Geoffrey Long
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Boston to Brazil and Back.

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to join my friends Maurício Mota and Mark Warshaw of The Alchemists (also here) as an invited speaker at the Descolagem lecture series in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Our hosts were Roberto "Beto" Largman and Marcia Oliveira, the founders of the Descolagem series and two genuinely warm and wonderful souls. (For example, Beto and I had a really fantastic discussion about the Spider-Man comics and films, video games and video game television shows, and the merits of various e-mail clients in the car on the way to the airport on Sunday, and I'm now coaxing him to come up for Futures of Entertainment 4 in November so we can continue the debate.)

The event was positively brilliant. The venue for the event was called Nave, or the Núcleo Avançado em Educaçáo - which was a public school that had been adopted by Oi Futuro, a division of one of Brazil's largest phone companies that is dedicated to the advancement of arts, education and culture. Nave is the kind of school that I would have dreamed of attending, if I'd known such a thing were possible - walking in, I was struck by how much the place resembled a design studio or an arts gallery more than a school. The space for the event inside of Nave was equally breathtaking: Beto and Marcia had arranged for a space about the size of a small indoor basketball court to be decorated with really impressive pixel art and dozens of LCD displays, with a digital campfire made up of about a dozen smaller displays arranged in a tower in the center of the floor. Surrounding the campfire was about a hundred bright red beanbag chairs, with four bigger beanbag chairs set up on one side for the four of us speakers. The result was the coolest classroom I'd ever seen, with multiple video cameras recording the event, casting us onto the LCD screens around the room so everyone had a good view, and streaming it online both into the overflow space in the lobby and across the Web into homes around the world. When we first walked in, the screens were all displaying the same video footage playing on the campfire, so there was a brief and unsettling sensation of walking into a burning building, but then we settled into the beanbag chairs and we were off to the races.

Me at Descolagem
Me at Descolagem, courtesy of Emerson Alecrim

After Beto introduced us, Maurício kicked things off with a long, passionate description of the nature of transmedia storytelling, how he came to discover Henry Jenkins, C3 and our work, and how he saw transmedia storytelling having an impact on Brazil. (Luckily, the hosts had given Mark and I headsets so the translators could give us the English versions of what Beto and Maurício were saying.) After that, I was up, and I gave a revised version of my transmedia lecture, including a new section on how transmedia storytelling can be used in education. This was an even more advanced version of the talk I gave at Carnegie-Mellon earlier this year, but I was in the weird position of having to go faster than anticipated (since we started late due to a technical glitch) but having to talk much slower than usual (to accommodate the unfortunate translator). The results were a little more wobbly than I would have liked, but people seemed to have loved it and were excited by it, and that's what's important. After I was done, Mark rounded out the show, telling tales of his experiences as a transmedia producer on Heroes and Smallville and giving the audience a taste of what The Alchemists are cooking up now. We ran really late, but a bunch of people stuck around to talk with us afterwards and no one seemed particularly pissed, so, all things considered, I'd definitely call that talk a solid win.

As for the rest of the trip, although the weather was mostly gray and rainy, Maurício proved himself as a terrific tour director. He and his friend (and fellow Alchemist) Rafael showed Mark and I around town, pointing out sites both publicly interesting (the Christ, Sugarloaf) and privately important (the parts of the city where Maurício's family lived, fantastic places to eat and shop and walk). We gave another presentation at one of C3's new partner companies that was also terrifically well received, we joined Maurício's sister and girlfriend at a late-night samba concert in the shadows of an ancient aqueduct that was mind-blowingly cool, and we ate an unbelievable amount of really, really great food. (I'd always heard that Brazil has great beef, but I come from the middle of cow country in Ohio, so I always blew that off. I can now say that, yes, Brazil has some damn great beef.) On Sunday the sun finally came out, so I got to spend a little time walking along the beach near our hotel in Ipanema, which was just down the street from Copacabana. Those songs will never be quite the same to me again - they will now sound even better, now that I've seen these places for myself. The beach was amazing, with enormous waves crashing in, islands and massive tanker ships off on the horizon, and the mountains wrapping around the edges of the bay. Dozens of characters wandered the beach, including one guy who looked for all the world like he was ranting about the coming apocalypse in Portuguese while people practiced the apparently global standard reaction of ignoring him, and a group of four guys were playing a variant of volleyball that I can only guess was a form of futbol practice, since none of them were using their hands. (Imagine a weird cross of soccer, volleyball and hacky-sack and you'll get the gist of it.) As my last minutes in Brazil ticked away before I had to leave for the airport, I sat on the beach and watched the people, the mountains, the city and the waves. I felt the cool breeze on my skin and the sun on my face and I chuckled about how blessed Maurício, Beto and Marcia were to live in a part of the world where this was their winter.

I finally arrived back in Boston yesterday morning, tired and glad to see my fiancée again, but also really happy. Brazil was amazing, the Brazilians were wonderful to me, and I'm glad to have made so many great friends while down there. I'll upload some photos to my Flickr account shortly and see what I can do about uploading my slides. Meanwhile, you can see some photos of the event on Flickr by searching for photos tagged with 'descolagem', which will turn up things like this terrific set by Emerson Alacrim; you can see what people have been tweeting about the event by searching for #descolagem at Twitter; and I'm sure video clips will be popping up somewhere. I also have a couple interesting things afoot, so hopefully I'll have some more interesting posts coming up here on this blog in the near future. As always, stay tuned!

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