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Transmedia Worldbuilding

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

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.

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:

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

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

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