The Following is Transmedia

Transmedia is when a show, movie, book, game etc moves across multiple platforms with multiple stories that enhance the original.  This makes a product an experience rather than just a product.  Transmedia is a marketing tool used to engage with audiences on a broader scale than would be possible with just one type of product or just one story.

After reading a fellow student’s blog, I have a better understanding of what transmedia is.  They used a great example, Castle.  Other transmedia brands include The Matrix, Lord of The Rings, Harry Potter and Star Wars.  They have created alternate worlds parallel to reality.

The (amazing and addictive) new show, The Following, could become a great example of transmedia. 

Already they are introducing possibilities for spin-off stories and possibilities for extra products.  I made up a list of what I would do if I was marketing The Following.

1- Release Joe Carroll’s book

2- Joe Carroll was once a university lecturer, release essays and recordings of lectures to build a solid identity.

3- Create a newspaper/channel.  This would, of course, be exaggerated, missing vital information regarding people’s involvement and identities, be distorted and biased.  Have this as the channel in the show, make it online for viewers.

4- An online mystery or trail.

5- An alternate reality game like that of “The Lost Experience“.

There are so many more possibilities with this show!  It could easily be a honey pot for transmedia. 

A brand that opens itself to transmedia is opening itself for a broader audience, a passionate fan base and chances to continue a brand into the future.  For example, the Star Wars transmedia journey has been going for over 30 years.  Because of transmedia it has been reinvented and rejuvenated for current fans but also for new followers.

How does transmedia enhance our experience of a show or movie?

Mirror rorriM

Well, that has to be the worst title ever…

I found that, although the lectures provided a base, I learnt more from my fellow students. I believe this is because whilst reading blog posts I questioned, compared and contrasted my own understanding and viewpoints on the topics. Questioning, comparing and contrasting was definitely the time when I felt like I was absorbing material.

From the lectures, I found I learnt the most from week 2.  Whilst watching this lecture I realised that I’m one of those that blames the media for my problems.  It’s the easy way out.  I find that, since this lecture, I have been questioning studies that blame the media.  How was this research carried out?  Who conducted this study?  For what purpose was this topic researched?  Why is it important?

Week 3 proved my suspicions that the media changes and distorts select information for their own convoluted benefit, whatever that may be.  Again, I questioned all that was presented to me.  The underlying meaning of advertisements, shows, news reports and even music videos.  Everything seems to have hidden meaning that has an impact on the audience, sometimes without being aware.

My views about the media being owned by an extremely small amount of epic companies were confirmed in week 3.  Though my views about this were supported by a never-ending list of conspiracy theories.  When I found a news story that interested me I used to read other well-known, trusted news sources thinking I was expanding on viewpoints of the issue and getting different angles.  How mislead I was.  I knew the media was concentrated but I didn’t comprehend exactly how much this affected diversity within the media. 

Then the mediated public sphere was introduced.  I have always been a loyal viewer of Q&A.  When this was used as an example for the mediated public sphere, I admit, I got pretty excited.  At first I thought the fact that programs like A Current Affair and Today Tonight can spark debate in the public sphere hard to believe.  I think this was my “Today-Tonight-and-A-Current-Affair-are-crap” opinion getting in the way of my understanding.

Overall I feel that most of my suspicions about the media have been confirmed.  I had these views but I never had the evidence or the extensive knowledge of the nitty-gritty to express them.  This subject has provided me with this evidence and knowledge.

Belly Ache

image

Crime, money, drugs, violence, sex.  That pretty much sums up each Underbelly series.  Since its first season in 2008, Nine Network’s Underbelly has sparked national debate about its glamorous portrayal of criminal activity, the possibility of trials being influenced, disregard for victims, too much sex and violence and even the airing time.

The first season of this show was by far the most controversial depicting the Melbourne Gangland wars from 1995 to 2004 (Cummings, L 2008).  It was prohibited from broadcast in Victoria due to trials of those involved in the crimes.  Justice Betty King of the Supreme Court of Victoria was responsible for the suppression order on the first season of Underbelly saying “…every person charged with a criminal offence has the right to a fair trial” (2009).  The court was concerned the jury’s perception would be clouded because of this interpretation of the gangland crimes.

The airing time of 8:30pm was also under fire from the Australian Family Association (AFA).  On February 11th 2008 they threatened to take the matter to Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy.   In 2009, AFA said the broadcast time was too early, that children and teens would still be awake to view the program.  They likened the sex scenes to soft porn, to which Channel Nine’s Richard Lyle responded saying “Those people who say it’s soft porn have clearly never actually watched soft porn because you see actual intercourse” (2009).

Underbelly’s sexy, ruthlessly violent and drug-driven criminals are quite different to those the series is based on.  Victorian Supreme Court Justice, Betty King, sums it up;

“Now as to the sex that all these criminals have – well really –  prostitutes, mistresses, wives, girlfriends, doubles, swaps, girl on girl – two girls – three girls all in spas and all these sexy and beautiful girls – in their dreams.  Has anyone ever had a good look at say Roberta Williams or Judy or Trish Moran or any other of the women actually involved with these men.  Most of the males in these killings were seriously drug addled, fearful of being shot or killed, ripped off by other drug dealers, bad business men, who often when they died owed a lot of money despite turning over millions in drug sales. Not a group to be envied or admired…” (2009)

image

It wasn’t only the fictionalised glamour of crime that provoked debate in the mediated public sphere.  Roberta Williams, gangland “kingpin” Carl Williams’ ex-wife, was a regular phenomenon on A Current Affair.  She released her book “My Life – Roberta Williams” on September 24th 2009, over a year after the airing of the first episode of Underbelly.  I don’t believe she would have written or released a book if Underbelly had not brought her to the forefront of the media.

image

Investigative journalist and true crime author, Rochelle Jackson, compares the Underbelly series to “…a sugary fix…we always want more”  in an ABC radio program (2012).

Does that mean Underbelly and the glamorous criminality it portrays is addictive?  What do you think?

Further reading

Australian Family Association, 2011 “Nine on notice over offensive prime time viewing”, http://family.org.au/site2/?p=333

Benns, M 01/06/2008 Sydney Morning Herald online, Glorifying criminals a crime, says critics, http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/glorifying-gangsters-a-crime-say-critics/2008/05/31/1211654371079.html

Cummings, L 2008, The Daily Telegraph, Tv’s graphic new Underbelly sparks outrage, http://news.com.au/entertainment/television/uproar-over-graphic-underbelly/story-e6frfmyi-1111115531309

Findlay, M 21/04/2010 The Age online, Wobbly Underbelly hides criminal truth, http://theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/wobbly-underbelly-hides-criminal-truth-20100420-srk8.html

Herald Sun, 2008 Herald Sun online, Border towns require ID for dvd sales of Underbelly, http://heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/tv-radio/want-underbelly-id-please/story-e6frf9ho-1111116291729

King, B Jst. 2009, “‘Underbelly’ – A True Crime Story or just sex, drugs and rock and roll?” Medico-Legal Society of Victoria, speech, http://mlsv.org.au/files/2003-2010/Justice-Betty-King-Underbelly.pdf

McWhirter, E 2009, The Daily Telegraph, “Underbelly is just pornography”, http://news.com.au/entertainment/television/underbelly-is-just-pornography/story-e6frfmyi-1111118898387

Media Watch 2008 ep.June 9 2008, “Gangland – Goes Gangbusters again”, http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s2276506.htm

Soze, K 2012, The Underworld Blog, “Underbelly Series 1 real vs. cast comparison”, http://underworlduk.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/underbelly-series-1-real-vs-cast.html?m=1

Listen

ABC Local Overnight, The Criminal as Celebrity, http://www.abc.net.au/overnights/stories/s3585541.htm

“Cathedral vs. Bazaar”

– Eric S. Raymond

Legacy media is the cathedral.  A diminishing thing of high walls blocking out innovation.  The internet, citizen journalism and collective intelligence is the bazaar.  Everything vying for our attentions, open to everyone and everything.  Does citizen journalism and collective intelligence have any impact on the “cathedral”?

When Wikileaks is entered into a search engine the results are the main site, a Twitter address and a few other related links, but as you move down the results there are news sites including The Daily Telegraph UK and The Guardian that have entire sections dedicated to news from Wikileaks, whether it be the releases of sensitive information or the doings of its founder.  I find it fascinating that professional journalists that work for traditional news sources are following an organisation that allows for citizen journalism and collective intelligence.

Wikileaks is the perfect example of citizen journalism.  It was founded by Australian, Julian Assange, in 2007.  Their ideology is to use the media as a tool for transparency in governments, corporations and the media, therefore promoting “good governance”.  I say citizen journalism because it is independent from every news organisation and company.  Wikileaks conduct themselves much like a news company though.  They have qualified journalists to investigate and write stories about the information they receive, they censor information (to protect lives, of course) and everything goes through a gatekeeper.

I had always wondered how Wikileaks obtained their information.  When Bradley Manning was detained I thought “well, that’s the end of that.”  Meanwhile, Wikileaks continue to release sensitive and confidential information to the public.  How is this possible?  Wikileaks rely on the public and those working for governments and corporations to submit confidential material to them.  This is collective intelligence.  “No one knows everything, everyone knows something” (Lévy, P) Wikileaks have put this into practice.  In a way, this is also another example of citizen journalism.  These “citizens” are taking the release of information into their own hands, they are empowered.  If it wasn’t for those investigating their own workplaces and governments, Wikileaks would not have the information to write about.  Wikileaks is encouraging citizen journalism.

In the past few years there have been changes in journalism and the media.  Shifts in the value of citizen journalism and collective intelligence, from authority to writer and in content.  The shift in content from bundled news to niche content means that as producers we are less likely to sit down and watch or read a news bulletin and more likely to sit down at the computer and actively seek out material that we find interesting, that we want to see.  I have conflicting views on this topic of “bundle to niche”.  Yes, it’s wonderful we can find reliable, in depth, expert information on a small amount of topics.  But how will we learn of new topics while our blinkers are on.  It’s broadening our knowledge, but narrowing our knowledge.

What I’m trying to say, in a confusing way, is there may not be any overlap of topics.  While you are actively seeking out news on sport or finance, you may be missing out on important local news and world news.  We could be shutting ourselves off to information rather than opening ourselves.

How do you feel about traditional media vs. citizen journalism?

Media Monarchy

There are currently 15 prominent free to air television stations broadcasting in Australia.  They are mostly owned by 3 different companies and two by the Australian government.

What does this say about the information we receive from these sources?  Does the concentration of media ownership affect the diversity of viewpoints expressed?

image

The information we receive from those sources more than likely has bias and may not show the entire story or both sides of an argument.  This can be seen every weeknight on Today Tonight and A Current Affair.  They don’t take the time to research a topic fully and investigate all the facets of an event.  It could be concluded that this is laziness, but what if a news network does not run a story or only broadcasts one side of the story because they disagree with or don’t support the opinions or facts expressed?  This can create “holes” in our knowledge of a topic and what is happening in the world.

I am a passionate National Rugby League fan (if you didn’t already know).  Rugby league is only broadcast on Channel Nine and Fox Sports.  I only recently found out that the NRL is owned by NewsCorp.  A national sport owned by an international media corporation?  I’m sorry, but what?  Why?  I don’t understand.  Not only do the big players in the media own everything we read and watch on traditional media, but they own sports.

Is this minimum diversity of media ownership an innate need for the big media corporations to control?  I believe so.  As consumers, we are seen by the media as being easily influenced, not very educated, and being unable to question anything.

image

With the growth in user generated content, citizen journalism and collective intelligence we are seeing this “media monarchy” fail.  We, as prosumers are voicing our thoughts on topics, inspiring others to do the same, provoking physical activism on subjects and continuously learning from each other.  The internet has shown that legacy media has isolated itself behind walls of red tape, authoritative ideologies and an inability to compromise and learn new things.

image

The following is a trailer from a recent documentary, Shadows of Liberty, about the incredible control media has over society.

How much control does the media have in Australia?

Power to the People

I always had a niggling suspicion that traditional media forms, that is television, newspapers, and radio, were the shady middleman dictating what we view, read and know of current events and news.

How do we know what they are telling us is true?  How do we know it’s accurate?  What makes their news more credible than a tweet or a YouTube clip from an event?  The news we get from television, for example, has been investigated, observed from afar and edited to conform with airing and government guidelines.  Not only that, but it could also have bias from the reporter, or view of the network airing the news.   Eventually the news may become distorted. 

Meanwhile, Twitter, YouTube etc have no restrictions to what is aired (as long as it complies with copyright laws).  This allows those “living the event” to provide viewers with accurate accounts of events in real time without filtering and from a primary source.  We as prosumers are able to compare traditional news sources with the endless possibilities the internet provides us and draw our own conclusions from it.  By doing this, we are cutting out the middleman, the gatekeepers.

image

This gives us the power to become active in the news process.  We can be passive and consume the news from an immediate source like Twitter and then be active and provide feedback, our opinions and share it with others.  We can also start revolutions, ideas and innovations.

Innovations can either fail dismally or succeed.  Eye tracking technology is emerging in a market that is constantly looking for new and easier ways to get things done.  With the imminent release of the Samsung Galaxy S4 eye tracking being criticised for being an unnecessary technology that is creating a buzz rather than having a “proper” use.  But with the advances in eye tracking for trivial purposes comes advances for other uses including the medical and health areas.

image

Will this technology make us lazier or will it increase health professionals’ ability to diagnose earlier and more accurately?  In my opinion, we’ll see advances in both areas and the uses for eye tracking technology will expand further.

Open or Closed?

Is closed media better than open media types?  First of all, what are open and closed media?

Open media is when a technology or platform is able to be tinkered with by its users and can be completely controlled by its users whereas a closed media is when a user is unable to change anything about the device and all programs or software are preloaded and cannot be modified, it is completely controlled by the producers.  When I think of things as opened and closed systems I think of the Xbox 360.  It is only closed to a point, it can be modified or hacked to be modified.  There are ways around closed technologies if people with the skills are willing to take the time to find them.

I have an android phone, an open media platform, but I know it wouldn’t bother me if I had an iPhone, a closed technology.  They do the same things, make calls, take pictures, keep me up to date.  I guess that’s just revealing my technologically passive nature.  I haven’t got a clue what I’d do with my phone if it was entirely under my control.  I would be absolutely petrified of stuffing something up that’s for sure.

image

So, what’s better?  Open or closed?  Television and newspapers are a perfect example of closed media.  The producers of the content expect us, the consumers, to be passive to their brainwashing ways.  Whereas the internet is open to anyone’s ideas, opinions, lives, anything.  We become active in the production of content.  It’s like a cycle, we produce content for ourselves therefore we produce what we want to see.  Sometimes we see closed media, like TV, catch on to what we as consumers want to see.  This can be seen when a show is taken off air because there weren’t enough viewers.  This means that the so called consumers of the show didn’t consume as predicted, therefore what’s the point in keeping something on air that isn’t doing what was expected?

Henry Jenkins makes an interesting point in his International Journal of Cultural studies article “The cultural logic of media convergence”, page 40.  He mentions that the current music, film and television industries (closed media types) have reacted to consumer driven activity in ways that do not promote evolution in the industry, that is they have quashed any possible creative improvements or ideas.  He goes on to say that the gaming industry is reaping the benefits of their creative audiences and listening to their opinions to make improvements using “the best user-generated content” (Jenkins, H 2004).  I feel that the gaming industry has found the middle ground.  They allow their consumers to be producers, to improve on what is already there.  Many successful games would not be so if the players were not listened to and their ideas built on.

What I’m trying to say is, sometimes it’s not that black and white, sometimes the line between what is open and what is closed is blurred.  Even if we’re supposed to be passive to what we are “fed” there are ways in which we can make a closed media platform open.

What other ways can you open a closed media platform?