Convergence Jam Report

On August 13, 2005 by Christy

As I mentioned earlier, I attended an industry jam to brainstorm creative projects that employ as many platforms as possible: Convergence Jam. A blow-by-blow report of the event has been posted on the organiser’s website, but here are my impressions.

Robbie Stamp, Executive Producer of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy gave a talk (via pre-recorded video). He spoke about Douglas Adam’s vision to have the Hitch Universe delivered over multiple texts (my words), but each being unique. He didn’t want each work to be a faithful adaptation, but a work that utilises the affordances of the medium.

Colin Cardwell gave an interesting talk: ‘Convergence: Emerging Trends’. I was concerned as soon as I saw this title, just as I was with the name of the event, since ‘convergence’ is not really what stories told over multiple media are. Convergence is basically about media converging into one media. Cross-media storytelling is about stories told over multiple channels, multiple media. See how the two are not the same? I don’t quite understand why the term is continuously employed by those who are ‘in the know’. So it was a relief to hear Cardwell’s thoughts on convergence. ‘Technologies may converge one day’, he said, ‘but for now they are diverging.’ Excellent! But the next point was even more on the ball: Technology is not converging, people are. ‘People must converge’ he added.

There is a forum that has been setup to encourage the attendees to continue discussion of the projects and network. There hasn’t been much traffic at this stage — most probably due to the fear of industry practictioners to discuss ideas. As a researcher I don’t mind discussing ideas — I live by it — but perhaps this changes when your primary business is in industry. On the face of it this doesn’t make sense since we’re both in a postion where we are ‘meant to know’.

But anyway, here are some works (iTV) that Cardwell referred to:

Keith Clarkson of Xenophile Media gave a talk: ‘Show me the Money: Financing your Convergent Media Project’. He commented that the fee-for-service business model gives no ownership of IP. It is not possible, he adds, to raise all financing from one source. Clarkson outlined the following sources:

  • Equity (cash): a return is expected and they own part of the IP
  • Loans: you have to provide a guarantee and a return is rquired even if not successful
  • Grants: no repayment necessary but you have to make sure they are recognised
  • Interim Financing:
  • Advertising & Sponsorship: they want visibility and to target a particular market
  • Tax Credits: long-time before received money; refund based on labour expenditures and time consuming
  • Deferrals: post-poning payment until revenue is generated
  • Services and Facilities: services or equipment are provided for free or for a share of revenue and recognition
  • Licence Fees
  • Self-generated revenues: subscription, sponsorship. Based on speculation.

In Canada, Clarkson adds, a convergent project costs 250-600,000. One-off projects are of limited value. Websites need to be good, easy, well hosted and easy to find. Success stories for Clarkson are:

Dish It Out;
Degrassi;
Angela Anaconda;
This is Daniel Cook;
Odd Job Jack;
ReGenesis.

The last, ReGenesis, has an ‘extended reality game’ that Xenophile Media created. I’ve mentioned it before. A writer at Xenophile Media, Thomas Wallner, have a talk as well. He mentioned their work on the Live Enhanced Gemini Awards and Beethoven’s Hair. Their work sounds fascinating.

I found the event quite an eye-opener for one reason: the majority of the room of practitioners and speakers all saw cross-media storytelling in an iTV context — where there is a main work in a fixed media, with interactivity facilitated through multiple avenues: mobile phones, websites and so on. There wasn’t any rendering of a story across channels — where the narrative is distributed. I think this is due to what the participants had been exposed to (Big Brother and the like). The experience did open my eyes to the different ways in which cross-media entertainment is perceived and the range of applications. I’m delivering a paper on cross-media types next Wednesday. So I’ll give you an update soon.