The Revenge of the Origami Unicorn: Seven Principles of Transmedia Storyteling – Lauren Sink

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In this article Henry Jenkins explores the different types of transmedia platforms, and how they differ from one another, are similar and how it impacts the audience overall. The first definition we are given is that of Transmedia Storytelling, which can be explained as parts of a piece of fiction that are scattered among many media platforms to create a seamless entertainment experience. From here there are two branches, Transmedia Narrative and Transmedia Branding. An extension of Transmedia Narrative for example would be a book such as Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, where one specific character from Star Wars is closely examined and is given a backstory which explains why Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. Meanwhile a Star Wars snack would be classified as Transmedia Branding because it is not playing to the overall understanding of the storyline of the movies. Star Wars action figures can be viewed as Transmedia play and story, because they can be played with by children who can experience Star Wars in their own way, with the same general ideas of the movies.

From here, Jenkins contrasts two ideas, Spreadability and Drillability. Spreadability is defined as how the public actively engages in circulating media through social sites and networks. While Drillability reaches far less people than Spreadability, but delves much deeper into the storyline and characters. Drillability seems to be more for the diehard fans, while Spreadability is more for the public who have a general interest in the topic. Another comparison Jenkins brings up are the ideas of Continuity and Multiplicity. Continuity is when the characters of a certain world more or less stay the same throughout different movies and platforms, for example Spider-Man always has a blue and red costume. Multiplicity is where the audience is given the option of other alternative versions of particular characters and stories. An example of this would be Spider-Man India and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane.

Some examples of these ideas that came to my mind was Harry Potter. The Harry Potter series were originally books, the first of the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (Sorcerer’s) Stone was published in 1997, and the movie adaptation was released in 2001. From here countless numbers of merchandise was released including; video games, toys, action figures, clothing, jewelry, decorations and many many other souvenirs. There have been pop up museums that travel around that have the actual artifacts from these beloved movies, various plays that people have written and performed at small theaters and books written by J.K. Rowling that were mentioned in the Harry Potter books. Some of these books include; The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Quidditch through the Ages, and Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them. In 2007, Universal Orlando Florida announced that they would be opening a new area to Islands of Adventure, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Here, guests would be able to experience what it would feel like to be walking down the streets of Hogsmede, and even what the Hogwarts Castle looks like in real life. It includes a ride inside the castle, two rollercoasters, shops, decorated windows and storefronts, and The Three Broomsticks where guests are able to have food that would be served at the pub from the books and movies. More recently they have expanded this area, including an actual Hogwarts Express that takes you back and forth from Hogsmede to the new area of Diagon Alley. These are some examples of how audiences now want so much of a particular topic, and how they are being given what they want. By theme parks, more books, websites and merchandise fans are able to experience so much of the different worlds that they love.

 

Vitural Reality: Exploration and how it is used – Robert Kellett

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VR technology is something that is getting more and more expanded as the generation goes on. From more VR headsets coming into creation too media making works themed around the technology, its important to explore this and see how this can be tied to interactive fiction.

The media has explored the impact of VR technology in a few ways, but one that springs into my mind is an anime series called ‘Sword Art Online’. The premise behind the anime is that VR technology has advanced so much, at Massively Multiplayer Online games using the technology can be created, fully investing and pulling in people into fantasy worlds. People got a game called ‘Sword Art Online’ during its launch and learn that they cannot log out; they are trapped in this VR world.

The worse part is that if they die, they die in real life as well, making what was originally a fun VR adventure into another reality players have to fight through to come back to reality. The anime as a whole is honestly weak, as its representation of gender could be a lot better and the entire second half of season one squanders what made the premise interesting in the first place. But the messages the show touches on are important to consider when it comes to VR technology.

It shows the technology’s risk, a situation that happens in SAO could happen in real life or something similar to that could happen. It also shows how VR tech can stimulate reality; the characters interact with objects in the world like real things (food tastes like food, weapons/items have weight to them, they can feel pain, ect) and it has the interactive element that happens in real life (people meeting and talking to each other, forming relationships, ect). The show is one I personally enjoy despite its many issues and is a good show-case for VR in terms of its impact and potential.

Other anime explores VR technology too; .Hack has a similar set-up to SAO and Log Horizon takes SAO’s concept but adds more thought into it.

Regarding how VR is used in real life, the technology has had a lot of growth. Microsoft is making a device called the HoloLense, which is a head-set you put on and can see holograms around you. At E3 2015, they demonstrated this by having someone play a game of Minecraft using the technology, with the world being in complete control of the player using the HoloLenses. They could pull parts of the world out, make markers the other player can go too, and even zoom in and out of the world by stretching/pulling it. The issue with HoloLense is how limited its vision-area is; only a small box people wearing the headset could see but Microsoft is expanding on the technology. Link to Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETzQWXuKQZQ

Another VR headset is Oculus Rift, a headset that was one of the first ones to come to marker (even having a Kickstarter that many backers pledged too). It is dependent on a powerful PC to use the technology but it adds to any game a person uses it with; First Person games are the devices strongest suit, as it effectively ‘puts you’ into the game world. Link to a demo of the technology: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GA1dSJ3j-9o

Lastly, Sony is making a VR headset of their own, called PS VR. This is coming out sometime in 2016 and Sony is investing in the technology with their own studios making games for the tech and having many developmental partners making software/ensuring existing software by them works with it. Link to Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cw6x80Qdzak

What makes VR so interesting is how it can suck you into the games world. First Person games like The Parable of Stanley, Gone Home, the upcoming No Mans Sky and many others benefit from VR tech and can pull you into the worlds the technology creates.

 

 

The Three Little Pigs Online

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Vinny fortunato

 

The Three Little Pigs Online

http://www.education.com/games/three-little-pigs/

 

Print Textual artifacts can be found all over the web.  Books ranging from the Bible to horrors, to children’s nursery rhymes can be found with interactive based principles.  Here is a prime example of teaching young kids how to read with the help from new media and technology.  The Three Little Pigs Online is a web game that aids young children to read and learn a new story.  What better way than to implement this new media form and educate students in the process.

With interesting features such as the ability for the computer to read the story to the student, or for the reader to read the story by themselves, the options can help struggling students who are behind with reading.  Sound effects are introduced when the characters on the page start to move.  In a way, this is like an online cartoon in which the reader is not only learning, but entertained in the process.

I find this type of learning extremely helpful, especially with a younger audience.  This goes to show that Textual artifacts can be used not only for fan fictional purposes, but educational as well.  Teachers are able to post any story on this website and create their own interactive game/story.  There are a number of stories on this website already such as Reading stories, math stories, and science stories.  There is a demand for learning, and if you can learn the basic fundamentals of each subject just by visiting one website, then it’s definitely worth it.  The three Little Pigs online is the future of reading.  It is the future of online fiction.  Subcultures can be created in the process, leading to a growing popularity in this type of media.

Henry Jenkins and The Matrix

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Vinny Fortunato

Origami Unicorns

 

Convergence culture is the process where old and new media interact.  New forms of media such as corporate media, collide with grassroots media.  Consumer and producer interact in ways that seem inconceivable.  Henry Jenkins discusses The Matrix movie as an example of this convergence culture.  To it, new fans have emerged and new movies, TV shows, and stories have been made as a result of this new convergence culture.

The story of the Matrix is told across multiple media platforms.  From movies, to video games, to blogs, and to comics, this story is fully explored between all of these platforms.  The fact of the matter is each movie is connected in such a way that it is necessary to view all forms of media.

This concept of transmedia is very interesting because it gives corporations more forms of advertisement, not to mention the ability to reach out to a larger audience.  The only negative I would have to say about this is the concept of overexposure.  Countless times, especially the last decade, there have been flop after flop of movie sequels and sequels to books.  People can become frustrated trying to keep up with the concept to the point where hardcore fan boys will be the only ones left to please.  Access to media can also cause a problem as not everyone has the same access to all these forms.

In theory, this is a great idea.  We see it with many movies and T.V shows such as Paranormal Activity and Game of Thrones.  Fans come out in flocks to see what new material these producers can come up with.  However, we see how one can become a flop, where the other is a huge success.  Game of Thrones has been around for several years and continues to be a raging success.  There have been several video games, board games, and fan fiction articles made in response to the show.  Nevertheless, Paranormal Activity has slowly lost its swag and popularity.  Since the first movie was a raging success with box office numbers around 500 million, three sequels were developed in the span of just 5 years.  This is the pure definition of overexposure.

I believe that this form of convergence culture is necessary in today’s society.  Henry Jenkins makes a good point when he states media is changing all the time.  The simple fact is, convergence culture must exist in the society we live today.  Entertainment is not the same without certain series expanding on multiple platforms. Searching for the Origami Unicorn puts a lot of key factors into perspective.  The reader is now able to understand why movies, shows, and books are expanding.  At the end of the day, developers want to make more money, and fans want to be entertained.  Both aspects are accomplished with this culture.  This is why cult movies were formed, to create buzz about a particular cinematic universe and to expand its horizons.  No matter what, Convergence culture is here to stay.

Sopranos Home Movies

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Vinny Fortunato

 

Sopranos Home Movies

 

The Sopranos has been studied ever since its inception for its psychological advances in TV, for its cinematography, and for its complex characters.  Tony Soprano, played by James Gandolfini has stood the test of time, even after the actor’s tragic death last year.  After the shows unconventional ending, the audience was left wondering, was Tony dead or not.  Many fans have took to their computer screens to adapt alternate endings, as well as expand on unsolved plot points.

In one interesting example, a fan who goes by the username of Mayhempoetry, has made several chapters that add on to the Sopranos Saga.  In one chapter, he examines the relationship between Tony and his Italian American Doctor Jennifer Melphi.  Fans who have watched the show will tell you that Tony has always wanted Jennifer, however, she has never advanced towards him.  In this chapter we find the crazy scenario where Jennifer is sleeping in Tony’s bed in his home.  Jennifer was no gomar as Italian mobsters would call their sexual relationships with women.  She was in fact another chance at making things right for Tony.

In an effort to keep the traditional dialogue, the author has Tony speak the way you would hear it on the TV screen. In a fascinating occurrence, after a brief argument over waking up, Tony apologizes to Jennifer, something that he rarely did in the show. This shows character growth in Tony.

The expanding subculture that is Fanfiction is quite evident here.  Even though the show has been over for 6 years, Fans have come in flocks to state their opinions of the show and have wanted to let their voices heard.  In a society that we live in today, this kind of subculture is in fact necessary.  No matter how popular the show is, we live in a transmedial generation.  Fans love it, and they won’t get wacked in the process.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/6491240/1/Anthony-Jennifer

Alexandra Weksler-Interactive Fiction

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The website, “http://adamcadre.ac/if.html”, is an interactive literature page we’ll be reviewing in class that offers different responsive games and forms of literature that place readers in the middle of the stories they select. The website defines interactive fiction as, “It works like this: you read the beginning a story, and then suddenly there’s an angle bracket and a blinking cursor. That means it’s your turn to type. For in interactive fiction (IF for short), you don’t just read the story — you get to shape it….. No — you’re not just picking from a menu, but can type anything you can think of.”

In one of it’s interactive text called, “Narcolepsy”, you are placed in the middle of the story as Primo Varciello, some one who tends the the up keeping of an palace. Throughout the text, you are given different tasks and are asked to build upon the information already given to you. It is this aspect that takes away from the idea that this website in geared more toward the activity of virtual worlds and games, but instead give people the power the expand on a particular aspects of the story. While the reader is not the creator of the plot, the website gives the visitor to opportunity to shape what comes after each action they type and directly affect what comes next and the type of character attributes the main character will possess. Overall, it really surprised that a concept this innovative was introduced in the 90s, as I always believed that text in an online forum played more of a role in today’s society. However, it is in the last twenty to thirty years that this concept was built upon and continues to grow.

Literary fiction born online: “Beneath Floes”

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For this particular blog entry, I intended to present a piece of hypertext fiction called “The Domovoi“—a very haunting, almost mystical tale based on a figure that appears throughout traditional Slavic folklore. However, when I went to find the story, I was excited to see that Bravemule (aka Kevin Snow) had written a new piece earlier this year: “Beneath Floes.” This piece really resonated with me in the context of everything we’ve been discussing in class. I really hope you guys like it. (If you’re interested, I also highly recommend checking out “The Domovoi” anyway, especially if you’re as big a fan of folk stories and mythology as I am.)

Beneath Floes” is another tale steeped in folklore, but that of the Inuit culture. It’s very beautiful, and very creepy—almost like a chilling dream that never quite crosses the threshold into full-fledged nightmare. Danger is always lurking somewhere beneath the surface (literally), but even though a very real sense of dread pervades the story, I—my protagonist—always felt more curious and intrigued than scared. (The danger does eventually reveal itself, and there is one particular moment of explicit violence, but the horror aspect still stays much more uncanny than savage.) Based on the hypertext fiction I’ve read in and out of class, it seems like the inclusion of sound can sometimes have an adverse effect on the experience, but here, I think the music and the soundscape adds a lot to the story, and effectively creates an eerie sense of space. The Inuit culture is central to the narrative, and I think the way Bravemule handles this material heightens the immersive quality of the piece; everything that relies on cultural context is presented in a way that is clear enough for an outsider to understand, but subtle enough not to be distracting. (I had mixed feelings about looking up words like qalupalik, amauti, kiviuq, and qallunaat after I had completed the story; I thought that maybe this would break the fairytale-like spell the story had over me, and that maybe some of its power lies in the mystery…but my curiosity won out.)

I thought this piece presented many, many similarities with Kitty Horrowshow’s “Pretty Girl,” the most striking of which is a self-critique of the nature of storytelling veiled in a supernatural/horror cloak. (There’s also the presence of a simultaneously murderous and nurturing female with wild hair and talons, but I digress.) Like we talked about in class, calling a piece of fiction “interactive” implies that there is already a framework in place, and brings up questions of the user’s agency and control over the narrative. Admittedly, in “Beneath Floes,” not much is really in our control: we only get to change small details that are incidental to the plot. However, I don’t believe that these small choices were arbitrarily selected by Bravemule; their net effect was too compelling to have been random. Even though my brain acknowledged that the plot of “Beneath Floes” was technically locked in place, I still felt like I was creating my own atmosphere and character on an emotional, primal level. I instinctively invoked the indigenous Inuit hero rather than Superman for comfort because it felt right, and I yearned for bravery rather than strength. My qalupalik emerged from beneath the ice with my own unique flourishes, and I actually did feel “an uncertain connection with her.” My red moon loomed over me throughout the entire story, bathing the Arctic in the color of blood. (“Ominous,” the narrator assured me. “That’ll work well with the story. Okay, settle in and listen.” And I did.) I thought it was extremely effective that the choices were interwoven throughout the text so seamlessly; I never had the feeling that I was progressing along a tree of choices, with A branching to  either A1, A2, or B, and so on. (I was also able to find two similar but distinct endings. I never did quite figure out the effect of changing the initial date from 1883 to 1884, if any exists.)

“Pretty Girl” seems to be primarily concerned with elements of more modern storytelling, specifically those of interactive texts and ergodic literature. However, at its core, I believe that “Beneath Floes” is about an oral storytelling tradition. It raises questions about the performative aspects of storytelling, and wonders about things that are lost during the translation from one medium into another. The words themselves are presented to us rhythmically, emulating how a storyteller might deliver the tale, mimicking the beats and pauses of words recited out loud. We are told an old myth that has only survived due to the academic interest of an unnamed anthropologist, but we are also made sure to understand that this adaptation is a shade of the original, at best. The second-person point of view in “Pretty Girl” felt simultaneously authoritarian and confining, but here, it’s more nuanced; it’s almost as if the narrator is allowing you to insert yourself into an ancient myth that is destined—doomed?—to keep repeating itself. The narrator—whom I personally internalized as an older female—really includes you in the telling of her tale, even to the point of questioning your choices. “This story is about you, but these are not your experiences,” she begins. “Still, I want to hear your voice.” She presents me with my first choice, seemingly innocuous, and actually seems to anticipate my hesitation. “Don’t worry,” she encourages, “there are no bad choices here.” Stories warp and shift as they’re passed on and retold to different people across generations; our protagonist’s mother has even adapted her bedtime story over the years, including more and more details about the qalupalik. (And how interesting: her choice to initially omit more specific details wasn’t for fear of scaring a small child, but because she would rather leave “such details…for [us] to envision—why infringe upon your young imagination?”) We are told the version of the hunting dog myth that the narrator concedes is incomplete, details having been lost ages ago, telling us that “when we hear this story, we have to breathe into it our own modern fears and loneliness.” Are we meant to do the same as users of interactive fiction?

Even though “Beneath Floes” lacks the explicit, violent terror of “Pretty Girl,” this is not just an innocent quest into the nature of stories. There is always that sinister undercurrent common to all fairy tales, and there are constant nagging reminders that we are not safe. In this context, the fact that we, as users, do not have much control over the narrative isn’t an authorial or programming flaw at all. It actually makes perfect sense: we users don’t have as much power as we think we do, and neither do our protagonists. The narrator’s original assertion that there are no bad choices doesn’t seem so encouraging anymore. Perhaps it was meant as a more melancholy reflection. Perhaps it was a warning, of sorts. Perhaps it was simply a grim statement of fact. We haven’t heard the ancient story of the hunting dogs, as its performer is long-forgotten, and the story has been diluted both by time and the written word. Perhaps things could have been different for us…but they won’t be.

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(I also think it’s worth pointing out that Bravemule launched a Kickstarter campaign not for the project itself, but in order to collaborate with an Nunavut-based game studio called Pinnguaq. The piece had already been completed/published, but they wanted to facilitate a translation from English into Inuktitut, so that the culture depicted in the story could enjoy the tale based on their traditions. The mission statement says, “Beneath Floes is set on Baffin Island and centered around Inuit history, so we consider it important that the story be available to play in the indigenous language of the eastern Arctic.” As a gamer, language localization of various media (particularly video games) is extremely interesting and important to me, especially because localization is a much trickier progress than translation alone. Apparently, Bravemule and Pinnguaq spent a long time trying to involve the many dialects of Inuktitut in its localization in order to make it as genuine as possible. I thought that was an incredibly noble endeavor.)