water if the sea level rises 3 meters → storytelling adds meaning to maps in this example
Q: what role does it play if you portray ppl confronted with diff decisions in future
A: how diff decisions have diff results, ficticious character takes action a, this is the consequence, b → diff consequence. Show decisions to arrive at a certain goals as well as their alternatives within the storyworld; show potential oportunities
Q1: what does it take to develop a tms to convince mass audience, private sector leaders and politicians with one story?
A: from thousands to millions of dollars depending on what you are trying to do. you dont have to build it all at one time, which is a pretty effective strategy when you are dealing with long term change. Deliver same message to diff audiences over a period of time. Starting a storyworld is fairly low cost.
Q1: if you dont have partners on board already, what does it take to get these groups involved in a transmedia stroyworld?
A: a lot in the USA; a bit better in canada.
Q2 (comment from audience about a public transport transmedia prj)
Q1: no coherent storyworld for this in toronto, seperate stories that are badly or not at all connected
Q2: why is there suc a focus on fantasy in transmedia?
A: natural affinity on transmedia experiences with SF audiences, partly the reason for emergence of SF transmedia storyworlds
Q2: why are such strict structures necessary?
A: nature of evolution otms at least in the US. West coast of tms: big movie tie with transmedia. NY: more use of transmedia in marketing. Canada: canadian media fund and national filmboard → different type of transmedia, also in Europe.
Q3 (Scott): [i never understand what scott is actually saying or asking]
A: if you want to create sth that is effective, you should distribute the same message to the diff audiences
Q4 (Pippa): expected audience engagement; does it make sense to test strategy on level of obsessive fan ficition?
A: a lot depends on what you are actually trying to do. response can be different from what you first expect. On the other hand, if you want an open discussion / open up to different types of results, it can be useful.
Q5: alternated reality games
A: would consider them transmedia. One end of the spectrum: author control is very thight, other end of spectrum: user control is primary, a.r.g. somewhere in the middle
Q6: Imagine a global audience with culturally different expectations and experiences, what would you do?
A: american audiences are less patient, want action to set in immediately. Japanese and european narrative traditions are different. So it is necessary to understand your target audiences, are they young adults or 45-60 years old f.e.? Tms gives you the oportunity to create a set of stories within the same storyworld