It feels as though Henry Jenkins observations on the potential for participatory, collaborative and convergent media has never been truer. The entertainment properties I find interesting have a life beyond any narrowly defined medium, in fact reaching out into the other media to develop a story gives the work nuance and richness and, of course, further emotional investment from me.
Anyone wishing to create or publish anything now has an eye to other media as an outlet. Naturally, as Jenkins suggests, this has led to not just telling stories through a transmedia experience, but to marketing these brands as worlds to be explored. The Blair Witch Project did this, famously, extremely effectively.
The mainstream media industries were always aware that new audiences could be developed by reaching out to them in a comic book for example after a film success. The decision to develop and fund entirely new content in order to grow an audience and keep them engaged is relatively recent marketing decision; showing that consumer behaviour analysis and an attempt to understand the deeper motivations behind consumer decision making is being taken more seriously. Jenkins terms this ‘affective economics’.
Ubisoft , no small industry player, released Watch_Dogs, an open world action game, in 2013. The protaganist that we were to identify with was Aiden Pearce, a vigilante who spent his time hacking into the city’s Central Operating System (CTOS). To market this game BETC Paris created Watch Dogs WeareData experiential website revealing a 3D interactive map in which we could explore the cities of London, Paris and Berlin the website through the visualisation of publicly available data, reading people’s live tweets, watching the metro go from station to station, looking through instagram posts. A person could lose themselves for hours in this ground-breaking piece of content that was arguably more interesting than the game it was marketing. And you could join in, adding your own data to this live stream.
More recently Faber & Faber published Capital, by John Lanchester, a story of post-crash London. To market this book Storythings created Pepys Road which tells the story of the ten years leading up to the world described by Lanchester. Over the course of ten days, they send emails asking questions about your attitudes to various public policies and send you ten new mini-stories written by John Lanchester. These stories reveal a period of public sector cuts and economic upheaval in which we become a part. James Bridle‘s data illustrations position your data within the rest of the accessible live data. Storythings have created ways to tell mini-stories about the decisions both you and the rest of their audience make.
Both marketing activities make use of our own digital shadow, created by our hyper-connected lives, to situate us within these created worlds, these branded worlds. This however doesn’t feel intrusive rather it feels intuitive, captivating and above all interesting. For me the most interesting thing about big data is when it contextualizes our small data, our personal data. We relate to stories and brands when they feel like they have a place in our lives. More and more we are asked to imagine ourselves in these branded worlds, it is a forward-thinking marketing approach, but how much easier is it to do so when we see how we are connected to these worlds and others in them? And how interesting it is when our data is seen through a different lens, one in which we are adventurers, or spies or hackers, or inhabitants of Capital. Media convergence and accessible data streams allow us to inhabit these other worlds easily and convincingly.
We are ourselves and not at the same moment. perfect.