March 19, 2011

Transmedia All-Stars to Converge at 2011 NAB Show

WASHINGTON --(Business Wire)--

full link:

Key creatives and executives at the forefront of the burgeoning transmedia movement will convene at the 2011 NAB Show to participate in a panel session titled "Transmedia: Telling the Story Through Narrative Content, Games and Real-World Adventures." The 2011 NAB Show takes place April 9-14, in Las Vegas.
The expert panel features some of the industry's leading voices in transmedia, including Danny Bilson, EVP, Core Games, THQ; Jeff Gomez, transmedia producer & CEO, Starlight Runner Entertainment; Gale Anne Hurd, producer ("The Walking Dead," "The Terminator," "Aliens"); Tim Kring, multiplatform storyteller ("Conspiracy for Good," "Heroes") and Kim Moses, executive producer/director/writer, Sander/Moses Productions/Slam ("Ghost Whisperer").
Renowned American media scholar and originator of the term "transmedia," Henry Jenkins, will moderate the NAB Show Super Session, which takes place Monday, April 11, from 2:30 to 3:30 pm.
"Transmedia: Telling the Story Through Narrative Content, Games and Real-World Adventures" will explore how to create an immersive and expansive cross-platform entertainment experience. Citing examples from recent and upcoming feature films, TV, ARG, video games and location-based projects, panelists will examine the necessary ingredients of a fertile transmedia property, the impact of video games and multiplayer participation on storytelling and the need for fresh creative skill sets and new forms of collaboration.

March 18, 2011

Sandbox Summit 2011 (April 28-29) and 2010 Keynote: "Toying with Transmedia: The Future of Entertainment is Child's Play"

Our colleagues at our CMS sister research project, The Education Arcade, are looking forward to the 2011 version of their annual Sandbox Summit conference.

Sandbox Summit: Game Changers (People, Products, and Policies that Empower 21st Century Kids will take place here in Cambridge on April 28th and 29th, 2011. For information and registration, click here.

Embedded below is Prof. Jenkins' keynote address from last year's Sandbox Summit.

Below the video you can find the "About the Lecture" description provided by the MIT World video archive.

"Toying with Transmedia: The Future of Entertainment is Child's Play"

About the Lecture (source:

In what could be the ultimate twist on Toy Story, Henry Jenkins suggests that action figures -- those Star Wars and Masters of the Universe dolls from a few decades ago -- had the power to spark human creativity and transcend their original function. Jenkins argues such toys served children and young adults as "authoring tools" in stories that grew increasingly elaborate and technologically sophisticated over the years, spawning new kinds of play in our own time.

In a lecture spiced with stills and video, Jenkins demonstrates that early generations of action figures, such as movie, cartoon, and cereal box characters, inspired a cohort of player "creators," and helped shape the emergent phenomenon of transmedia. This, describes Jenkins, is a storytelling process "where integral elements of a fiction are dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience."

Transmedia is not about "dumbing down popular culture," Jenkins says. It involves complex mythologies that kids and adults can throw themselves into, with large casts of vivid characters in complex plots rivaling those in Russian novels. Transmedia storytelling also encourages children to "play out different fantasies," try out roles, and begin to construct their own identities. Storm trooper marshmallows in Star Wars cereal do not qualify, he warns, since branding alone does not unleash storytelling juices or encourage user immersion.

Jenkins claims that contemporary transmedia are "produced by the generation that grew up playing He-Man for the generation that is growing up playing Pokémon." But this popular culture phenomenon owes much to a rich history of children's literature with offshoots, he notes. Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland triggered a series of book variations soon after its publication. L. Frank Baum wrote not one but many books about Oz, produced stage plays and movies, and lectured widely as "the royal geographer of Oz," says Jenkins. J.R.R. Tolkien devised an encyclopedically detailed mythical world for which he wrote songs. More recently, Walt Disney, "the father of modern mass media," says Jenkins, figured out how to bring great children's stories -- and such characters as Alice, assorted princesses, Mickey -- into the common playspaces of his amusement parks, films, TV and ice shows.

Just as Masters of the Universe and Star Wars toys, comic books and TV franchises helped shape the imaginations and culture of the generation that generated Game Boy (with its video games, anime, manga and trading cards), so, we may assume, will Pokémon Pikachu figures and their fictional worlds inspire the next generation of transmedia producers. Expect these stories to show up on mobile phones and iPads, predicts Jenkins, where there is the most "potential for a multimedia experience." And don't be surprised to see "less geeky genres like sci fi and fantasy," and more adult genres such as historical fiction and comedy."

March 17, 2011

C3 Research Memo (2010): Online Advertising - The New Magic by Ravi Inukonda with Daniel Pereira

Online Advertising:
The New Magic

Ravi Inukonda
Graduate Researcher
Convergence Culture Consortium (C3)


Daniel T. Pereira
Managing Director
Convergence Culture Consortium (C3)

Executive Summary

"You are the product.  You feeling something.  That's what sells.  Not them.  Not sex.  They can't do what we do. And they hate us for it." [1]
                         - Don Draper, Creative Director of the advertising firm
Sterling & Cooper, to agency copywriter Peggy Olsen


"You're [expletive] with the magic!"

- Mel Karmazin (in 2003), then the chief operating officer  
  of Viacom, when Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry  
  Page and their recently recruited CEO, Eric Schmidt,
  explained how they only charge an advertiser when  
  someone actually clicks on its ad.




As late as 2007, while e-commerce and digital media had already significantly disrupted other industries, advertising:

". . .was one of the last significant business markets that remains opaque, manual, archaically complex, and requires a large relatively skilled set of humans to perform each transaction. . .every ad campaign can be traced back across a host of human driven processes. The final cost of the inventory is calculated through an opaque process that smells more like 1907 than 2007. The vast majority of hours spent by media buyers and media sellers are related to process and nailing down the minutiae of "the order." The buyer ends up with inventory that had no clear price when the discussion began, and frequently contains inventory they really didn't want or need tacked onto the package in order to meet the seller's sales goals. The seller ends up spending most of their time putting the package together and meeting the requirements of the order-taking process rather than working on strategic relationship sales."[3]

These media "buyers" and media "sellers" controlled the "pie", and the industry still operated on creative relationships, processes and concepts which dated back to the modern industrial era of American advertising which began in the 1950's.

Networked computing, largely due to the growth of online advertising, has played a significant role in revolutionizing this industry over the last decade.  Online advertising grew out of the need to reach audiences over a different medium - forcing innovation and progressively transforming this old advertising model (manual, opaque and labor intensive) to a digital advertising platform based on automation, transparency and simplicity.[i]  This new advertising platform, based on self-forming value networks and exchanges, requires a shift away from the organizing principle of the individual as a "consumer" to a strategic logic of "user engagement" spread across a wide range of transmediated advertising formats (display, video, pop-ups and placements, flash animation, text and mobile) - some of which are accelerating the market by the sheer force of their adoption rate.



Advertising Model since 1950


Advertising Networks and Exchanges through 2025






Manual Creative Processes








Content specific to the delivery medium


Spreadable, platform agnostic, transmedia 



The growth of online video this last year was "blistering . . .with online video views more than doubling from 14.8 billion in Jan '09 to 33.2 billion in Dec '09 . . .Online video usage is now nearly ubiquitous in the U.S."  Smart phones and mobile video figure prominently as well.  By 2011, Nielsen forecasts 90 million smart phone users will be watching mobile video.[4]


Joseph Turow, in his book Niche Envy:  Marketing Discrimination and the Digital Age, also makes a compelling argument for this online advertising system becoming the 'test bed' for the television advertising system of the future:


"Just a bit into the 21st century, then, advertising and media practitioners see "television" very much from the standpoint of the process of database marketing that already has begun to emerge on the internet [sic].  They know that the technology is not yet advanced enough to combine interactivity, targeted tracking, data mining and the cultivation of relationships in one advertising application. They are, however, testing all aspects of these activities with the sense that if they don't understand new models, their competitors will.  The new perspective that is emerging would have been hardly plausible to the medium's gurus only 20 years ago, when audience "tonnage" was still the dominant coin of the realm.  Now network personnel who still often sell tonnage –for example the salespeople at ABC, CBS and NBC - increasingly have to face advertising people at industry conferences who question the long-term viability of their business model.  A new language of television strategy is evolving in tandem with targeting and customization."[5]


One commentator (when blogging about the annual "TV upfronts" in May of 2009) characterized this change in the following fashion:


"For anyone who has worked for a major marketer, media agency or TV
network, the month of May represents an interesting and eventually an evolutionarily outdated event – TV upfronts.  The upfronts (for those that live under a rock) is the time of year that major advertisers and their agencies plan and buy a large share of their TV ads for the coming year. The networks package up their new series and existing hits and provide a dog and pony show that only the advertising industry can do. 

Over the past few years we have witnessed some interesting changes in the upfronts. On the buy-side, in some instances major marketers pulled out, opting to plan and buy ad hoc throughout the year rather than commit to large scale upfront buying (but not to a degree that affected media sellers or the tradition itself).  On the sell-side, we've seen a full on integration of digital channels in the packaging of ad programs, and there are small upfront events hosted by online only entities as well (mainly video), taking full advantage of the planning season. The upfront sessions have as much to do with major networks selling online inventory, particularly video, as they do television. Well. . .maybe not as much, but it's become increasingly more important to the networks."[6]

In 2010, advertisers in the U.S. market are forecast to spend greater than $20 billion on Internet ads, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). That is larger than the whole outdoor advertising industry, about 80% of the size of the magazine ad industry and half the size of the radio advertising sector, according to various estimates. Spending on Internet ads grew at a rate of ~50% last year compared to 10% for broadcast TV and 8% for the advertising industry overall.[7]

This growth has brought more innovation into the business. Buyers and sellers of inventory started looking for new ways to generate revenue. These two groups wanted to sell more of their inventory at the right price to engage the right audience.  Buyers struggled to find the most efficient way to access and target the online advertising inventory they wanted and to secure the right price. Publishers were left with unsold inventory – sometimes as high as 80%.  This surplus is like an airline flying planes with four out of every five seats empty. Over the last decade, ad networks and ad exchanges have emerged to help "fill more seats" at the right price [8]

This Convergence Culture Consortium (C3) Research Memo provides an overview of how these systems fundamentally work.  These networks and exchanges are examined from the perspective of the buyer and seller of online advertising – and attempts to distill further a working definition of "user engagement" within this context.  However, a discussion framed purely by the market-driven dichotomy of buying and selling ("supply and demand") is incomplete without first placing these current innovations in their larger cultural context. 


Cultural History of Advertising

Advertising is experiencing not only a technological and structural transformation, but a profound cultural one as well.  Vital to an understanding of this "major transformation" currently underway in the advertising industry is a discussion of the cultural history which sets advertising apart from other media systems (such as the history of cinema or fashion, for example, both of which have heavily influenced the cultural and creative practices of modern advertising). 

In 2004, Advertising Age editor Scott Donovan suggested the "need for marketers to confront and release their historical biases.  To redefine their world they "must rewrite the definition of the word "advertising" (which historically has operated on a model of lucrative, but inefficient, "magic.").[9] 

Efficiency and inventory currently have an undue influence on this redefining process.  In a potential break from its storied past, the advertising industry is experiencing a re-organization around technological efficiencies - a change brought on by a huge market disruptor: 

"Google engineers . . . have no way to quantify relationships or judgment.  They value efficiency more than experience.  They require facts, beta testing, mathematical logic.  Google fervently believes it is a shaping a new and better media world by making the process of buying advertising more rational and transparent.  In its view, the company serves consumers by offering advertising as information."[10]

Advertising has never been expressly about efficiency and inventory - and it has never allowed technology to define its ethos as an industry.  The component parts of the global advertising system are actually more easily discussed as cultural components of a communications medium dating back to the streets, bazaars, marketplaces and newspapers of cities like London and New York in the latter part of the 19th Century.  Since about 1850, the advertising industry has gone through three distinct periods – all of which have contributed to the construction in the 20th century of a consumer culture driven by a broadcast media marketplace.

The Formative Years (1850-1900):  A Legacy of Mistrust


"The Quack has become King." 

-        Thomas Carlyle[11]

Advertising fought for legitimacy during its formative years as a medium.  As one local newspaper noted during the period: "it is not respectable.  Advertising is resorted to for the purposes of introducing inferior articles into the market."  Others noticed "advertisements in type which three years ago would have been considered fit only for the street hoardings."  A Sears catalog delivered to rural areas was deemed "extravagant in its claims and undignified in its make-up."[12]

It was the spread of newspapers into rural areas by the United States Postal system - and the extension of persuasion methods used by patent medicine advertisements during this period (known as 'quackery') to other goods and services ("the draper, the grocer and their suppliers had followed the quack"[13]) - which has left the modern advertising system with a legacy of mistrust:  "Around 1900, the curative claims of ads for patent medicines were prominently questioned.  Major publishers began to refuse to accept such ads, and the 1905 Pure Food and Drug Act was intended to get rid of the most dangerous patent medicines (which routinely contained alcohol, cocaine and even arsenic)."[14]

It is this legacy of mistrust which Joseph Turow points out continues to this day, although the issues are specific to the new online advertising platform: "the digital media environment has brought new concerns about consumers' unease.  One risk of going online is that you may be bothered by advertising that you don't want.  Another is that you may be giving personal information that you wouldn't want them to get. Database marketing is beginning to engender new forms of suspicion and institutional distrust" which "works against a sense of social belonging and engagement."[15]

Industrial Mode of Advertising Production and Delivery: 1900 – 1950


"The Consumer is King.  His preference is law and his whim makes and unmakes merchants, jobbers, and manufacturers.  Whoever wins his confidence controls the mercantile situation; whoever loses it, is lost."

– C.C. Parlin[16]

"He who had been a boy very credulous of life was no longer greatly interested in the possible and improbable adventures of each new day.  He escaped from reality till the alarm-clock rang, at seven-twenty. 

It was the best of nationally advertised and quantitatively produced alarm-clocks, with all the modern attachments, including cathedral chime, intermittent alarm, and a phosphorescent dial.  Babbitt was proud of being awakened by such a rich device.  Socially it was almost as creditable as buying expensive cord tires." 

Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis (1923)[17]

During this period, the frequency and reach of advertising evolved into a model of daily engagement through a direct relationship to the public via urban and rural daily newspapers. The advertisers strived to alter their relationship with the public from one of "quackery" to credibility and profits.  Most notably, the advertising industry integrated some of the lessons learned from World War I posters and advertisements (a time 'when new kinds of persuasion were developed and applied' to unify the nation during the war effort), slowly shifting to methods of "psychological" advertising.[18]  The sellers of advertising in this era started by selling the advertising space and evolved very quickly into the model which ushered in the modern era of American advertising: 

". . .by the turn of the century, the modern system had emerged:  newspapers had their own advertising managers that advanced quite rapidly in status from junior employers to important executives, while the agencies stopped selling space, and went over to serving and advising manufacturers, and booking space after a campaign had been agreed.  Although extended to new kids of product, advertising drew, in its methods, on its own history and experience. [19] 

It is a fundamental shift away from a susceptibility to this "psychological" advertising model (based on persuasion) which Professor Jenkins frames as "participatory culture":  "If old consumers were assumed to be passive, then new consumers are active. If old consumers were predictable and stayed where you told them, then new consumers are migratory, showing a declining loyalty to networks or media. If old consumers were isolated individuals, then new consumers are more socially connected. If the work of media consumers was once silent and invisible, then new consumers are now noisy and public." [20] *


The Mad Men: 1950 – 1994


The time to market, reach and frequency of advertising during this period was organized around broadcast television and a need to achieve economies of scale for national advertisers.  Advertising agencies were at the center of this value chain.  Advertising client relationships moved to serving and advising manufacturers through conceiving, pitching, selling, packaging and delivering advertising campaigns – the golden era of modern American advertising.  A system opaque, complex and wrought with manual processes - but very, very lucrative.  These cultural and creative practices are the 'magic' to which Mel Karmazin refers - and which sets the fictional advertising creative director Don Draper (and his colleagues at Sterling-Cooper) apart from the huddled masses.  Raymond Williams, cultural studies theorist, spoke of this same phenomenon in his seminal article The Magical System:   

"It is impossible to look at modern advertising without realizing that the material object being sold is never enough:  this indeed is the crucial cultural quality of its modern forms.  If we were sensibly materialist, in that part of our living in which we use things, we should find most advertising to be of an insane irrelevance.  Beer would be enough for us, without the additional promise that in drinking it we show ourselves to be manly, young in heart, neighborly. A washing-machine would be a useful machine to wash clothes, rather than an indication that we are forward-looking or an object of envy to our neighbors.  But if these associations sell beer and washing machines, as some of the evidence suggests, it is clear that we have a cultural pattern in which the objects are not enough but must be validated, if only in fantasy, by associations with social and personal meanings which in a different cultural pattern might be more directly available.  The short description of the pattern we have is magic:  a highly organized and professional system of magical inducements and satisfaction, functionally very similar to magical systems in simpler societies, but rather strangely coexistent with a highly developed scientific technology."[21]

Over time, this modern period of the industry focused on targeting the global consumer as well.  In an article entitled Global Scan, D.A. Leslies makes a compelling argument that advertising agencies, because they were already organized in a transnational fashion, were responsible for the very cultural formulation of globalization as a 'social imaginary' in the early 1990's:  "The case of global advertisements illustrates the role of advertising images in reconstituting notions of identity and place and in constructing a mythical or imagined global village."[22] 

Today, Don Draper would work for (and Sterling Cooper would be owned by) one of four global marketing conglomerates - the WPP Group, the Omnicom Group, the Interpublic Group and Publicis - battling over a projected global advertising spend of roughly $450 Billion in 2010.[23]




Advertising in a
Consumer Culture
Broadcast Media Marketplace


Advertising in a
Convergence Culture
Spreadable Media Marketplace


"Quackery" and Misinformation


Trust still an issue:  user data and behavioral tracking still in its infancy


Use of  "psychological" advertising tactics on "The Consumer"


Voluntary participation (psychological, emotional and monetary)
by "The User"


Persuasion by a cultural/creative elite
(advertising as industry)


Value Networks based on self-forming communities of interest
and affinity groups
(advertising as grassroots advocacy)


Framing of social desires:  "Keeping up with the Joneses";  "Babbitt was proud of being awakened by such a rich device";  Beer makes me manly, young in heart, neighborly


Advertising as a vehicle for the positive formulation of a new set of cultural values within a new system of value exchange

The official executive summary and research memo are available at:

March 14, 2011

Lewis Hyde: upcoming talk here at MIT and previous CMS MIT5 appearance

Lewis Hyde's The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property (New York: Vintage. 1983) figured prominently in the C3 Spreadable Media White Paper (Spring 2009).

Lewis is here at MIT speaking this week on his new book Common As Air - which takes up current notions of intellectual property and pursues it back to the founding fathers and forward to Bob Dylan. His talk will be Thursday, March 17th @ 7 p.m. (MIT Room 3-270 [map link here]). This talk is part of the MIT Writers Series - sponsored by MIT Writing and Humanistic Studies.

Lewis also took part in an MIT5 Panel, with CMS Prof. David Thornburn moderating, entitled Folk Cultures and Digital Cultures. A write-up on the panel is available at:

Video of the panel is embedded below.

March 3, 2011

"Tony" Screening from Invisible Children

"Tony" Screening from Invisible Children

Thursday March 3, 2011 | 7:00pm | 34-101

On the whole, Invisible Children looks to provide humanitarian aid to displaced persons in northern, war-torn Uganda who have suffered from Africa's longest-running civil war. Moreover, they aim to provide shelter, safety, and education to children who were or would otherwise be child soldiers in the rebel army (the LRA, or the Lord's Resistance Army.)

This next chapter of Invisible Children's Bracelet Campaign is about Tony, and the struggles he faces as a child in this harsh region of the world.

The trailer for the film is embedded below.

For more information, visit the Invisible Children website.

This event is sponsored by the MIT UA funding board.

Tony Bracelet: Trailer from INVISIBLE CHILDREN on Vimeo.

Jedidiah Jenkins--Director of Public & Media Relations, Invisible Children-- is a panelist on the following "Transmedia and Social Change" panel from FOE4.


March 1, 2011

Announcing Transmedia, Hollywood 2: Visual Culture and Design

Transmedia registration can now be done through

Visual Culture and Design

A UCLA/USC/Industry Symposium
Co-sponsored by
UCLA Producers Program,
UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television
USC School of Cinematic Arts

Friday, April 8, 2011
James Bridges Theater, UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television
9:45 AM - 7 PM

Event Co-Directors:
Denise Mann, Associate Professor, Producers Program, UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television

Henry Jenkins, Provost's Professor of Communication, Journalism and Cinematic Arts, USC Annenberg School of Communication


Transmedia, Hollywood 2: Visual Culture and Design is a one-day public symposium exploring the role of transmedia franchises in today's entertainment industries. Transmedia, Hollywood 2 turns the spotlight on media creators, producers and executives and places them in critical dialogue with top researchers from across a wide spectrum of film, media and cultural studies to provide an interdisciplinary summit for the free interchange of insights about how transmedia works and what it means.

Co-hosted by Denise Mann and Henry Jenkins, from UCLA and USC, two of the most prominent film schools and media research centers in the nation, Transmedia, Hollywood 2 builds on the foundations established at last year's Transmedia, Hollywood: S/Telling the Story. This year's topic: Transmedia, Hollywood: Visual Culture and Design is meant to move from an abstract discussion of transmedia storytelling in all its permutations to a more concrete consideration of what is involved in designing for transmedia.

The past year has seen the Producer's Guild of America (PGA) embrace the concept of the transmedia producer. The other Guilds have begun discussing the implications of these developments for their membership. A growing number of small production units are springing up across the film, games, web, and television sectors to try to create and distribute transmedia content. Many of today's new transmedia producers are helmed by one-time studio or network insiders who are eager to "reinvent" themselves. Inside the studios, the executives tasked with top-down management of large media franchises are partnering with once marginalized film directors, comic book creators, game designers, and other creative personnel.

The underlying premise of this conference is that while the traditional studios and networks are hanging onto many of their outdated practices, they are also starting to engage creative personnel who are working outside the system to help them re-imagine their business. With crisis and change comes the opportunity for the next generation of maverick, independent-minded producers--the next Walt Disney and George Lucas-- to significantly challenge the old and to make way for the new. So, now, it is time to start examining lessons learned from these early experiments. Each of the issues outlined below impact the day-to-day design decisions that go into developing transmedia franchises. We hope to break down the project of developing transmedia content into four basic design challenges:

  • What does it mean to structure a franchise around the exploration of a world rather than a narrative? How are these worlds moving from the film and television screen into other media, such as comics, games, and location based entertainment?

  • What does it mean to design a character that will play well across a range of different media platforms? How might transmedia content re-center familiar stories around compelling secondary characters, adding depth to our understanding of the depicted events and relationships?

  • What does it mean to develop a sequence of events across a range of different media? How do we make sure that the spectator understands the relationship between events when they are piecing together information from different platforms and trying to make sense of a mythology that may span multiple epochs?

  • What does it take to motivate consumers to invest deeply enough into a transmedia franchise that they are eager to track down new installments and create buzz around a new property? How is transmedia linked to a push towards interactivity and participatory culture?

As with the first event, Transmedia, Hollywood: Visual Culture & Design will bring together comic book writers, game designers, "imagineers," filmmakers, television show runners, and other media professionals in a conversation with leading academic thinkers on these topics. Each of our speakers will be asked to focus on the unique challenges they faced while working on a specific production and detail how their understanding of transmedia helped them resolve those issues. From there, we will ask all our speakers to compare notes across projects and platforms with the hopes of starting to develop some basic design principles that will help us translate theories of transmedia entertainment into pragmatic reality.

The creative personnel we have assembled include many of the key individuals responsible for masterminding the fundamental changes in the way traditional media operates and engages audiences by altering the way stories are told temporally, by exploring how graphic design translates from one medium to another, and by explaining how these visually-stunning worlds are being conceived in today's "connected" entertainment arena.

Conference Schedule

Friday, April 8, 2011

9:15--9:45 am

9:45--10:00 am
Welcome and Opening Remarks

  • Teri Schwartz, Dean, UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television
  • Denise Mann, Associate Professor/Head, Producers Program, UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television
  • Henry Jenkins, Provost's Professor of Communication, Journalism and Cinematic Arts, Annenberg School of Communication, USC

10:00--11:50 AM
Panel 1: "Come Out 2 Play": Designing Virtual Worlds--From Screens to Theme Parks and Beyond
Hollywood has come a long way since Walt Disney, circa 1955, invited families to come out and play in the first cross-platform, totally merchandised sandbox--Disneyland. Cut to today and most entertainment corporations are still focused on creating intellectual properties to exploit across all divisions of the Company. However, as the studios and networks move away from the concrete spaces of movie and TV screens and start to embrace the seemingly limitless "virtual spaces" of the Web as well as the real-world spaces of theme parks, museums, and comic book conventions, the demands on creative personnel and their studio counterparts have expanded exponentially.

Rather than rely on old-fashioned merchandising and licensing departments to oversee vendors, which too often results in uninspired computer games, novelizations, and label T-shirts, several studios have brought these activities in-house, creating divisions like Disney Imagineering and Disney Interactive to oversee the design and implementation of these vast, virtual worlds. In other instances, studios are turning to a new generation of independent producers--aka "transmedia producers"--charged with creating vast, interlocking brand extensions that make use of a never-ending cycle of technological future shock and Web 2.0 capabilities.

The results of these partnerships have been a number of extraordinarily inventive, interactive, and immersive experiences that create a "you are there" effect. These include the King Kong 360 3D theme park ride, which incorporates the sight, smell, and thunderous footsteps of the iconic gorilla as he appears to toss the audience's tram car into a pit. Universal Studios and Warner Bros. have joined forces to create the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a new $200 million-plus attraction at the Islands of Adventure in Florida.

Today's panel focuses on the unique challenges associated with turning traditional media franchises into 3D interactive worlds, inviting you to come out 2 play in the studios' virtual sandboxes.

Moderator: Denise Mann
Panelists will include:

  • Alex McDowell, Production Designer for Tim Burton and Zack Snyder (Corpse Bride, Watchmen)

  • Thierry Coup, Art Designer, Wizarding World of Harry Potter

  • Angela Ndalianis, Associate Professor and Head of the Cinema Studies Program at the University of Melbourne, Australia (Neo-Baroque Aesthetics and Contemporary Entertainment)

  • Bruce Vaughn, Chief Creative Executive, Disney Imagineering

12:00--1:50 PM
Panel 2: "We're Looking For Characters": Designing Personalities Who Play Across Platforms

How is our notion of what constitutes a good character changing as more and more decisions get made on the basis of a transmedia logic? Does it matter that James Bond originated in a book, Spider-Man in comics, Luke Skywalker on screen, and Homer Simpson on television, if each of these figures is going to eventually appear across a range of media platforms?

Do designers and writers conceive of characters differently when they know that they need to be recognizable in a variety of media? Why does transmedia often require a shift in focus as the protagonist aboard the "mothership" often moves off stage as extensions foreground the perspective and actions of once secondary figures?

How might we understand the process by which people on reality television series get packaged as characters who can drive audience identification and interest or by which performers get reframed as characters as they enter into the popular imagination?

Why have so few characters from games attracted a broader following while characters from comics seem to be gaining growing popularity even among those who have never read their graphic adventures?

Moderator: Henry Jenkins
Panelists will include:

  • Joseph Ferencz, Strategy and Marketing Manager, Ubisoft

  • Geoff Johns, Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment

  • Alisa Perren, Assistant Professor, Georgia State University

  • Kelly Souders and Brian Peterson, Executive Producers of Smallville

2:00--3:00 PM
Lunch Break

3:00--4:50 PM
Panel 3: Fan Interfaces: Intelligent Designs or Fan Aggregators?

Once relegated to the margins of society, today's media fans are often considered the "advance guard" that studio and network marketers eagerly pursue at Comi-Con and elsewhere to help launch virtual word-of-mouth campaigns around a favorite film, TV series, computer game, or comic book. Since tech-savvy fans are often the first to access Web 2.0 sites like YouTube, Wikipedia, and Second Life in search of a like-minded community, it was only a matter of time before corporate marketers followed suit. After all, these social networking sites provide media companies with powerful tools to manage fans and commit them to crowd-sourcing activities on Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere.

Given the complexities and contradictions involved in negotiating between industry and audience interests, we will ask the game designers to explain their philosophy about the intended and unintended outcomes of their fan interfaces. Marketers clearly love it when fans become willing billboards for the brand either by wearing logo T-shirts or by dressing a favorite Madman avatar in the 1960s clothing, accessories and backgrounds on display on the "Madmen Yourself" and then spreading the content through Facebook and Twitter.

What is the design philosophy behind a video game like Spore, which allows fans free range to create their own creatures and worlds but then limits their rights over this digital content? Who owns these virtual creations once they appear for sale on E-bay? These and other intriguing questions will be posed to the creative individuals responsible for designing many of these imaginative and engaging fan interfaces.

Moderator: Denise Mann
Panelists include:

  • Matt Wolf, Double 2.0, ARG/Game Designer

  • Avi Santos, Assistant Professor, Dominican College and Co-editor, and In Media

5:00--6:50 PM
Panel 4: "It's About Time!" Structuring Transmedia Narratives

The rules for how to structure a Hollywood movie were established more than a century ago and even then, were inspired by ideas from earlier media -- the four-act structure of theater, the hero's quest in mythology. Yet, audiences and creators alike are still trying to make sense of how to fit together the chunks of a transmedia narrative. Industry insiders use terms such as mythology or saga to describe stories which may expand across many different epochs, involve many generations of characters, expand across many different corners of the fictional world, and explore a range of different goals and missions.

We might think of such stories as hyperserials, in so far as serials involved the chunking and dispersal of narrative information into compelling units. The old style serials on film and television expanded in time; these new style serials also expand across media platforms.

So, how do the creators of these stories handle challenges of exposition and plot development, managing the audience's attention so that they have the pieces they need to put together the puzzle? What principles do they use to indicate which chunks of a franchise are connected to each other and which represent different moments in the imaginary history they are recounting? Do certain genres -- science fiction and fantasy -- embrace this expansive understanding of story time, while others seem to require something closer to the Aristoltelian unities of time and space?

Moderator: Henry Jenkins
Panelists include:

  • Caitlin Burns, Transmedia Producer, Starlight Runner Entertainment

  • Abigail DeKosnik, Assistant Professor, University of California-Berkeley (Co-Editor, The Survival of the Soap Opera: Strategies for a New Media Era; Illegitimate Media: Discourse and Censorship of Digital Remix)

  • Jane Espensen, Writer/Producer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica, Torchwood.

  • John Platt, Co-Executive Producer, Big Brother, The Surreal Life

  • Tracey Robertson, Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder, Hoodlum

  • Lance Weiler, Founder, Wordbook Project

  • Justin Wyatt, Executive Director, Research at at NBCUniversal, Inc (High Concept: Movies and Marketing in Hollywood).

7:00 PM
Lobby, James Bridges Theater

James Bridges Theater, UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television

Tickets are $5 for faculty and students of accredited institutions and will only be sold at the box-office of the UCLA Central Ticket Office and at the door on the day of the event (prior registration required). Valid university I.D. is required. Registration includes admission to conference and reception.

General Public:
Tickets for the general public are $30. Registration includes admission to conference and reception. Please register:

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UCLA Producers Program
UCLA Department of Film, Television, and Digital Media
203 East Melnitz
Los Angeles, CA 90095
Phone: (310) 206-3761
Fax: (310) 825-3383

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