Saturday, September 28, 2013

Minecraft, Moshi Monsters, Christopher Columbus, Kryptonese, Robots, and Perfume Pills

We are all aware of the technology leaps that keep changing the communications landscape - laptops, tablets, smartphones, Google glasses, 3D movies and TV, 3D printing ... and who knows what's next. I've been fortunate to witness the continuous evolutions of recent decades from the development side as part of the simulation and telecom worlds, as a communicator, and as a consumer.

One thing that never changes: the need for a narrative, a story, a message that connects the reader/viewer/participant with the world you are describing (whether real, fiction, or fantasy) and what's relevant in that world to them.

Yesterday, Donna-Lane and I attended a "Transmedia" conference in Lausanne: http://www.xmedialab.com/events/2013/xml-switzerland-2013. It was an inspirational and informative experience.
Transmedia, or cross-media, as it is sometimes phrased, is essentially applying a story across multiple media. Ideally, engaging the audience as participants. It can be as simple as having TV viewers use the phone to cast their votes for the Idol winner. Or as complex as using social media and the web to enable the audience to not only learn more about a story on TV but to actually shape the story outcome through their participation. (Much easier to explain with graphics and video.)
A key message for communicators - aside from the need for a compelling narrative to begin with - is the importance of thinking cross-platform from the beginning of a project. Don't just think video or TV programme; consider from the get-go that elements of your story will apply to the web, to the 140-character world of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc., to smartphone apps, and perhaps someday to a multi-layered display fed directly to your eye through a smart contact lens (the concept presented by the winner of a student contest).
It was also a reminder of how communicators need to be versatile and capable of creating with different media and delivery channels. It's no longer sufficient to attend a conference, take a few interview notes, and leisurely write for a bimonthly magazine. Today you also need to be able to creatively shoot and edit photographs, video, and audio - and turn around news and features quickly to feed the voracious appetite of websites, blogs, tweets, etc. 
Many of the examples were consumer and entertainment oriented: Angry Birds, the UK Moshi Monsters franchise, the recent Man of Steel movie - in which they created an entire 'Kryptonese' language after asking the question, 'Why does Superman - who is from Krypton - wear an English-language 'S' on his chest?' (Their answer: it's not English; it's a character from the alphabet of leap-tall-building-man's home planet.) There was a presentation on how human-like robots are being used as greeters and other purveyors of information. How Christopher Columbus used an egg to respond to skeptics who thought - after that fact - that anyone could have discovered the Indies as he did. References to my grandson's favorite interactive game, Minecraft, which enables you to build worlds out of your imagination. And a perfume pill that supposedly enables each person to have a unique individual aroma (already have that, thanks, and a bit concerned about the unknown long-term effects of swallowing something that interacts with fat cells).
Regardless of technology, communications still comes down to engaging with an audience of one. Convey something that catches  person's attention to want to know more. Not easy with the constant, increasing bombardment of information flowing today ... and it will only get worse. But for those who understand how to apply the various tools ... and can craft an interesting, relevant story ... your skills will continue to be in demand.

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