One neat trick that designers of cross-media works can do is unfortunately heavily underutilised: referring to material that already exists. It takes alot of work to create a cross-media work that has many websites, TV series, comics and so on, but you needn’t create the universe in 7 days…it has already been done. Direct audiences to websites and other materials that ALREADY EXIST. This way, you don’t have create everything, you’re riding on the status (search engine result for instance) and established network (associated and meta sites) of the already produced work, and you’re facilitating immersion and excitement at the ‘fourth wall’ collapse. Alternate Reality Games — those games that are contemporary treasure-hunts where players search through websites, faxes, meet with characters and so on to save the day in some way — have been utilising created material (shall we say ‘found art’?) for years. In a radio interview conducted on 9th June on AM 620 WSNR out of New York City, Dave Szulborski, an ARG designer and writer of books about designing them, recommended designers do this. Guess what cross-media work is the latest to employ this clever little technique? Lost? Lost.
The word on the Net is that in the 3rd episode of the 2nd season of the Lost TV series (airing Oct 5th in the US) a book will be in a “key moment” of a scene. The Third Policeman, by Flann O’Brien, is described as
[A] brilliantly dark comic novel about the nature of time, death, and existence. Told by a narrator who has committed a botched robbery and brutal murder, the novel follows him and his adventures in a two-dimensional police station where, through the theories of the scientist/philosopher de Selby, he is introduced to “Atomic Theory” and its relation to bicycles, the existence of eternity (which turns out to be just down the road), and de Selby’s view that the earth is not round but “sausage-shaped.” With the help of his newly found soul named “Joe,” he grapples with the riddles and contradictions that three eccentric policeman present to him.
If audiences read the book they will “have a lot more ammunition in their back pocket as they theorize about the show. They will have a lot more to speculate about — and, no small thing, they will have read a really great book.”
So far, the book and its role in the series has been discussed in the Chicago Tribune, Blather, and of course on a Lost forum. Dalkey Archive Press, the ones who supply the book, have prepared their stocks and answered a number of media queries. Expect forthcoming articles, Chad Post informs me, ‘in the New York Times, USA Today, and Entertainment Weekly, among many other publications and radio programs’.
If you check out the Lost forum (and read the Chicago Tribune article) you’ll see the way the audience is quite proactive in trying to find information, any information that MIGHT relate to the show. They LOVE to search, find and move deeper into a work.
I’m about halfway through the book, now. On it’s own, it is absolutely amazing, and it ties into the show in potentially unbelievable ways. After we find out how it’s used in Episode 3, everyone’s probably going to be getting it, but, reading it now, I sort of feel like I’ve been watching a 3D movie and have finally put on my glasses. Unfortunately, I’m too lazy to explain all of this (and realistically I’m not sure I could, at least not yet), but, really, I can’t recommend it much higher. Your LOST migraines will thank you.
Cross-media audiences are already in existence, creating cross-media worlds FOR your productions if you haven’t been clever enough to do it yourself. They look for clues regardless of whether or not you supplied them intentionally. I have spoken about this in industry workshops but it is worth reiterating here: any site, any book, any show and so on that is glimpsed in your creative world will be pursued by cross-media audiences. Shall we call them stalkers? Or how about ‘assemblers’ (as Tom Apperley does)? Predators? Participants?
Either way, as a cross-media designer one needs to take advantage of this form of participation as well as providing guided directions to other materials in your cross-media universe. A multi-level approach to gateway management. These participants are very important, they are your fans, they create grooves on the Net for the green audiences to follow and whip up media attention.
I’ve ordered the book…
I’ve covered some of the many Lost sites before.
Amazon have an excerpt of the novel.