There's a good reason for my long absence! I haven't been able to talk about it for the past handful of months, but that's (finally!) about to change. Watch this space. When it turns white, Things Will Be Afoot.
This is one of my favorite times, the liminal space between one year and the next. For most people, this time for intense thinking and planmaking runs from Christmas through New Year's, but at MIT this period is extended through the beginning of February. (Yet another reason I love it so much here at MIT.) According to MIT tradition, January is what's known as the Independent Activities Period, or IAP originally founded (according to legend) in the 1960s as a way for students to take off and protest the Vietnam War all at once, instead of disappearing for random weeks out of the year. IAP has since evolved into a sort of micro-semester crammed in between the autumn semester and the spring semester, a month set aside for students (and faculty and staff) to enroll in courses they might not otherwise have a chance to take, to go off and tackle an externship somewhere, or to simply recuperate from MIT's normal grueling demands. (Another local legend likens an MIT education to drinking from a fire hose, which is truer than might be comfortable. This is, not coincidentally, why my friend Eitan named his new startup Firehose Games.)
I love this time not just for its interstitial nature, but because of the time it affords for reflection and planning. Years ago I launched a personal initiative called the Personal Improvement Project, or PIP (no relation to Fallout 3's pip-boy 3000, although I'm half-expecting a real one of those to show up at CES this week). This is the time of year when I mourn all the stuff I didn't get done in the previous year, and plan furiously for ways to achieve more of those goals in the year ahead. 2009 was a wonderful year, a crazy year, productive in ways I hadn't planned for, but, alas, rather unproductive in the ways that I had. Read the classics? Not so much. Get out of debt? Yeah, no. Get back in shape? Hells naw. To a certain extent, that's the nature of the universe life is what happens when you're busy making other plans, man plans and God laughs, yadda yadda yadda.
This year, though? This year things are going to be different.
First, why did things go so wobbly in 2009?
For starters, in 2009 I got married. In 2010, I'm not getting married. This should help. Don't get me wrong I loved getting married, but I love being married much more. For starters, being married is much cheaper than getting married. Further (and, perhaps, better), it's much less stressful. These are two hallmarks of a good marriage if being married is cheaper and less stressful than getting married, you're doing something right. (Note that this most likely ceases to apply once kids become involved.)
Second, in 2010 I was racing like mad to prepare for applying for Ph.D. programs at the end of the year. Again, not so much. I finally wound up postponing applying to Ph.D programs for another year, which was an intensely difficult decision to make (at this rate, I won't be Dr. Long until I'm in my 40s), but it was the right thing to do. Being a grad student is a wonderful state of existence, but it's not a very lucrative one, and stepping right into that after just investing a bunch of money in my wedding was going to be a nightmare. So, the whole doctorate project is going to have to be pushed back until the fall of 2011 or even 2012.
Third, I took on a lot in 2009. Not just the wedding (although that was big enough), but also a whole mess of travel (Singapore, Germany, Los Angeles, Brazil, Pittsburgh, Austria, Florida, San Francisco...!), joined the Executive Board of the Interstitial Arts Foundation, took on a whole mess of projects at work (including writing my first video game) and am now in the middle of launching Playful Thinking, a new series of short game studies books published by the MIT Press which I'm co-editing with William Uricchio and Jesper Juul. Woof.
So, yes all of this meant that life in 2009 was hectic as hell, and didn't leave a lot of time for reading, exercise, and not spending money on plane tickets. Fortunate or unfortunate, depending on how you look at it but not at all a bad thing!
It's a new year now, though, and I'm reconsidering a number of the decisions I made in 2009. (Not the marriage. I'm keeping that one.) Primarily, this year I'm planning to buckle down and do a lot less traveling for conferences. I may do some more traveling for my consulting work (which is directly tied to the whole paying-off-debt thing) but for the most part I think this is the year I really need to write. On a larger scale, though, if you'll permit me to swipe and modify a line from Hollywood, it's starting to feel like 2010: The Year We Make
Need A Little Time To Make Up
The primary meanings of the phrase "make up" deal with either imagination or reparation, which is why this is such a timely phrase right now and in some kind of weird micro-macro fractal reflection, this applies not just to me, but for all of us, particularly us Americans. For me it's going to be a year of writing (imagination) and paying down debts (reparation), but the whole world is going to have to use 2010 as a year of great imagination and reparation while we reimagine what the next wave of existence is going to be like, and as we pay off the disastrous debts we've incurred during the previous wave.
Right now, it feels like pretty much the whole damn planet is wondering the same things. What is the post-recessionary global economy going to be like? Is it reliant upon new energy sources and green-collar jobs? Is it a post-oil existence? Will America decline while other countries ascend? Will our new planetary society be more of a global village, will it be more hyperlocalized or is it, in some weird anti-Venn diagram, simultaneously increasingly both? (Based on what I've been seeing during my travels, that gets my vote.)
Those of us in the media industries are worrying about slightly different things. How will the combination of recessionary economics and new technology change the media universe? (I've been thinking a lot lately about Borders' nosedive and the well-intentioned, if ill-executed, Barnes and Noble nook.) Further, in the 21st century, does 'digital' still have any great meaning? What happens when we push past that what is 'post-digital', and what will post-digital media, entertainment and storytelling be like? One of the things that excites me about transmedia and comparative media studies is that they may be inherently post-digital; we no longer get so hung up on the explicit divide between the analog and the digital, but examine the unique advantages and affordances of each, which enables us to capitalize upon these features as they increasingly blend together which sure seems to be the way we're going.
Profitability Sustainability Is King
One thing I wonder a lot about right now is whether the twenty-teens (damn, that sounds odd) will see a shift away from rampant profiteering and ridiculous, irresponsible spending and towards not just repaying our debts, but towards aiming for simpler, more sustainable levels of existence. One thing I've been wondering about for a long time is, simply, How much is enough? How does the cost of living in one part of the world compare to another? (I'm somewhat astonished to see that Boston isn't included in Mint.com's map of the world's most expensive cities.) How much is a house really worth? How much is a thought really worth, or an experience, or one's reputation? How do we handle value in an experience economy, or a reputation economy? (For some insight into the latter, check out the Whuffie Bank, where you can find me at my usual handle.)
What is a model for sustaining a good, solid lifestyle with a decent amount of enjoyment, a relatively high standard of living, a sufficient amount of thought and reflection, a decent reputation, and so on?
It may be me thinking about these things because I'm in my early thirties now and am obsessing over things like families and houses and careers and so on, but it's clear that the 21st century models of success are not the same as the 20th century models. Do you have to have Gaimanesque levels of success as an artist to have a nice house and writing studio in the American midwest? Do you need to go all Hollywood and make ridiculous piles of cash to "make it"? Plus, what's an unsustainable business model for guys like me now? My model has always been to hit the trifecta of consulting-writing-academic, but given today's hyperaccelerated demands, is that still sustainable?
It's possible that the proper response (the "mind like water" response for you GTD-heads out there) to our current scenario is "less is more", or, to put it another way, "less is more sustainable." On my way into campus this morning, there was an episode of The Diane Rehm Show on WGBH where (I think) Allen Sinai, the chief global economist and president of Decision Economics, bluntly stated that we Americans have to get used to a lower standard of living. I think he may be right as Trevor Butterworth and his 'slow word' manifesto, the 'slow food' movement, and scores of others seem to be indicating, we are on the brink of a society throwing up its hands and surrendering to the impossibility of the ever-increasing demands for more, more, more. The recession may be an overcorrection to the fiscal irresponsibilities of the last decade, but it may also be a chance for many of us to catch our breath and rethink what "enough" means to all of us. You don't need a McMansion to be successful, but you do need enough to live comfortably and, hopefully, put your kids through college. So what does that cost now? How do you get it? And how do you get it without going insane?
Making Up Is Hard To Do
Anyway, that's what I think 2010 (and maybe 2011 and even 2012) will be all about more so than ever before, at both the micro and macro levels. How do we make up new answers to these questions, and how do we make up enough for our previous errors and indulgences to return to a more stable and sustainable footing? It's not going to be easy, but that's, again, the nature of the universe.
But life is good. And even if things get crazy, life gets better. Here's to a wonderful 2010 for each and every one of us. Onward and upward!
What were the factors? I'm so glad you asked.
Research. I've been considering the PSP as a great platform for transmedia extensions for a while now, but the release of Assassin's Creed II: Bloodlines as a PSP-only narrative bridge between the Assassin's Creed and Assassin's Creed II console games clinched the deal. Throw in the PSP-exclusive Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core and the upcoming Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep and this reason hit #1 with a bullet.
Timing. Call it a near-miss of synchronicity: not only do I turn 32 on Sunday, but yesterday was the PlayStation's 15th birthday. This is making me feel both old and nostalgic; the fact that I can buy Final Fantasy VII at all for the PSP is awesome, but I vividly remember being a freshman in college and having my socks knocked off by my friend Kurt's shiny new copy of Final Fantasy VII. What can I say? I wanted to give myself a birthday present, and so I gave Sony a birthday present of my money.
Curiosity. Discovering the existence of a cradle for the PSP made me imagine using the PSP as an always-on Internet appliance. I've been looking at things like the tiny little Mimo USB-driven minidisplays and the new Chumby One as small Internet-enabled devices, functioning as simple kiosks for things like Flickr and Twitter.
So now I have my very own PSP-3000, courtesy of the PSP 3000 Limited Edition Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines Entertainment Pack. It's a strange color, described by Sony as 'pearl white'. This is something of a misnomer; I was expecting something kind of irridescent, like, well, a pearl. It isn't. Instead, the thing glitters. It's not that bad, especially when it's in a relatively low-light situation, but when the sun hits it just right, the sucker glitters like goddamned Edward. (Yes, I went there.) Again, it's not that bad, but I'm admittedly considering buying some kind of leather sheath for the device to man it up a little.
I haven't gotten to play the game very much yet, but so far my expectations for this device as a pocket computer have been coming down on the wobbly side. It's not entirely Sony's fault; I've been a heavy iPhone user since its initial release, so many of my expectations for what a portable device can and should be have been notably skewed but when I started playing with the PSP, I realized that I had completely taken for granted that I'd be able to obtain some kind of dedicated Twitter app for this thing. Not only is that only apparently not the case (at least without hacking the device and installing some alternate form of OS, perhaps) but the experience of typing on this beast has been so utterly execrable that the very thought of attempting to write on this thing for even 140 characters at a time makes my ass twitch. Even attempting to pull up the Twitter site on a PSP is a groanworthy undertaking not only is the browser astonishingly slow, but the wi-fi connection must be reestablished every time you launch it. This makes sense at some level switching the wi-fi on and off as needed is a logical way to extend battery life but asking me which of my established networks it wants me to to connect to every time is ridiculous, especially when the two choices are the network here on campus and the network at home. One simple bit of automated checking would have removed this annoyance: if one network is available and the other isn't, don't ask.
Another aspect of this thing which is distinctly odd is the sensation of having a spinning piece of physical media in the back of the device, and almost no on-deck storage. Again, this is almost certainly the result of being an early adopter of the iPhone and a very, very late adopter of the PSP, but I was somewhat amazed that I couldn't install my copy of Bloodlines to some kind of internal drive and then retire the Universal Media Disc (UMD). True, I can't do that with my Nintendo DS, either, but for some reason I thought of the PSP as a more forward-thinking device. Ha.
In fact, for a brief little while after first popping the UMD into the device I seriously considered taking the thing back and getting a PSP Go instead and this is despite the litany, or even cacophony, of utterly disastrous reviews that have been lambasting the Go. As Ars Technica's Ben Kuchera so devastatingly advised Sony, "when your older, cheaper hardware is better and more able than your new offering, you need to fire some designers". Ouch.
So why was I even considering swapping the PSP-3000 for a PSP Go? First, I'm a design junkie, and the Go's slider-style industrial design is very sexy. Second, I'm also a digital downloads enthusiast I can't remember the last time I bought a CD, and my physical Netflix discs have been sitting on the shelf gathering dust ever since Netflix Streaming arrived and the PSP's digital-download only model is, in the abstract, incredibly attractive to me. Plus, the PSP Go is smaller, and as I noted in an earlier post, recent health issues have made me start to seriously reconsider how much junk I'm willing to carry around on a daily basis. If I'm going to add another device to my satchel, it'd better weigh as little as possible.
Still, the naysayers on the Go have me convinced. The fact that Sony's digital download versions are more expensive than the physical versions is a deal-killer, amplified by the fact that I can't buy heavily-discounted used UMDs and rip them into playable digital versions the way I might buy some used CDs and rip them into perfectly servicable MP3s. Sony also backed off on a planned trade-in program swapping physical media for digital versions, so UMDs and the PSP Go will apparently never get along and since Crisis Core isn't available on for digital downloading yet, then 25% of the games driving me to buy a PSP at all just went away. (That number jumps up to a full one third given that Birth by Sleep isn't out yet.) I'm clearly a Square-Enix fan, as 75% of my PSP game wishlist are Squeenix games, but God knows I'm not the only one. Sony's managed to get Squeenix to put FFVII on their digital download service and (I think) the Final Fantasy-themed brawler Dissidia (itself a chimera of somewhat dubious genetics), but until Squeenix commits that all its future games will be available for downloading, then owning a PSP Go makes no sense for me.
As it is, this strange little device represents a fascinating new toy to tinker with over the holidays. I'm looking forward to taking it on our honeymoon so I can whack some Templars while en route to Florida, and I'm holding out hope that when I really start tinkering with it I can hack it to do some of the other things I thought it might be able to do out of the box but I can't shake the feeling that in this post-iPhone environment, Sony is really missing out by not making those very functions stock. I'd pay a couple extra bucks per function if Sony enabled app downloads on their PlayStation Network, letting me set up my PSP as a kind of Chumby lite. I'd also jump at the chance to buy the PS2's Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II on it the same way that I can get Final Fantasy VII, but apparently they're not available yet or if they will ever be made available at all.
This drives home one of the negative affordances inherent in games as opposed to books, music or (now) even movies: books, music and movies all convert fairly well to portable versions which can be stored on one's laptop or phone, but console video games are almost completely locked down into one's living room. The PSP offers a function called 'remote play' which was, I believe, designed to address that somewhat, and the screen-to-screen interaction between Assassin's Creed II on the PS3 and Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines on the PSP is what drove me to switch to the PlayStation versions of the franchise from the Xbox 360 version I have of Assassin's Creed but there is still such a very long, long way to go before I can be playing Uncharted 2 on my living room couch, pause the game, run out and jump on a bus to work, then pop open my PSP and continue the game from where I left off. Even taking greatly reduced graphics and other concessions to the form as givens, I feel like this is where we're heading. The fact that we're not there yet is slightly annoying especially as games are attempting to become bigger and bigger components of the media diet of increasingly over-busy adults.
At the end of the day, I'm still fairly happy I bought my PSP, and I'm still looking forward to playing with it. That said, I'm looking forward even more to playing with what comes next, in the hopes that it will do what I hoped this device would do and, with a little luck, the PSP2 or whatever it's called will arrive before it has an entirely new set of unrealistic expectations set for it by the rest of the market.
For the past week-and-some-change my old brother-in-arms Nick Bastin has been hanging out at our place, taking an extended vacation here in Boston. In between marathon sessions of Rock Band, Lego Rock Band and Beatles Rock Band (see a trend emerging here?) Nick and I have been debating the issue of netbooks. For the Black Friday-Cyber Monday weekend, a number of vendors have been slashing their prices on netbooks, bringing them down into impulse-buy range. The one that I was eyeballing, Dell's Mini 9, is the same beastie that another old brother-in-arms, David Seitzinger, had some luck hacking into a usable 9" Mac netbook, and although he had a few cautionary words on the experience, I was all set to pull the trigger and order one of those beasties to use as a small word processor when the damn thing sold out. Rats.
Still, it's just as well since Apple is apparently doing their best to crush the of-questionable-legality practice of installing Mac OS X on non-Apple hardware, I should probably wait until Apple does release a similar piece of hardware. I could also just use Linux or Windows, but really what I want is something smaller and lighter then my MacBook Pro (or a 12" MacBook, for that matter) and yet more feature-rich than my iPhone that I can carry around with me and take some of the strain off of my back. For the last few weeks I've been limping around due to a pinched nerve of some kind in my leg, and one of the underlying causes for sciatic nerve pain is something wrong with one's back. This is making me reconsider the wisdom of my shoulder bag and what it is that I really need.
A Portable Toolkit
For the longest time, I lugged around an absolutely ridiculous amount of hardware. The general idea was that my bag contained a mobile media studio camera, videocamera, audio recorder, some video game equipment, art supplies, laptop, etc. As I've gotten older, I've traded portability for power: my digital SLR camera largely sits unused, replaced by a tiny digital Elph; I usually use my laptop more than either desktop machine (and, in fact, my desktop machine at home hasn't been functional in months); and my portable game devices are getting more use than the ones hooked up in my living room. Unfortunately, I think my back is paying for it.
That's why I've started eyeballing the netbooks. For the next little while, the major thing I need a machine for will be word processing. I'm not using Photoshop anywhere near as much as I used to, and I'm not even using Microsoft Word so much as I am using BBEdit or Scrivener. What I'm considering is using a netbook as a simple portable typewriter, and I'd like to have something super lightweight and super tiny that I could still use my preferred workflow setup on hence the desire for a Mac netbook, to run BBEdit and Scrivener.
What I really, really want to do is store my documents in the cloud and then access those files from anywhere with a small, yet fully-featured, device. If I could hook a keyboard up to my iPhone and run a Scrivener or BBEdit client on that, I would but we're not there yet.
The Best Is Yet To Come?
It's entirely possible that the best thing for me simply doesn't exist yet. I'm still absolutely enthralled by the Microsoft Courier prototype tablet that's been making the rounds. What I love about it is that this monster is essentially a digital Moleskine, replicating the functions of a pocket notebook (note taking, scrapbooking, mindmapping and/or to-do list management) while slotting neatly in between the phone and the primary computer. Although there's no evidence to support it yet, my suspicion is that the device can be turned sideways and one of the screens becomes an iPhone-esque virtual keyboard. Even if it doesn't, though, I'd still love to get my hands on one and discover how ti fits into my workflow.
Another experiment I've been considering is what kind of a computer could fit into a camera bag. I've considered building such a device ever since being squeezed behind a big fat guy on the gruesomely-long plane ride back from Singapore, using either a netbook or a phone of some sort as the CPU and hooking it up to a rollable keyboard and a set of goggles for the visual interface. I'm not sure I'm ready to get all Johnny Mnemonic in public yet, but it would be a neat thing to try out.
Another thing I've considered is hauling one of my dead laptops out of storage and attempting to Frankenstein something out of that I have an old PowerBook 1400c that's begging to be put to some use, and a Lombard that I still consider to be the prettiest chassis Apple's made in decades but none of these satisfy the 'smaller and lighter' requirement. There's some real appeal to using something really antiquated and figuring out how to make it suit my needs, but the weight thing is a deal killer. Even a MacBook Air isn't quite what I've got in mind yet.
Something's Gotta Give
I suppose Apple will have something to announce in 2010, since they've got to be feeling the recessionary hurt in their computer division if not the iPod and iPhone divisions, but we'll see. As I was saying to Nick this week, we're in the middle of another hardware lull, which is bad timing for the industry. Although nobody's buying a lot of hardware right now, I suspect I'm not the only one who would find the money to spend if there was something obviously worth spending it on.
Until something gives, though, this is likely to remain just a thought experiment. The problem is a pain but not enough of one yet to warrant spending a ton of money or time to fix it; in another 6-8 months, hopefully something will come a little more clearly into focus. Perhaps the Courier will finally reach the market, or perhaps Apple's long-brewing entry into this field will be another game changer. In the meantime, I'm keeping an eye on the super sales.
In the Boston area tonight for Futures of Entertainment, or a C3-minded local who can't make it to the conference? This evening from 5-7, the novelist, anthologist and cross-media storyteller Jeff VanderMeer is giving a free, open-to-the-public talk as part of MIT’s Comparative Media Studies Colloquium lecture series and the unofficial kickoff to Futures of Entertainment! The talk will last about 45 minutes, after which the anthologist, essayist, NPR commentator and Booktour.com CEO Kevin Smokler will lead the Q&A session.
Here’s the rundown:
Booklife: The Private and the Public in Transmedia Storytelling and Self-Promotion
Jeff VanderMeer with Kevin Smokler
Fictional experiments in emerging media like Twitter and Facebook are influencing traditional printed novels and stories in interesting ways, but another intriguing new narrative is also emerging: the rise of “artifacts” that, although they support a writer’s career, have their own intrinsic creative value. What are the benefits and dangers of a confusion between the private creativity and the public career elements of a writer’s life caused by new media and a proliferation of “open channels”? What protective measures must a writer take to preserve his or her “self” in this environment? In addition to the guerilla tactics implicit in storytelling through social media and other unconventional platforms, in what ways is a writer’s life now itself a story irrespective of intentional fictive storytelling? Examining these issues leads naturally to a discussion on the tension and cross-pollination between the private and public lives of writers in our transmedia age, including the strategies and tactics that best serve those who want to survive and flourish in this new environment. What are we losing in the emerging new paradigm, and what do we stand to gain?
A writer for the New York Times Book Review, Huffington Post, and Washington Post, Jeff VanderMeer is also the award-winning author of the metafictional City of Saints & Madmen, the noir fantasy Finch, and Booklife: Strategies & Survival Tips for 21st-Century Writers. His website can be found at jeffvandermeer.com.
Kevin Smokler is the editor of Bookmark Now: Writing in Unreaderly Times (Basic Books) which was a San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book of 2005. His writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Fast Company and on National Public Radio. He lives in San Francisco, blogs for the Huffington Post and at kevinsmokler.com, and is the CEO of BookTour.com.
Presented in conjunction with Futures of Entertainment 4.
The event is, again, free and open to the public registration for Futures of Entertainment is not required. It begins at 5 PM, runs until 7, and is going down at room 4-231 (building 4, room 231) on the MIT campus. Parking on-campus is a little wonky, but there are multiple parking garages around; a better bet is likely to take public transportation. The Red Line in Boston comes straight to Kendall Square, which is right on the edge of the MIT campus. The lecture location is only a few minutes’ walk from there.
Jeff is currently on tour supporting his new book Booklife, which he describes as “a unique writing guide to sustainable careers and sustainable creativity, the first to fully integrate discussion of the role of new media into topics that have always been of interest to writers”. I just finished reading my copy this afternoon and I can personally testify that it’s full of a wide range of great stuff. Jeff splits the book into two distinct sections, one on the author’s Public Booklife (marketing, PR, social interactions and other public engagements) and Private Booklife (the actions, philosophies, emotions and other internal struggles of the actual act of writing) and both halves - plus the appendices - are packed with thoughtful insights and useful advice. For example, how do writers deal with envy - and what does Francis Bacon have to say about that? To steal a line from an old tomato sauce commercial, “It’s in there!”
5 o’clock PM tonight, Thursday, November 19th, in room 4-231 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology - I’ll see you there!
I've just returned from a wonderful whirlwind trip to Los Angeles which found me first attending Indiecade in Culver City (where I got to hang out with my friends Doris C. Rusch, Josh Diaz, Brenda Brathwaite, Celia Pearce and Tracy Fullerton - and where, thanks to Brenda, I got to meet John Romero, which was very cool), paying a really terrific and insightful visit to USC's game lab (thanks, Kurosh!), touring LA first with my best man Talon and his wife Sara and then with Henry and his wife Cynthia, and then finally giving a relatively brand-new talk on designing migratory characters for transmedia stories in Henry's transmedia class at USC.
I'm now back in Boston, backlogged and trying to fend off a cold (stupid planes). There's been a number of interesting transmedia-related articles and things popping up across the web while I've been traveling. Here are the ones that have struck me as the most interesting:
- Massiverse Launches Dragons vs. Robots. Like pirates versus ninjas, dragons versus robots is one of those concepts that hooks you as soon as you hear it. Whether or not Massiverse can pull it off is anyone's bet - but they seem to be listening closely to what Henry and the rest of us academic types are advocating, so this should be interesting. My favorite line in Dean Takahashi's writeup: "[Transmedia storytelling is] sort of like going fishing with a lot of different kinds of lures in the water." I hadn't thought of that particular metaphor before, but it's absolutely perfect. More about Dragons vs. Robots can be found here, here.
- Muse and Transmedia. John Griffiths ponders about how the promotional efforts for the rock band Muse might be read as a transmedia story. I'm not quite sold; this still feels more like a traditional advertising campaign and less like a piece of deliberately plotted transmedia planning. Still, Griffiths is right to consider about the potential for such things. Nine Inch Nails' Year Zero ARG could definitely be read as a transmedia planning campaign, and I'm sure there's a case study to be found in the promotional campaigns for U2 and/or R.E.M. in there somewhere.
- J.C. Hutchins' Sword of Blood transmedia extension is a quilt. Well, a PDF of a quilt, anyway but it's still extremely cool. A premium subscription model might have delivered an actual quilt, which would have been a terrific example of diegetic artifact as transmedia extension. (I'm still convinced that clothing and textiles are an as-of-yet largely untapped realm of possibilities.)
- The Upside-Down World of New Media. This brief post from Scott Crawford ponders how transmedia storytelling is an inversion of the brand platform planning model traditionally found in advertising. I'd like to see Crawford return to the subject and expand on what he thinks transmedia storytelling could gain from studying traditional brand platform planning there's at least one long, solid essay in there.
- A Transmedia Exercise. This assignment from Malcolm Ryan's Game Design workshop at the University of New South Wales in Australia seems to be more about solid worldbuilding than about leveraging the unique advantages of transmedia storytelling, but it's a great way to get students thinking about it.
- What is Branded Content? Tubefilter assembles an interesting panel of four experts who seek to tease out exactly what 'branded content' is - and, at the end of the day, sums up their insights thus: "In a world where even the lines of real life and fiction are starting to blur though 3-D and augmented reality technologies, brands and content must work together to create holistic experiences that extend beyond the :30-second spot - and even beyond the delivery platform itself - to form an emotional bond with viewers. Brands and content creators must also realize that old rules no longer apply. They need each other. Content creators need brand sponsors to bring their vision to life and fund a quality production, and brands need content creators to substantively connect with consumers. But none of those things can be achieved without trust. And nothing influences consumer behavior more than an experience that moves them - and a brand they can believe in." Well said.
- Transmedia Storytelling, ARGs and Civic Engagement. Bonnie Shaw at Echo Ditto provides a solid snapshot of where and how transmedia storytelling, ARGs and civic engagement are cross-pollinating one another - and how it could be improved.
- Seven Projects Selected for Power to the Pixel Pitch. I've gotta admit, out of all of these Brand New-U sounds the most intriguing to me.
- Hush on Click 2009. Shoot, it sounds like Click 2009 was the place to be last week - I would've loved to hear what Jason Zada had to say about transmedia, and I would have really enjoyed seeing Michael as the master of ceremonies!
- Faris Yacob on transmedia planning, the future of brand communication... You know, the usual. And, as usual, Faris is sharper than razors.
- Anthony Zuiker at the HuffPo. "We can no longer make the audience come to us. We must go to the audience and re-invent ourselves based on behaviors that will never return to the old regime. It will be the convergence of multi-media or trans-media, consuming content 'specific to the device,' that will win out going forward. Our attention economy is shrinking while our attentive economy is changing. And while no human being can verbalize with certainty when our behavior shifted, we must realize there has been a shift in the first place if we hope to keep up with it. It's no longer the wild wild West but the global network of the technological revolution that will shape our consumptive future." I'm still not crazy about the term 'digi-novel', but Zuiker definitely gets it.
- BBC does transmedia with new horror story The Well. Victoria Jaye, the acting head of fiction and entertainment multiplatform commissioning, will be speaking at FoE4 here at MIT in November. I can't wait to grill her on this one. And I bloody love this quote from writer Melvin Burgess: "A ghost story is perfect for [transmedia], because at the heart of every ghost story is a mystery waiting to be solved - a back story, about how the horror arose and others in the past who have brought it back to life."
- Levi's launches an ARG. This sounds suspiciously like the work of a certain cyborg anthropologist I know who's currently doing some work there at W+K. Amber, is this your doing?
- Joe Digital's take on "Transmedia 360". I was with them right up until they name-dropped Lord of the Rings; I'm trying to figure out if they're referring to the additive comprehension Neil Young was trying to slip into the LOTR game from EA, but the article is pretty vague.
I'm not even going to go into the big ones here like Don "The Design of Everyday Things" Norman on transmedia as co-creation, or Kathy Hansen's proposal for how to use transmedia storytelling in job applications. Those are both posts on their own, which I'll sketch out as soon as I have some time.
Woo-hoo! Waker, the game I wrote for GAMBIT this summer, just won the Bytejacker Game of the Week competition, beating out two really impressive other games, Station 38 and Alchemia and by a pretty wide margin to boot. Check out what the players themselves had to say at the 5:05 mark of the video clip!
I'm currently in Los Angeles, having coffee while I wait on my best man to finish up a quick audition before we head off for Las Vegas. Therefore, I would like to take this brief minute of downtime to make a couple of blog posts I'd been meaning to publish for a good long while now. First up, several teaching gigs in the field of Comparative Media Studies that I myself would totally be applying for if I already had my Ph.D. I'm posting these partly to help support the field, but also to demonstrate that comparative media studies as an academic discipline is exploding. O brave new world, hey?
MIT: Tenure-Track Faculty Position in Comparative Media Studies
MIT's Program in Comparative Media Studies seeks applications for a tenured position beginning in September 2010. A PhD and an extensive record of publication, research activity and leadership are expected. We encourage applicants from a wide array of disciplinary backgrounds. The successful candidate will teach and guide research in one or more of the Program's dimensions of comparativity (historical, methodological, cultural) across media forms. Expertise in the cultural and social implications of established media forms (for example, film, television, audio and visual cultures, print) is as important as scholarship in one or more emerging areas such as games, social media, new media literacies, participatory culture, software studies, IPTV, and transmedia storytelling.
The position involves teaching graduate and undergraduate courses, developing and guiding collaborative research activities, and participating in the intellectual and creative leadership of the Program and the Institute. Candidates should demonstrate a record of effective teaching and thesis supervision, significant research/creative activity, relevant administrative experience, and international recognition.
CMS offers SB and SM programs and maintains a full roster of research initiatives and outreach activities [see http://cms.mit.edu]. The program embraces the notion of comparativity and collaboration, and works across MIT's various schools, and between MIT and the larger media landscape. MIT is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer.
Applications consisting of a curriculum vita, a statement of teaching philosophy and experience, a statement of current and future research plans, selected major publications, and names of suggested references should be submitted by November 1, 2009 to:
Professor William Uricchio
Director, Comparative Media Studies
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139 USA
Miami University of Ohio, Tenure-Track Assistant Professor, Comparative Media Studies
One or more tenure-track assistant professor positions in comparative media studies, beginning August 2010. We welcome applicants from a range of disciplinary backgrounds; the position will be a joint appointment in a developing program in comparative media studies and another program or department in the humanities or social sciences.
Expertise in one or more of the following areas is desirable: history of media; technology and culture; creative non-fiction, documentary, and journalism in digital contexts. PhD by date of appointment.
Candidates should submit a letter of application, a curriculum vitae, three letters of reference, and a sample of recent scholarship to:
Professor Richard Campbell
c/o College of Arts and Science
143 Upham, Miami University
Oxford, OH 45056
Review of applications will begin on October 26 and continue until the position is filled.
More information on this position can be found at http://www.higheredjobs.com/details.cfm?JobCode=175392319.
Middlebury: Tenure-Track Assistant Professor, Comparative Media Studies
The Film and Media Culture Department at Middlebury College invites applications for a tenure-track position in Comparative Media Studies beginning in September 2010. Appointment will be made at the rank of Assistant Professor; Ph.D. preferred, A.B.D considered. The successful candidate will teach courses on the cultural impacts and influences of media technologies, new media as aesthetic forms, and additional contributions to the program's curriculum in film and media criticism, history, and/or production. Expertise in one or more of these areas is particularly desirable: online video, social software, videogames, new media art, digital media pedagogy, transmedia convergence, media and the environment, or global media. We welcome applicants from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, but the successful candidate should be comfortable teaching in a humanities-centered program anchored in film and media studies as part of an undergraduate liberal arts curriculum.
Candidates should provide evidence of commitment to excellent teaching and scholarly potential. Send letter of application with a statement of teaching and research interests, curriculum vitae, and three letters of recommendation, at least two of which must speak to teaching ability, to:
Professor Jason Mittell, Film and Media Culture Department
Middlebury VT 05753
Applications must be received by November 2 to ensure full consideration.
Please forward as appropriate, and see http://go.middlebury.edu/media-search for more information.
Middlebury College is an Equal Opportunity Employer, committed to hiring a diverse faculty to complement the increasing diversity of the student body.
For those of you wondering why I've been so silent lately, especially when teh Intarwebs have been so wonderfully flush with transmedia storytelling news, I have two responses:
- I'm in Singapore. I'm currently on the other side of the planet from my regular home base in Boston seriously, Singapore is a 12-hour time difference from Boston, which keeps things kind of simple but the jetlag is utter hell and have had my hands full with GAMBIT-related things. (Such as, for example, the launch of Snap Escape, which is now live on Facebook).
- I just launched the new interstitialarts.org. It was an unfortunate scheduling quirk that September 15th, the long-ago announced launched date for the new Interstitial Arts Foundation website and its attached brand-spanking-new Annex of short interstitial fiction happened to fall during this trip. Although I still believe in my heart of hearts that I can work from anywhere, there were some definitely odd things working against me on this one not the least of which was getting reliable quasi-high-speed Internet connectivity from my hotel room. It's not easy to redesign a Wordpress install in public when your FTP connection keeps breaking every 5-10 minutes. Oy vey.
I will have plenty to say about the recent transmedia storytelling developments once I get back to Boston and things settle down a little bit. Until then, be good and if you're in Singapore, come hear me talk at the Students Day at the Games Convention Asia 2009 conference on Saturday!