Mixed Bag o’ Goodies

Welcome to 2008! Wohoo!

As many of you are aware, I’m busy in my PhD writing cave…tapping away at my keyboard to share with you some of my findings from my research over the past few years. Although I’m still active in social sites like Facebook, doing some consulting and writing some articles, I’m working hard to keep focused on writing a PhD I will be proud of. At times, it is a particularly looney state of mind in my cave. Indeed, I bought a t-shirt for myself for Christmas with the writing: “Caution: Thesis Writing in Progress”.

I also counter-balance my deep-furrowed-brow-leather-patched-elbowed-jacket-contemplation with extreme cyberslacking. So, here are some of my favourite distractions for the year so far, along with some notable announcements:

Following on from the 2006 conference, the Beyond Belief series continues the exploration of religion, consciousness, belief and quantum physics with top generous and deep thinking scientists with Enlightenment 2.0. All the vidoes of the presentations are online. I’m enjoying the friendly academic jousting and discussion and also some really clear explanations of complex theories. For instance, David Albert’s presentation on the questions quantum physics has raised.

As for pure non-fiction. I’m so pleased to see a webisode that isn’t targeted to some teen or tween. I’ve been enjoying quarterlife because it does deal with people a bit older. The acting and script is alot better than most webisodes. As for looney surprises. I’m a bit addicted to iChannel now. Here is the webisode premise:

“iChannel” is a collaborative web series about a young man who has his life magically taken over by an audience… YOU. Our goal is a compelling original series where the audience can interact with the creators and the show’s characters in unique, unprecedented ways.

Now, that blurb does on the face of it smell like every other claim about interactivity and participation etc. But this one is really well done. What they do is take comments from the previous episode and integrate them throughout the next episode. Sure, this has been done before, but not to the degree undertaken in this webisode. For instance, while the protagonist is dealing with some issue, he receives an SMS from one of us, or he sees a video, a bit of grafitti on the wall and responds. For the audience, this means we start making comments that we feel will work well in defining or answering certain situations we anticipate. Check it out.

Another bright-side of looneyness is artist Ethan Hayes-Chute’s weekly Good News Newsletter. It is a great way to balance the influx of serious email.

Speaking of participation (not looneyness), theorist Axel Bruns has launched the companion website for his forthcoming book: Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage:

Produsage, and Produsage.org, is an idea whose time has come.

It builds on a simple, yet fundamental proposition: the proposition that to describe the creative, collaborative, and ad hoc engagement with content for which user-led spaces such as the Wikipedia act as examples, the term production is no longer accurate. This is true even where we re-imagine the concept of production as user-led production, commons-based peer production, or more prosaicly as the production of customer-made products: not the adjectives and qualifiers which we may attach to the term production are the problem, but the very noun itself.

Another colleague, fellow Rotten Tomato Mark Marino has published his elit peice A Show of Hands in the latest issue of Hyperrhiz. While the other rotten tomato Jeremy Douglass has not only finished his PhD on interactive fiction (yay!), he already has a postdoc researcher position for the Software Studies program at the Uni of California San Diego. I love my fellow robed techies.

Best quote of the year (so far):

[W]hile the industry talks about “participation” and “user-generated content,” I don’t think developers always realize how important this is – how they take me back to a time when the best thing in the world was making a new one. Chris Dahlen

As for Cross/Trans/Multi-platform/media/storytelling, the National Association of Television Program Executives (NAPTE) is happening on 28-31 Jan and has a special session on alternate reality games with lots of familiar faces:

Adventures in Storytelling: Alternate Reality Games
Audiences are now living across platforms where their viewing experience is enriched with additional characters that advance storylines and unravel plots beyond weekly broadcasted episodes. Alternate reality games allow the audience to interact with characters and each other in worlds were fiction fuses with reality. Now, both story and audience evolve together. Fast becoming a genre unto itself, cross media production demands new shot callers. What are the roles of executive producers of cross-media? How does technology, distribution, content and social behavior dictate development? With audiences living across multiple platforms in story specific communities, what is the future for traditional television show formats? Brian Seth Hurst, newly appointed second vice chair for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and one of The Hollywood Reporter’s Digital 50 for 2007, will be our expert resident for this panel discussion.

Moderator(s): Brian Seth Hurst, CEO, The Opportunity Management Company, Inc.
Panelist(s): Stephen Andrade, Senior Vice President of Digital Development and General Manager, NBC.com; Patrick Crowe, President, Xenophile Media, Inc.; Matt Wolf, Founder, Double Twenty Productions

Before then, on the 21st of Jan, submissions for the 2007 MIPTV 360 Content Pitching Competition will need to be in. Interesting change of terms and themes in this years event: ‘multi-platform co-production on human rights’, ‘mass participation fiction and entertainment’ and ’cause related marketing’.

By the end of Jan you’ll need to get in your application to be an Alternate Reality Game Producer for Six to Start, with (among others) the team from Perplex City.

Also, as many of you would be aware, a lot of projects will be coming out this year and many have already launched. Find815 is the latest outside-TV extension of the Lost universe. The five week interactive online experience is created by Australian company Hoodlum Digital Entertainment. That was obvious (to me), as they’re using a similiar game mechanic and interface they used for Yahoo!7’s PSTrixi. Hoodlum is also behind projects such as ITV Emmerdale’s ‘Who Killed Tom King?’ and Fat Cow Motel.. Although I love the billboards popping up all over the US it seems the ABC have decided to scale down the amount of platforms, reduce the advertising (ya!), and make it more accessible to casual audiences. I hope it works for them.

Well, the final goodie is another ARG design chart. This one is the excel document for the Sharp Legend of the Sacred Urn campaign. It is generously supplied by Michael Monello of CampfireNYC. The pdf is on the ARG Design Charts page.

Okay, I think that is it for now. Except for…Hi, my name is Christy Dena and I’m addicted to area/code’s Facebook Parking Wars game.