Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ontology: Events

Events are a change in the state of an entity such as a setting, character, or an element of the larger storyworld. The elements and properties of events are:
  • Internal: An internal event is a psychological change that occurs in a character, typically as a result of an interaction with another character or because of an external event.
  • External: An externalevent is a change that happens outside of a character in the story. External events can be:
    • Initiated – the result of the actions of a character in the story
    • Uninitiated – a change that is outside the control of characters in the story (e.g. a natural disaster or a man-made disaster caused by someone outside the scope of the story)
  • Temporal Dimension: Events have a temporal dimension; they have a start and end point and span a period of storyworld time.
  • Nested Events: Events can have nested events within them. For example, a specific battle would be an event nested within a war, which is a larger event.
Concept map of elements in a storyworld's events.

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Ontology: Settings

A setting is the backdrop within which a narrative occurs, but it goes far beyond the physical characteristics of a place in which events happen. Settings occur on both the storyworld and individual story levels. Settings at both levels are similar, but are differentiated by scope and the level of detail. Setting consists of:
    • Mythos: The mythos is the established conflicts and battles of the world, the characters of that world, its stories and rumors, and its creatures (Klastrup & Tosca, 2004). The mythos should also include the “official” history of the happenings within the storyworld.
    • Topos: The topos is the setting of the storyworld or world in a specific period and geography. In addition to the physical setting, the topos deals with the physical laws that exist in the storyworld (e.g. laws that govern whether faster-than-light travel is possible or whether magic exists).
    • Ethos: The ethos consists of the social values and laws, implicit and explicit ethics, and codes of behavior within the storyworld. The ethos provides the knowledge needed to “know how to behave in the world” and defines what is acceptable or inappropriate behavior in that world (Klastrup & Tosca, 2004).
Concept map of elements of storyworld settings

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Ontology: Characters (Part 4)

Campbell’s structure of the hero’s journey has been adapted and used by many writers. Numerous examples of modified versions of the hero’s journey exist, but most retain the essential steps identified by Campbell. One such modified version is included in 45 Master Characters: Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters, which includes a feminine version (Schmidt, 2001, pp. 199-242) and a masculine version (Schmidt, 2001, pp. 243-277) of the journey (see Figure 28).
When linked to the three acts in a traditionally structured play or screenplay, the feminine journey is (Schmidt, 2001, pp. 199-242):
  • Act 1: Containment
    • The Illusion of a Perfect World
    • The Betrayal or Realization
    • The Awakening – Preparing for the Journey
  • Act 2: Transformation
    • The Descent – Passing the Gates of Judgment
    • The Eye of the Storm
    • Death – All is Lost
  • Act 3: Emergence
    • Support
    • Rebirth – The Moment of Truth
    • Full Circle – Return to the Perfect World
When linked to the three acts in a traditionally structured play or screenplay, the masculine version of the hero’s journey is (Schmidt, 2001, pp. 243-277):
  • Act 1: Challenge
    • The Perfect World
    • Friends and Enemies
    • The Call
  • Act 2: Obstacles
    • Small Successes
    • Invitations
    • Trials
  • Act 3: Transformation
    • Death – A Fork in the Road
    • Awaken or Rebel
    • Victory or Failure
Concept map of the elements that affect character design

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Transmedia Digest is Moving

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Ontology: Characters (Part 3)

Campbell identified the three stages of the journey as departure, initiation, and return. Within those three stages, Campbell identified a series of steps (Campbell, 1949, pp. ix-x):
  • Departure: The departureis the first of the three stages of the hero’s journey and consists of five steps:
    • Call to Adventure: The call to adventure occurs at the point in a person’s life when something important happens, sending the person in a new direction.
    • Refusal of the Call: Sometimes when a person receives a call to adventure, a refusal of the call occurs because of fear, a feeling that he/she can’t leave certain responsibilities, or concerns about not being strong enough or smart enough to start an adventure.
    • Supernatural Aid: Once the hero has started the adventure, supernatural aid in the form of a guardian, guide or mystical/magical helper appears to provide help. This character may or may not be human.
    • Crossing of the First Threshold: When the hero leaves familiar surroundings and normal life behind, this is the crossing of the first threshold. It marks the point at which the hero enters into the unknown to truly begin the adventure in dangerous places where the rules are no longer known.
    • Belly of the Whale: The hero is truly between worlds upon entering the belly of the whale. At this point in the adventure, the familiar world has been left behind and the world ahead is unknown, often leaving the hero frightened, feeling alone, and beginning to recognize the magnitude of the task that he/she has undertaken and the challenges that are to come.
  • Initiation: The initiationis the second stage of the hero’s journey and consists of six steps:
    • Road of Trials: The road of trials is a series of tests, tasks, or ordeals that a person must undergo as part of becoming a hero.
    • Meeting with the Goddess: After surviving the road of trials, the hero experiences a meeting with the goddess, which takes the form of experiencing a great love – perhaps romantic love, or a love for friends and family, or the experience of a divine love – from which the hero gains strength and a sense of well being.
    • Temptation: At some point in the adventure, the hero experiences the temptation to quit the journey and go home.
    • Atonement: The atonement is the center point of the journey. All the previous steps have been moving in to this place, all that follow will move out from it. At this point in the journey, the hero must face whatever holds the ultimate power in his or her life.
    • Apotheosis: After facing and surviving the great power in his/her life, the hero may experience the oneness and beauty of the universe. The apotheosis is a period of rest and reflection before the return journey is made.
    • Ultimate Boon: The ultimate boon occurs when the hero has achieved the primary goal of the journey.
  • Return: The returnis the third and final stage of the hero’s journey and consists of six steps.
    • Refusal of the Return: The refusal of the return occurs if the hero refuses to go back to a normal life. This can occur if the adventure has been a glorious one or if the hero is concerned that his/her message will not be heard.
    • Magic Flight: The magic flight occurs if the hero must steal the boon and make a daring escape that is as adventurous and dangerous as the first part of the journey was.
    • Rescue from Without: The rescue from without occurs when the hero needs the help of a guardian or guide to return to a normal life.
    • Crossing of the Return Threshold: At the crossing of the return threshold the hero returns to the normal and familiar, and the challenge is now to remember what was learned on the journey and use it to improve his/her life and the lives of others in the normal world.
    • Master of the Two Worlds: The hero has learned to be comfortable in both the everyday world and the world of adventure, including being comfortable with who he/she is and with others. The hero may also be ready to take on the role of guardian or guide for someone else. This makes him or her master of the two worlds.
    • Freedom to Live: In the last step of the journey, the hero has mastered the fears of life and has achieved the freedom to live without those fears.
Concept map of elements of hero's journey

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ontology: Characters (Part 2)

Different characters play different roles in a story. These roles fall into three categories (Card, 1988, p. 59), with the major characters identified in more specific roles:
  • Major characters: The major charactersdrive the plot through its twists and turns and move the story forward. The major characters fill a variety roles (Phillips & Huntley, 1996, pp. 36-38):
    • Protagonist: The protagonist is the main character role in a story and drives the action. The protagonist will have a goal and undergoes a change – the “hero’s journey” – in the process of seeking to achieve that goal.
    • Antagonist: The character in the role of antagonist is in direct opposition to the protagonist. The antagonist may seek the same goal (e.g. find the significant object of the story) as the protagonist or may simply want to prevent the protagonist from achieving that goal.
    • Sidekick: The sidekick character role may be linked to the protagonist or antagonist. Each of those character roles may have its own sidekick. The sidekick character provides loyalty and support throughout the story and has unfailing faith in the rightness of the goals and actions of the protagonist or antagonist to which he/she is linked.
    • Guardian: The guardian character role is that of mentor or teacher to the protagonist. The guardian provides knowledge, guidance, support, and protection but also drives the protagonist towards achieving the protagonist’s goal.
    • Skeptic: The skeptic character role is linked to the protagonist, but this character’s role is to question and doubt everything – the protagonist’s thoughts, emotions and actions, the trustworthiness of other characters, anything and everything.
    • Emotion: The emotion character role is linked to the protagonist and responds to story events emotionally without thinking and without concern for the practical implications of a response.
    • Reason: The reason character role is linked to the protagonist and responds to events in the narrative logically, while not letting emotion interfere with the rational.
    • Temptation: The temptation character role is not necessarily directly opposed to the protagonist, but rather tries to hinder, divert, and delude the protagonist from achieving his/her goal, often by tempting and playing on the weaknesses of the protagonist.
  • Minor characters: The minor characters have a limited impact on the story, with their desires and actions causing plot twists but not substantially shaping the overall flow of the story. Typically, minor characters do one or two things before disappearing from the story.
  • Walk-on and placeholder characters: The walk-on and placeholder characters exist in the background to add realism or, if they appear in the foreground, it is to serve a simple function and then disappear.
Concept map of character roles and archetypes
A number of lists of archetypal character have been compiled. Schmidt’s compilation of 45 archetypal characters is one such list (Schmidt, 2001):
  • Male Hero/Villain Types
    • Businessman/Traitor
    • Protector/Gladiator
    • Recluse/Warlock
    • Fool/Derelict
    • Woman’s Man/Seducer
    • Male Messiah/Punisher
    • Artist/Abuser
    • King/Dictator
  • Female Hero/Villain Types
    • Seductive Muse/Femme Fatale
    • Amazon/Gorgon
    • Father’s Daughter/Backstabber
    • Nurturer/Over Controlling Mother
    • Matriarch/Scorned Woman
    • Female Messiah/Destroyer
    • Maiden/Troubled Teen
  • Supporting Types
    • Friends of Protagonist
      • Magi
      • Mentor
      • Best Friend
      • Lover
    • Rivals of Protagonist
      • Joker
      • Jester
      • Nemesis
      • Investigator
      • Pessimist
      • Psychic
    • Symbols
      • Shadow
      • Lost Soul
      • Double

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ontology: Characters (Part 1)

The second category of existent is the characters (human or otherwise), which are sentient beings with the ability to feel, perceive, or to have subjective experiences. Characters have a number of properties that help define them. These include:
  • Physical characteristics: The physical characteristics are what the character looks like. The physical characteristics are a starting point for developing characters, but don’t fully describe a character.
  • Psychological characteristics: The character’s feelings, beliefs, self-image, self-doubts, hunches, intuitions, and “millions of other mysterious and often ill-defined and contradictory forces that work within him” compose the psychological characteristics of the character. They make up the internal life that the character leads (Glassner, 2004).
  • Behavioral characteristics: The character’s behavioral characteristics are the visible behavior. When contrasted with the character’s psychological characteristics, they can tell a lot about that character and make the story much richer.
  • Social characteristics: The character’s social characteristics determine the interpersonal and social interactions (e.g. how he/she relates to other characters individually and in general).
  • Motivations: The character’s motivations are driven by the needs identified in Maslow’s Hierarchy (Maslow, Frager, & Fadiman, 1987):
    • Physiological needs – the most basic needs for human survival, without which the human body cannot function (e.g. air, water, food, sleep, sex, etc.).
    • Safety needs – include personal security from physical threats, health and well-being, and financial security (e.g. security of body, employment, family, property, resources, etc.).
    • Love and belonging needs – love, acceptance, and belonging with family, intimate partners, friends, and larger social groups (e.g. family, sexual and non-sexual intimacy, friends, etc.)
    • Esteem needs –lower level esteem needs are met by having the respect of others, status, recognition, fame, prestige, and attention. The higher level esteem needs are the need for self-respect, strength, competence, mastery, self-confidence, independence and freedom.
    • Self-actualization needs – pertain to achieving one’s full potential and the desire to become everything that one is capable of becoming (e.g. morality, creativity, spontaneity, acceptance of facts, lack of prejudice, etc.)
    • Self-transcendence – going beyond a prior form or state of oneself (e.g. making spiritual connections) (Frankl, 2006, p. 111).
  • Values: A character’s values are the important ideas, beliefs or understandings that character holds and uses as a guide for his or her behavior (Scerenko, 1997). These values may change as the character progresses through the story. (See Appendix G for a list of values that can be applied to characters.)
  • Desires: The character’s desires are what the character cares about or wants. These desires can drive the character to certain actions, including abandoning the character’s own values. Desires may be conscious or unconscious and could conflict, resulting in a more complex character. Throughout the course of the story the character will take action to fulfill those desires.
  • Fears: The character’s fears are those things he or she is most afraid of. How the character deals with those fears can impact specific plot points by putting in doubt the character’s response to specific situations. Fears can be linked to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Concept map of character properties

Friday, February 17, 2012

Story Level Design Tasks

Over the past few weeks we have been looking at the first (transmedia project) and second (storyworld) level design tasks. Once work at these levels is substantially complete, it is time to move on to the next level of tasks.

The third level of design tasks occurs at the story level (see table below). At this level key decisions on individual stories within the storyworld are made. The narrative design tasks begin with the development of the story concept, dramatic question, and controlling idea, which will shape the narrative content. That is followed by the selection of story structure, narrative point of view, plot structure, and identification of any sub-stories. The decisions made when doing these tasks will determine how the content will be structured from a narrative perspective.

Significant objects and the cast of characters that will populate the story are also created at this level. The interaction design tasks focus on identification of media and platforms that may be used to publish the story, develop a preliminary overview of user navigation, and preliminary identification of story assets.

Story Level Design Tasks
Narrative Design Engagement Design Interaction Design
  • Develop story concept
  • Develop dramatic question
  • Develop controlling idea
  • Select general story structure
  • Select narrative point of view
  • Select story mode (presentational versus representational)
  • Select general plot structure
  • Develop sub-stories
  • Select story timeframe
  • Select characters and roles
  • Develop character arcs
  • Develop preliminary storyboards
  • Determine if transmedia narrative involves shared vs. individual participation
  • Determine importance of including real people, settings, and events in transmedia narrative
  • Determine if transmedia narrative is time-agnostic or time-dependent
  • Determine if transmedia narrative is location-agnostic or time-dependent
  • Identify media/platforms
  • Develop user journey diagram
  • Develop preliminary calls-to-action plan
  • Compile preliminary assets list

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ontology: Significant Objects

Significant objects are one type of existent. There are two types of significant objects:
  • Plot-Signficant: A plot-significant object has a substantial impact on the story’s plot.
  • Character-Significant: A character-significant object has some sort of significance to a particular character but does not have a significant impact on the story’s plot.

The properties of a significant object are:
  • Physical Characteristics: The physical characteristics of the significant object describe its size, weight, appearance, and other physical aspects.
  • Value: The significant object has valueto the characters in the story. This value may be:
    • Intrinsic – it is worth money (e.g. a treasure, money, etc.)
    • Source of power – it gives the person who possesses it magical, political, or some other form of power
    • Symbolic – it has spiritual, emotional, sentimental, or similar symbolic value
  • Integral to the Plot: The significant object is integral to the plot; without it the story would change significantly.
Concept map of elements of significant objects

    Monday, February 13, 2012

    Ontology: Storyworlds

    Ryan’s description of the contents of storyworlds (Ryan, 2011) provides a starting point for the development of a systematic structure for the narrative elements of transmedia narratives. Ryan identified the content of storyworlds as existents, settings, events, mental events, physical laws, and social laws (Ryan, 2011).
    Chatman proposed a story structure that also contains events and existents (Chatman, 1978, p. 19), but their interrelationships differ from Ryan’s. In Chatman’s model, characters and setting are contained within the existents, while events are divided into kernels and satellites (Chatman, 1978, p. 19).
    The development of a comprehensive and consistent structure for storyworlds is important for the future development of transmedia narratives. Ryan stated that ensuring stories involve the same existents, settings, and other characteristics of the storyworld and that the stories are mutually compatible will allow the development of multiple stories within the same storyworld (Ryan, 2011).
    Using the same set of concepts identified by Ryan and Chapman – storyworlds, existents, events, settings, and stories – but reconfiguring the relationships between them slightly makes it possible to create a high level framework that easily accommodates the creation of multiple stories from within the same storyworld.
    A few of the concepts offered by Ryan fall into categories lower down on the storyworld hierarchy, while mental events is a type of event. Physical and social laws fall within the concepts of mythos, topos, and ethos developed by Klastrup and Tosca. Klastrup and Tosca note that they specifically exclude events from the mythos of a storyworld (Klastrup & Tosca, 2011). This makes it logical to include events immediately below the storyworld in the hierarchy of elements, as Ryan has done.
    Establishing the storyworld as the highest order category within the narrative design domain provides the foundation for a coherent structure with ample opportunity for expansion across the lower level concepts.

    Concept map of the elements that comprise a storyworld
    • Storyworld: A storyworldis the structure within which all of the concepts, objects, entities, and relationships needed to construct a narrative exist. Properties of or elements contained within the storyworld are:
      • Temporal Dimension: A temporal dimension is an inherent property of a storyworld and by extension is part of the existents, events, settings, and stories that are contained within that storyworld. This temporal dimension is called “storyworld time”.
      • Genre: The genre for a storyworld defines the stylistic conventions for characters, roles, settings, events, and values that are used in the storyworld.
      • Existents: The existents are either significant objects or characters. (Ryan, Storyworlds Across Media, 2011) Further details on these two concepts are developed in the section on the ontology of existents.
      • Events: The events in a storyworld are the result of changes in the state of elements within the storyworld. Further details on events are developed in the section on the ontology of events.
      • Settings: A storyworld’s settings serve as the backdrop against which a narrative occurs. Further details on settings are developed in the section on the ontology of settings.
      • Story: A story emerges from the interrelationship of a storyworld’s existents, events, and settings.

    Friday, February 10, 2012

    Ontology: User Engagement (Part 2)

    User engagement with a transmedia narrative emerges from or is affected by a) level of user engagement, b) user agency, c) human-centered design factors, and d) user participation on multiple levels. This post is the second of two parts that look at the elements that influence user engagement and the interrelationships between these elements.

    • User Participation: A number of factors affect user participation in a transmedia narrative:
      • Cognitive Participation: The degree of cognitive participation (mental processing) falls on a spectrum from passive participation on the low end to active participation on the high end (Screven, 2000, pp. 166-167). This spectrum of participation is closely related to user attention, which can range from “mindless” (casual and unsystematic) to “mindful” (focused and active) (Screven, 2000, pp. 166-167).
      • Affective Participation: The emotional impact (affective participation) is one of the most important qualities of narratives. Transmedia narratives with high affective participation will have a high level of user engagement.
      • Social Participation: The level of social participation can range from individual to shared activities.
      • Temporal Participation: A narrative’s temporal participation can range from time-agnostic (the user can participate at any time) to time-dependent (the user must participate at a specific time).
      • Spatial Participation: A narrative’s spatial participation can range from location-agnostic (it doesn’t matter where the user is while participating) to location-dependent (a specific location is important to understanding the meaning of the narrative).
      • Sensory Participation: A narrative’s use of the five senses – sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell – is the basis of sensory participation.
    • Information Field: The information field consists of all of the information within the user’s immediate environment, not just the information the transmedia narrative itself presents. The information field can contain three types of messages:
      • Intended Messages: The intended messages are the knowledge, concepts, and feelings that the transmedia narrative designer intends to communicate to the user.
      • Unintended Messages: The unintended messages are caused by either irrelevant information (e.g. people, ambient sounds, visual distractions, etc.) or messages that come from the juxtaposition of pieces of information that create new and unintended messages.
      • Perceived Messages: The perceived messages are those that the user extracts from the transmedia narrative. Perceived messages may or may not be the same messages the designer of the transmedia narrative intended to communicate. The perceived messages could be the result of unintended messages overwhelming the intended messages or intended messages that are interpreted in a way the designer did not intend.
    • Human Centered Design: Transmedia narrative systems created using a human centered design approach are characterized by (Cooley, 2000):
      • Coherence: A transmedia narrative that exhibits coherence ensures that the meaning of information embedded in it, even if it is not immediately evident, is not cloaked or obscured. Coherence includes the concept of transparency.
      • Inclusiveness: An inclusive system welcomes users in and makes them feel like they are a part of a community of familiar and friendly activities.
      • Malleability: A system with a high level of malleability can mold itself to suit the users, allowing them to modify the environment to suit their individual aesthetics, skills, and needs.
      • Engagement: A system creates a sense of engagement by inviting users to participate in the process and creating a feeling of empathy.
      • Ownership: A system can encourage the user’s sense of ownership by creating in the users a sense of belonging and enabling users to create something themselves with the storyworld of the narrative.
      • Responsiveness: The responsiveness of a system – how it responds to the user’s individual needs, wants, and ways of doing things – can be enhanced by making the system’s own rules visible and then encouraging users to learn and change them.
      • Purpose: The system should be able to respond to the purpose users have in mind and encourage them to go beyond it.
      • Panoramic: A panoramic system provides “windows” or “apertures” through which a user can take a wider or more panoramic view of what is happening both inside and outside of the narrative. This panoramic perspective encourages the acquisition of “boundary knowledge” and allows users to act more effectively and competently by providing them with an understanding of the wider context of the narrative.
      • Transcendent: A system that is transcendent encourages, entices, or provokes users to transcend the immediate requirements of the narrative and gain a broader understanding of the narrative’s meaning.

    Wednesday, February 8, 2012

    Ontology: User Engagement (Part 1)

    User engagement with a transmedia narrative emerges from or is affected by a) level of user engagement, b) user agency, c) human-centered design factors, and d) user participation on multiple levels. This post is the first of two parts that look at the elements that influence user engagement and the interrelationships between these elements.

    User engagement invites users to participate in the narrative and gains their interest and support. It consists of:
    • Level of User Engagement: The degree of user engagement can span a spectrum from low to high engagement. One measure of user engagement is (Pratten, Audience Engagement & Content Strategy for Transmedia Storytellers, 2010):
      • Attention: At the attention level, the user reads or watches content from the transmedia narrative but takes no further action. This is the lowest level of user engagement. At this point, the user is aware of the narrative but has not made a commitment to continued engagement with it.
      • Evaluation: At the evaluation level the user’s engagement has increased and there is a definite interest in the transmedia narrative. At this stage, the user is deciding whether to make a commitment to continue engaging with the transmedia narrative, including using resources (e.g. time, money, effort) to further that engagement.
      • Affection: At the affection level the user has made a commitment to spend time, money, effort, and other resources to continue engaging with the transmedia narrative. Engagement includes commenting, writing reviews, joining a community (but maybe only lurking), and posting Facebook and other “likes”.
      • Advocacy: At the advocacy level the user’s commitment to the transmedia narrative goes beyond individual participation, with the user encourages others to engage with the narrative through online forwards of information, embedding content, and in satisfaction polls and questionnaires.
      • Contribution: At the contribution level the user’s engagement includes making contributions to the narrative’s fan forums, events, and other activities or adding to the narrative’s storyworld through remixes, collaborations, or creation of entirely new stories. This is the highest level of engagement and involves a significant level of commitment by a user.
    • User Agency: The amount of user control over the narrative is determined by the degree of user agency. The greater the ability of users to set goals, plan their attainment, and be rewarded with changes in the narrative environment, the greater the degree of user agency. Agency relationship, agency scope, agency immediacy, agency duration, dynamic agency, and user input direction are properties of user agency. User agency is also dependent on the user story role.
      • User Story Role: In the internal mode, the user is projected into the story either through an avatar or in a first person perspective to play a role in the narrative. In external mode the user is situated outside the narrative (Ryan, 2001).
      • Agency Relationship: The degree of agency relationship is determined by how tightly the user and narrative system actions are linked. This can range from no linkage to being tightly linked. If the agency relationship is low, an action by a user will not cause a response by the system, while a tightly linked agency relationship means that a user action will cause an appropriate and proportional response by the system (Harrell & Zhu, 2009).
      • Agency Scope: The degree of agency scope is determined by the impact of a user action on the narrative world. The impact can range from local (i.e. navigating an avatar) to global (i.e. taking an action that determines the direction the narrative takes) (Harrell & Zhu, 2009).
      • Agency Immediacy: The degree of agency immediacy is determined by how quickly a response to a user action occurs. This can range from an immediate response to a response that occurs after a considerable delay.
      • Agency Duration: The degree of agency duration is determined by how long the impact of a user action lasts. This can range from short-term (e.g. killing a character that is regenerated a few seconds later) to permanent (e.g. permanently eliminating a key character) within the narrative or storyworld.
      • Dynamic Agency: The degree of dynamic agency is determined by whether the agency relationship, scope, immediacy, or duration changes as the user progresses through the narrative.
      • User Input Direction: The degree of user input direction is determined by how much control the user has over the narrative’s dynamic agency (Harrell & Zhu, 2009).

    Monday, February 6, 2012

    Transmedia Digest Blog

    I am in the process of transitioning from Blogspot to Wordpress for my Transmedia Digest blog. While Blogspot is a good basic blogging platform, it does not provide the flexibility I would like as I move forward with blogging about transmedia narratives.

    A duplicate of the content on this blog also appears on my blog at and I will be running both blogs in parallel for a few weeks as I make the transition. I hope this is not a source of confusion.

    I will provide additional information on the transition as I make progress on additional content.

    Storyworld Level Design Tasks - Storyworld Navigation

    At the storyworld level the user can make a number of jumps that need to be considered because of their potential impact on the design of the call-to-action. A number of possible combinations of jumps at this level have been identified by Dena (Dena, 2007). The descriptions of these jumps have been modified slightly here:
    • Intra-world: The user moves between stories (sometimes called “event-Realms”) within a storyworld. The stories may be on the same or different mediums (i.e. the user watches a DVD with a feature length movie and then jumps to another DVD with the story’s sequel or alternately from a novel to a DVD). Intra-world jumps occur at the story level of the story ontology.
    • Inter-world: The user moves between stories in different storyworlds (i.e. the user watches a movie like Narnia that then goes to a movie or novel from the Lord of the Rings series). Inter-world jumps occur at the story level of the story ontology.
    • Extra-world to world: This type of jump moves the user between fictional websites and real-life websites (i.e. the user reads a web-based novel set in a particular location and then jumps to a real-world website to find more information about that setting).
    • Meta-world to world: This type of jump moves the user from a commentary about the storyworld to the storyworld itself (i.e. the user reads an online review about the storyworld and follows a link to it).
    For information on the direction and timing of the jumps between units, see the interaction design tasks at the story level.

    Friday, February 3, 2012

    Storyworld Level Design Tasks - Entry Points

    Just as the narrative design needs to ensure users are provided with the information needed to “hook” them on the story, the interaction design must ensure that the first call-to-action a user encounters provides the appropriate amount of information to enable an effective interaction with the transmedia narrative. The entry point call-to-action should quickly communicate the conventions for interacting with the narrative as a whole and then move the user into the narrative. For web-based entry points, the page that the primary URL points to -- typically the home page – is critical to establishing both the user conventions for both the narrative and interaction aspects of the transmedia narrative.

    The amount of information needed at the beginning of a journey varies among individuals. Some – improvisational wayfinders – need only a little information while others who will do a lot of up-front planning will need a lot of information (Passini, 2000, pp. 90 - 91). Just adding information is not sufficient, however. That information needs to be appropriate and sufficient to provide informational wayfinders the cues they need while providing other users more information. It also needs to be focused on getting the user into the transmedia narrative and should not direct them away from it.

    The entry point for Animism: The Gods’ Lake in the fall of 2011 was through a URL that took the user to a web page with a book-like visual introducing users to both the story and the site (see Figure 1). At a glance, the user is able to understand both the navigational cues and a feel for the narrative content. The entry point for Collapsus uses a Flash graphic to provide both a navigational cue into the narrative and a sense of what the story is about (see Figure 2).

    The entry point to Burn Notice, on the other hand, is a much more traditional web page with a variety of cues, many of which point users away from the narrative elements of the television program (see Figure 3) including to other websites accessed via the banner ads on the page. A collapsible bar (not shown on the screen capture) also intrudes into the page and requires a user to collapse it in order to see more of the Burn Notice home page.

    Source: APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, 2011)
    Figure 1: Screen capture of the Animism: The Gods' Lake home page

    Source: Submarine Channel (Submarine Channel, 2011)
    Figure 2. Screen capture of the Collapsus home page

    From a transmedia narrative interaction perspective, the design of the Animism and Collapsus entry points is appropriate while the Burn Notice is a mess that undermines the ability of users to quickly find the information they need to navigate the narrative. The Collapsus entry point is the most effective of the three in getting users into the narrative. There are only two active links – the “Enter Collapsus” link prominently displayed near the center of the page and a link to the website of the producers of Collapsus in the lower right corner – on the enter page. One click on the primary link takes users immediately into the narrative.

    The Animism entry point has significantly more distractions – a total of 18 links – than the Collapsus site. These links are to:
    • Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, where presumably more of the narrative content is located
    • Pages within “The Book of Emissaries” displayed on the screen
    • Various funders of the Animism project
    While acknowledging one’s funders is probably a good move from a business perspective, it adds nothing to the narrative and providing links that direct users away from the narrative poor interaction design. Likewise, the links to various social media sites are distractions that do little to progress the narrative at this point. The links to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube provide no information about what awaits the users if they jump there. At this point, those links are also a temptation that may take users away from the entry point permanently. The navigation links into the narrative itself are also less than optimal. Two completely different styles are used. The “>” used as an arrow indicated to the user where to click in order to open the book while a small set of icons shaped as squares and diamonds underneath the book allowed navigation to various pages of the book. Unfortunately, those icons provided no information about what to expect at the other end of the interaction.

    On the Burn Notice page an assortment of menu items, rotating Flash elements, advertising, embedded links, and images that serve as buttons provide a wide variety of navigational devices that leave the user with a huge amount of information to process before making a decision about going into the narrative. Very little information is provided as to what the user can expect at the other end of any links.

    Source: USA Network (USA Network, 2011)
    Figure 3: Screen capture of the Burn Notice home page

    When designing the interactions for a transmedia narrative, particularly for an entry point to the narrative, the designer needs to ensure that only as much information as is absolutely necessary should be provided. That information needs to be located where users are making and executing navigational decisions (Passini, 2000, p. 91). Each decision in the decision plan requires information that is appropriate for both the decision to be made and the setting in which the decision making occurs (Passini, 2000, p. 94).

    One of the challenges of transmedia narratives is that a user can enter the story or storyworld for the first time at multiple points. The design of the calls-to-action at each of those entry points should follow the guidelines identified for a single entry point.

    A false affordance is a navigational cue that doesn’t work as the average user might expect. A page near the beginning of the Collapsus site features a world map with an interactive crosshair that can be moved over the map (see Figure 4). However, clicking it on a location does nothing. The only interaction possible on the page is to cursor over and click on the small photographs located low on the page. This false affordance distracts the user from the actual links present on the page and makes it appear that the page itself is broken, disrupting the narrative experience.

    Source: Submarine Channel (Submarine Channel, 2011)
    Figure 4. Example of a false affordance on the Collapsus site

    Storyworld Level Design Tasks - Preliminary Wireframes

    Wireframes allow designers to create the structural elements of the transmedia narrative project’s interfaces. A wireframe typically lays out the position and function of major components on web pages, applications, game scenes, and printed materials. A wireframe is an early planning document and will often be the basis for more detailed “look and feel” mockups that will be done later.

    Wednesday, February 1, 2012

    Storywold Level Design Tasks - Rules of Engagement Synopsis, Design Aesthetic & Style Guides

    “Rules of Engagement” Synopsis

    The “rules of engagement” synopsis is a high-level overview of the user engagement aspects of the transmedia narrative written from the user’s perspective. It should provide a “hands-on picture of the experience, including what users will be confronted with, what they expect to have to agree to, and challenges they will face” (Hayes G. P., 2011, p. 7). This synopsis should be one to two pages in length.

    Design Aesthetic

    The design aesthetic provides an overall vision behind the design that will cover all elements to the storyworld. It should describe and portray the characters and settings within the narrative and aesthetic features used for the various media and platforms that the content is published on (Hayes G. P., 2011, p. 10).

    Style Guides

    The design aesthetic will guide the development of the style guide, which provides precise details on color palettes, fonts, and other graphic design features. The style guide should be used for all materials produced for the project to ensure consistency and provide a sense of unity across multiple media.

    A style guide for audio, music, title sequences, and similar media elements should also be developed to provide an overview of the style to be used for all media elements of the storyworld.