New Publication: Hand Made High Tech

In 2011, I was commissioned by if:book Australia to write an article on transmedia writing. The article, ‘Do You Have a Big Stick?’,  has now been published in their first ebook: Hand Made High Tech, along with a great collections of essays on writing.

Throughout 2011, if:book Australia commissioned essays from ten Australian writers on the future of writing and reading in a future tilted towards the digital. Each writer drew on his or her experience in fields diverse as publishing, transmedia, gaming, and comics to observe the changes taking place in ‘books’ and discussing where this might lead for authors, readers, and reading culture. High Tech Hand Made is the result.

Download the collection now, in EPUB, Kindle, and PDF formats. Yay!

Damn, this is what plagiarism looks like.

Latest update:

18th Nov 2011: The CEO of InaGlobal, François Quinton, contacted me last week to let me know he will be investigating my complaint. He contacted me yesterday to let me know that unfortunately my complaint was correct. They took the article down on Monday. I’m contacted François, thanking him for following this up and requested that the article be edited and put back online. Besides the terrible plagiarism of my own work, it is actually a good article and good sources in it.

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Yesterday I was sent via Twitter a happy message by a stranger mentioning an article I had been ‘reviewed’ in. I went to the article and found that words from my thesis are in the body of the article, without quotation marks or citation. This is very poor form for a lady who is a post-doctoral fellow and a website that obviously pays for the articles. I reported the abuse to the website and tweeted that I reported it, including sending a message to one of my followers who works at the website. Nothing has been done as yet, and I’ve had a couple of people message me in Twitter saying I was being unfair because the author refers to my thesis at the end of the article (my thesis which is freely available on the web). They were oblivious to the fact the author was pretending that my words were her words in the body of the article. This is the point.

I’m thrilled she has read my thesis so closely, and I love her selection of my arguments. But for some reason she cites other theorists such as Henry Jenkins, Geoffrey Long and Carlos Scolari properly and misrepresents my words as her own. I must reflect her views, which is pretty cool. But she is a post-doctoral fellow, and so should know standards of ethical attribution. For me, this isn’t about people knowing they are my words necessarily, but that she is a professional researcher who is behaving unethically. Since no-one from the website has responded to me, and some people just don’t understand what plagiarism is, I’ll outline just what this author has done.

Read down to the section “NARRATIVE AND GAME ASPECTS”, now see her words and mine side by side:

Her words? My Words & Quotes
“Transmedia storytelling techniques often involve a combination of media platforms that contain both narrative and gaming aspects.” “Transmedia projects involve a combination of media platforms that oftentimes have both narrative and game modes.” (p. 183)
“In her book Narrative Across Media, Marie-Laure Ryan explores narratives in technical, sociological, cognitive and aesthetic terms[+]. She develops a definition that fits for both verbal and non-verbal media since she sees narrative as a “cognitive construction” or “mental image” made by the interpreter in response to the text. As she explains in her introduction:

“1. A narrative text must create a world and populate it with characters and objects. Logically speaking, this condition means that the narrative text is based on propositions asserting the existence of individuals and on propositions ascribing properties to these existents.
2. The world referred to by the text must undergo changes of state that are caused by non-habitual physical events: either accidents (“happenings”) or deliberate human actions. These changes create a temporal dimension and place the narrative world in the flux of history.
3. The text must allow the reconstruction of an interpretive network of goals, plans, causal relations, and psychological motivations around the narrated events. This implicit network gives coherence and intelligibility to the physical events and turns them into a plot.”

“But as Ryan explains, narrative has been explored in existential, cognitive, aesthetic, sociological, and technical terms (Ryan 2004a, 2). It is the recent challenge of transmedial narratology 15 that has led Ryan (and others) to develop a definition that can operate in both verbal and non-verbal media (ibid.). To do this, Ryan has leaned towards narrative as a “cognitive construct, or mental image, built by the interpreter in response to the text”:
• A narrative text must create a world and populate it with characters and
objects. Logically speaking, this condition means that the narrative text is
based on propositions asserting the existence of individuals and on
propositions ascribing properties to these existents.
• The world referred to by the text must undergo changes of state that are
caused by nonhabitual physical events: either accidents (“happenings”) or
deliberate human actions. These changes create a temporal dimension and
place the narrative world in the flux of history.
• The text must allow the reconstruction of an interpretive network of goals,
plans, causal relations, and psychological motivations around the narrated
events. This implicit network gives coherence and intelligibility to the
physical events and turns them into a plot.
(ibid., 8–9)” (page 185)
“However, according to Gonzalo Frasca, the acceptance of narrative and game modes together when talking about transmediality is not without complication. Gonzalo Frasca states that a methodological goal for the study of transmedia storytelling practices must be to develop a model that facilitates the identification and interrogation of the nature of both narrative and game elements since there are not yet any common shared terms to describe phenomena in ways that are not mode-specific or medium-specific. He suggests that the difference between narrative and game is between representation and simulation. Thus, while characters in books and films are static in the sense that the viewer or reader has no influence on them, in video games, those same characters can be tokens of interaction.” “The recognition of narrative and game modes is not without its complications.” (page 188 – note the article author assigns these words to Frasca, when they are mine)
“A methodological goal for the study of transmedia practice, then, has been to develop a model that facilitates the identification and interrogation of the nature of both narrative and game elements.” (page 188 – note the article author assigns these words to Frasca, when they are mine)
“We don’t yet have shared terms to describe phenomena in ways that are not mode-specific, and in many cases not medium-specific.” (pages 188-189 – note the article author assigns these words to Frasca, when they are mine)
“Gonzalo Frasca has suggested the difference between narrative and game is the difference between representation and simulation (Frasca 2003b)16.” (page 185)
“In novels and films characters are not the tokens for interaction that they usually become in video games.” (page 191 – this is actually a quote from Markuu Eskelinen, unattributed again by the author of the article)
“The same principle applies to characters in novels and films. They behave differently than those in video games. Markku Eskelinen[+], an independent scholar and experimental writer of ergodic prose, interactive drama, critical essays and cybertext fiction, finds it important to understand that when pieces of content move across media, they change context, function and position. This affects, thus, their modal status.” “when bits and pieces of content move across media they change context, function and position which may affect and usually also affects their modal status.” (page 191 – this is actually a quote from Markuu Eskelinen, unattributed again by the author of the article)
“Markku Eskelinen illustrates how transformations can occur within a mode (intramodal), between modes (intermodal), and how they can be homomodal (retaining their modal status in transformation) or heteromodal (elements changing their modal status in transformation). He offers examples of intermodal transformations between narrative elements and game elements such as the shift from an episode to a cut scene (homomodal), or a film character to a player-character (heteromodal). Among other functions, this approach assists in understanding the nature of narrative and game as peculiar semiotic elements.” “Eskelinen offers a chart (see Table 3) to illustrate how transformations can occur within a mode (intramodal), between modes (intermodal), and how they can be homomodal (retaining their modal status in transformation) or heteromodal (elements changing their modal status in transformation)18. He offers examples of intermodal transformations between story/narrative elements and game elements: such as the shift from an episode to a cut-scene (homomodal), or a film character to a player-character (heteromodal). Among other functions, this approach assists in understanding of the nature of narrative and game as peculiar semiotic elements.” (page 191)

Since I’m not aware of any contemporary transmedia researchers that discuss the practice being more than just “storytelling”, it would of been great to have another researcher continue the conversation. But instead, she copies and pastes the conversation, without attribution and reflection. The next section, “THE AUDIENCE: FROM CONSUMER TO STORY GENERATOR”, continues the unethical writing:

Her words? My Words & Quotes
“David Marshall’s theory of a “new intertextual commodity”[+] keeps this commodified intertextuality paradigm. He argues that the “industrial” strategy of massaging the filmic text into something larger is nothing new. What is new is the intensification and elaboration of the intertextual matrix.” “…and P. David Marshall’s theory of a “new intertextual commodity” persisted this commodified intertextuality paradigm in the early 2000s (Marshall 2002). Marshall argues that the “industrial strategy of massaging the filmic text into something larger has been inherited from entertainment’s Hucksterism,” and so while this strategy is therefore nothing new, what has “altered is the intensification and elaboration of the intertextual matrix”” (page 33 – and once again the quotes by other authors aren’t cited clearly either)
“According to him, film, music, websites, television documentaries, books, product licensing, as well as video and computer games are elaborately cross-referenced in the contemporary entertainment industry through magazines, newspapers, entertainment news programs, industry-related consumer and trade magazines, and electronic journals. The audience “learns” about a product through its associations in other cultural forms.” “Film, music, video and computer games, Websites, television documentaries, books and product licensing are elaborately cross-referenced in the contemporary entertainment industry through the usual suspects of magazines, newspapers, entertainment news programmes, industry-related consumer and trade magazines and electronic journals. The audience “learns” about a product through its associations in other cultural forms. (ibid., 69)” (page 33 – in my thesis, this is a block quote of Marshall)
“In the context of transmedia fictions, the theoretical heritage is marked by an emphasis on commodification and consumption.” “In the context of transmedia fictions, the theoretical heritage has been marked by an emphasis on commodification and consumption.” (page 31)
“It includes the complexity of the dispositions of users to interpret and identify characters, themes, environments or other semiotic elements presented by the media outlets. It even goes deeper when one looks at the complexity of identity markets, which help to shape our dispositions and to the social networks in which we conduct our interaction with media outlets. The meaning of a sign or media outlet is not only determined by its qualities but by the interpretive conventions of a community.” Not sure where this is from, but I suspect it may be Marsha Kinder’s words? This is the problem, it may be her thoughts but given her behaviour just what her ideas are will perhaps never be known. She does herself a disservice.
“Transmedia works in a quite complex way. This complexity goes further than just the complexity and the versatility of the forms of the franchise. Marsha Kinder[+] already developed a theory on transmedia intertextuality to describe how 1980s franchises worked. She studied Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which first appeared as a cartoon series on American television in 1987; a computer game on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1989; and one year later, a live-action feature film.” “A key theorist engaging with this approach is Kinder, who developed a theory of transmedia intertextuality to describe how 1980s franchises operated (Kinder 1991). Those franchises included Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which first appeared as a cartoon series on American television in 1987 (see Figure 2); a computer game on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1989 (see Figure 3)3; and one year later, a live-action feature film (see Figure 4).” (page 32 – the article author then has an image of these three items, just like in my thesis – though she uses different images)
“Using the example of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Marsha Kinder came to the conclusion that a “super entertainment system” is in essence a network of intertextual references constructed around a figure or a group of figures from pop culture that are either fiction or real.” “It was from this franchise, along with other child-targeted franchises such as Mattel’s Masters of the Universe and Takara and Hasbro’s Transformers, and watching how her son engaged with these franchises across comics, toys, animated televisions series and feature films, that Kinder developed her theory of a “super entertainment system” (ibid., 4). [Then move into a block quote:] A supersystem is a network of intertextuality constructed around a figure or group of figures from pop culture who are either fiction […] or “real” […]” (page 32)

It is at this point the author refers to other works and ideas that are not related to my thesis. Then in the next section, “THINKING BEYOND BORDERS”, she refers to a theorist and idea I draw on:

Her Words? My Words & Quotes
” A true transmedia narrative looks beyond that border. A mentality that goes back to the Renaissance: [Block quote]
The idea that a painting is made of paint on canvas or that a sculpture should not be painted seems characteristic of the kind of social thought categorizing and dividing society into nobility with its various subdivisions, untitled gentry, artisans, serfs and landless workers- which we call the feudal conception of the Great Chain of Being. […] Separation into rigid categories is absolutely irrelevant. [+]. [End block quote] Following Dick Higgins’s vision, one can argue that the strict division we have nowadays between media is somewhat artificial.”
“Higgins coined intermedia, Fluxus artist and theorist Ken Friedman explains, “to describe the tendency of an increasing number of the most interesting artists to cross the boundaries of recognized media or to fuse the boundaries of art with media that had not previously been considered art forms” (Friedman [1998]). Intermedia works brought together what had been artificially estranged: [Block quote]
Much of the best work being produced today seems to fall between media. This is no accident. The concept of the separation between media arose in the Renaissance. The idea that a painting is made of paint on canvas or that a sculpture should not be painted seems characteristic of the kind of social thought —categorizing and dividing society into nobility with its various subdivisions, untitled gentry, artisans, serfs and landless workers—which we call the feudal conception of the Great Chain of Being. […] We are approaching the dawn of a classless society, to which separation into rigid categories is absolutely irrelevant. (Higgins 2004 [1965]) [End block quote]” (page 89)

I’m thrilled the author of the article has read my thesis so closely. But being a post-doctoral fellow and writing this article (for I presume a fee), makes her plagiarism unforgivable. She should know better. And the website, which apparently prides itself on ethical practices, has been slow and even indifferent to my report (no official response, and only a tweet that seems to doubt my claims).

2011 World Tour: Sweden, The Netherlands, Canada & USA :)

The only international travel I’ve agreed to in the last year has been the Transmedia International Masterclass in Marseille. That was a great experience not just because of the location, but because it was the first transmedia event I had been to that was primarily directed to emerging game developers. It was lots of fun and really interesting. But now I have agreed to travel to a few places again, and what a trip!

Umeå University, Umeå & Skellefteå, Sweden – 25th Sept-10th Oct
My first stop is Umea University in Sweden. Karin Danielsson Öberg has invited me to be a Research Associate at the Department of Informatics for a couple of weeks. I’ll give presentations and workshops on transmedia philosophy, writing and experience design for the department, and students of Cross Media Interaction Design. I cannot tell you how excited I am about this! This is a lovely full-circle for me, as my first trip overseas was in 2007 to give a keynote at the First International Conference on Cross Media Interaction Design in Sweden. Interaction design, experience design, service design, are all areas I have been drawing on for years with my understanding of transmedia design. I’m sure filmmakers, TV makers, etc, think I speak like an alien, but in UX (specifically service design) the issues and approaches all make sense. 🙂

Cyfle, Wales, UK – 26th Sept
While there in Sweden, I’ll also be giving a presentation (remotely) to the multiplatform students at Cyfle in the UK. They seem like an active bunch and so I look forward to hearing where they are at. I was invited by the lovely workshop coordinate Paul Burke for this one.

I’ll drop home for a few days and then I’ll be off again to:

Cinekid, Amsterdam, The Netherlands – 17th Oct-20th Oct
I’m thrilled to be speaking at the Cinekid Conference about Acclimatising to Transmedia. Jeff Gomez has spoken there, and so I’m following up with a discussion about the various approaches to make transmedia work in environments that are either amenable or not to transmedia. A transmedia approach challenges existing siloed mentalities and production processes. There isn’t one way of doing transmedia because people vary in their understanding of it. There is the ideal transmedia process, and there is the one most of us have to work with. So this is a discussion about the rainbow of activities we all engage in to make it work.

I then fly to LA, and then to Canada for:

International Women in Digital Media Summit, Stratford, Canada – 23rd Oct-25th Oct
This is an event I’m delighted to be invited to. The iWDMS event is about “exploring digital media content creation, emerging technologies and business models, and the role of women in digital media globally”. So not only will we be talking about fascinating topics, but we’ll also be discussing how we make this work as women. And check out my co-panelists!

A New Creative Process?: with Frank Boyd, Creative Director, Crossover; Christy Dena, Director Universe Creation 101; Jill Golick, multiplatform storyteller, RubySkye PI; Marcia Martin, Senior Vice-President, Creative Content, GlassboxTV; and Caroline Tyre, Director of Programming, TELETOON Canada Inc.?
The Future of Transmedia Content: with Christy Dena, Director, Universe Creation 101; Ana Serrano, Executive Director, Canadian Film Centre (CFC); Tessa Sproule, Executive in Charge of Digital Programming, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)?; and Anita Lee, Producer, National Film Board of Canada (NFB).

Back in LA, I’ll be visiting colleagues at USC, and around, and then:

Cal Arts, Valencia, USA – 27th Oct
I’ll be giving a presentation to Jon Reiss’ students at the California Institute for the Arts. Cal Arts is all about independent thought, independent artistic practice, and so I’m really keen to talk about the highly personal and intimate potential of transmedia projects.

DIYDays, LA, USA – 28th Oct
Then I’m presenting at Lance Weiler’s DIYDays. Lance gave me free reign, and so I’m jumping into two of my loves: Writing and Experience Design.

Storyworld Conference, San Francisco, USA – 30th Oct-2nd Nov
The final work stop of this tour is the Storyworld Conference. This is also a little full-circle for me as I’m on the board of this event that is run by Alison Norrington. Alison was a student of mine when I mentored her many years ago. I’m really excited about catching up with so many transmedia people at SWC, it is going to be a great chance to be surrounded by people who are all in the same area rather than having to explain yourself to industry people who are just getting their head around the Internet. I’ll also be on a few panels at Storyworld:

New Business Models – be small, think big, move fast: with Christy Dena, Director, Universe Creation 101; Ian Ginn, Founder, Transmedia Learning Network; Kevin Franco, Founder, Francomedia; Alison Norrington, StoryWorld Conference Council Chair, Founder, storycentralDIGITAL; Mike Knowlton, Founder, Murmur.
Streets that Tell Stories – How Pervasive Gaming Engages Audiences: with Dan Hon, Interactive Creative Director, Wieden + Kennedy; Constance Fleuriot, University of the West of England; Hazel Grian, Creative Director, Aardman Digital; Jeff Hull, Creative Director; and Christy Dena, Director, Universe Creation 101
Narrative Design Discussion: with Stephen Dinehart, Chief Wizard, Narrware; Jeff Gomez, CEO, Starlight Runner Entertainment; Geoffrey Long, Transmedia Producer, Narrative Design, Microsoft Studios; and Christy Dena, Director, Universe Creation 101.

I’m then flying to Philly for a few days to see my brother and his family (yay!), and then home 🙂

If you’re in any of those locations and events, make sure you come up and say hi!

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