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: http://mitworld.mit.edu/video/813)
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."