Thursday, March 8, 2012

Flotsam: A Transmedia Play Experience

I'm working at the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab, in partnership with The Alchemists, to extend the principles of transmedia storytelling into the exciting realm of children’s entertainment and education by exploring the transmedia storytelling opportunities presented by Flotsam - a visual representation that encourages all to discover the fantastical story of the oceans and our relationship to it.

David signing a Flotsam book.
Flotsam was created by the award-winning author David Wiesner and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  In December, we conducted a two-day Think & Do Tank to discuss the potential of leveraging new media affordances for children’s storytelling, learn from the diversity of knowledge and experience that our attendees (including some of our sponsors such as Orange France-Telecom and Warner Brothers) brought with them, and play with ideas and each other in the sandbox (literal and figurative!).

You might be wondering what a Think & Do Tank is?  Over the past two years, I've designed and refined a Think & Do Process at the lab to foster an open space for people of varied disciplines and backgrounds to come together and effectively learn from each other and create together. The Think & Do Process often occurs over multiple sessions with the goal of creating real tangible products / productions. As Albert Einstein famously said, "Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them." This is not a single or solitary occupation but a collective, an embracing and transforming process of engagement where transparency across disciplines has us “see with new eyes;” to push ourselves and each other to be constant learners, to grow and innovate to better ourselves and the world we live in.

Collective Storytelling of Flotsam
A Think & Do process often is held for, at minimum, a full‐day immersive experience with the potential of extending into one or two additional days. The primary goal of a Think & Do session is to implore the idea of thinking while tinkering, or thinkering. Thinkering, coined by Michael Ondaatje in his novel The English Patient, means to think about something by tinkering with objects relating to the problem under consideration. It usually is unguided, exploratory and collaborative, and often used to explore aspects of difficult problems or to find solutions where none are obvious.  In other words, an active form of thinking. This has become an ideal means to describe a designer’s way of doing things.

Participants come from varied disciplines and backgrounds, are asked to come and be mentally present throughout the entire session, respecting the goal of the day and the resources allotted within the time frame. This also holds true with the group / company involved in the process that has a stake in the final deliverables. This open line of communication before, during and after the Think & Do session helps make the entire process stronger and relevant to everyone’s expectations. Through this process perspectives are synthesized from those who are participating in the creative process and key takeaways with possibilities for incubation of new research‐design projects are identified.

Ideating Opportunities with Transmedia
With Flotsam's Think & Do Tank, there were three big ideas that emerged for which we are now in the process of designing and developing prototypes and which will be shared at the upcoming USC Annenberg Innovation Summit. The “mother narrative” of the Flotsam Transmedia Play Experience will be six story chapters delivered in the form of DIY “explorer kits” that encourage creative remix through the use of a camera that will come as part of the initial kit. These six chapters will extend the digitally dynamic book that we will design for participatory retelling of Flotsam; user generated retelling can be shared as gifts with family members and peers, as well as shared into the Flotsam community though a recursive photo application we are also designing that will connect Flotsam stories and creations to be released and shared.

We will share the conceptual design of the Flotsam Transmedia Play Experience at the upcoming Innovation Summit on March 30th and then continue incubation with focus groups in late April.  So more to come!  I hope in future posts I'll be able to share some of my ideas on how we define Transmedia play, learning and performance.

1 comment:

  1. Just in time. So now I know how much I can say at the Buff festival in Sweden. :)