To those of us who live and breathe the web, and who have grown up with the cacophony of various media all going at the same time, “transmedia storytelling” seems like a fancy name for an experience that we have come to expect. For example: how the movie Avatar had a game that was a prequel, or that Batman is a framework where you can begin to experience the story through many entry points — various films, TV series and the comics. One other great but lesser known example is the film “All About Lily Chou-Chou”, which began as an online novel and forum, and thereafter content from the forum was used in the film. So for me, today’s event was somewhat a reminder that the majority of more established industries such as film (the primary audience today) — and publishing — are still trying to figure a way forward.
I didn’t have the foresight to live-blog the day and I had to leave the afternoon panel session early, but here are a few thoughts that came to mind based on the discussion between panelists, and comments/questions posed by the audience:
- There is this impression that it’s a case of “we know best” (more traditional marketing/branding strategies) vs “our audience knows best” (the web 2.0 that social media experts advocate). In reality, the basis of designing a good experience is the balance of the two. This balance may not always be exactly tipped the same way for a website, a TV show, a mobile app, or even across different media. We need to balance what our audience want to know and do, against what we want them to know and do — and there is no right formula for these individual design decisions.
- It’s not just about which demographics we need to talk to or not, but about taking a look at the broad range of user segments based on their motivations, which would resemble a gradient of needs rather than a black and white picture. Julien made the very valid point that it’s not about which audience we choose to speak to — we don’t actually have a choice — it’s about who wants to participate.
- In a many-to-many conversation that’s created around a story and content, the emphasis has to be less about the content and story you have to tell, but more about the voice with which you speak. Being able to craft a consistent voice would allow for a more cohesive presence that’s easily identifiable regardless of medium. In a way, we can think of this as relinquishing control, but we are shifting control to a broader parameter. It’s like deciding what first impressions you want to make before arriving to a party (and therefore deciding on how to dress), but letting go and allow conversations to flow without controlling what gets said between you and people you meet.
- There is no right process, because there’s no right answer. However, there are plenty of problem solving frameworks we can adopt and refine.
You may recognise that these four points also apply to user experience design for more innovative, social applications. I know it seems a bit of a downer to say “there is no right way”, but imagine what possibilities we have at hand to explore and to find out what works for each type of project! Having no right answer simply means we have the space to dream.