By Adipat Virdi, Transmedia Producer, Transmediasphere, UK
Transmediasphere builds Multiplatform Storyworlds to create engagement between audience and content. We write, direct and build Transmedia experiences for film, TV, Games and Brands.
Let’s be clear… when it comes to the many conversations around concepts such as ‘multiplatform’, ‘Transmedia’, ‘Immersive’ – there is just one, simple fact that we are dealing with: audience’s behaviours are changing because they have more control over when, where and how they consume stories.
Storytelling has always been an important part of the educational development of children. They are not just modes of entertainment for the young mind but a space where learning of key concepts that can be applied throughout their lives can happen.
The technology available is now ubiquitous to the point that it is a part of their lives rather than an option. This means that audiences, especially younger ones, have more creative power and so, when developing ideas, we are no longer telling them stories but sharing with them through ‘connected dialogue’.
There is a real potential to create story environments for children to develop intellectually and, through more immersive and interactive engagement, to gain emotional intelligence from a much younger age. There are, however, implications!
Firstly, audiences are becoming content creators. As more choices become available there is a move towards being able to direct the story you are engaged with. This means that the move from linear delivery needs be less of a framework and more of an ecology. The stories depend on the imagination of the users and the outcomes have a need for shareability, so that anyone can come and play. Choice was always key but now it is about being able to choose the choices that can be made.
Secondly – we are in an industry that is about designing experiences for emotional engagement. This has always been the case but with the shift described above – this is needed in more detail and with more immediacy. If the experience you design is now more short form and interactive then there are various places where audiences can enter the storyworld and get involved. This means that we need to really grasp all the elements of the engagement process and be able to deliver emotional resonance at a heightened level.
This leads us onto the third and, arguably, the most important point: we need to be able to measure that emotional engagement in order to create more effective story experiences. With the explosion of the internet as a tool for creating and interacting with social media content – engaging audiences online is becoming more and more important for the entertainment industries. As social media becomes even more ubiquitous, there are ever more innovative ways of creating online content that utilize the increasing number of tools available.
A ‘tipping point’ is approaching where it is not just about creating generic online content but the identification of content that is ‘fit for purpose’ and this is becoming harder to identify.
Within the context of more ‘connected dialogues’, this, ever-evolving, new media landscape is starting to use these social media tools to create storyworlds and look for active user engagement that is generated and driven forward online. The notion of a ‘mainstream narrative experience’ is getting outdated and redefined from the passive, one-to-many interactions we are used to into a more interactive, many-to-many framework.
The point is that alongside the increased value, the fragmentation of the notion of ‘an experience’ puts more pieces of the puzzle in the hands of different user groups across various media landscapes. The key shift, therefore, is from a linear mode of interaction (as a facet of these experiences) to one where multiple touchpoints can form parts of an overarching interactive experience.
With the understanding that multiple platform engagement is not confined to the ‘online’ realm – it is becoming more urgent to look at how we can measure this for effective improvement and innovation within these narrative environments.
The key facet of measuring an experience could be said to be the emotional engagement of the user. Measuring the components of that experience can be done using the following approach:
1. Define the Area of Analysis (in this case – a treatment for a film to be read and a photostoryboard for a segment of the film)
2. Provide Key Words that are used for measurement (quality, characters, plot, tension, excitement…)
3. Define the Semiotic Framework of each word on a scale of -5 to +5, where each point on the scale has been defined for use in a focus group.
4. Clarify Key Points for Analysis where the measurement can take place (at each scene of the treatment, for instance).
5. Aggregate results to Create a Map of the responses.
The results show the emotive response to the story.
All of these responses can be collated for the various elements of the story, which could include character, story, theme, etc., to provide a Semantic Web of results that helps to look at how the story works (from an emotional engagement pov) and where it could be improved. The purpose, at this stage, is to have an overview response to a story and the characters in development. The results can then be collated and applied to a treatment and script (via a photostoryboard and voiceover dialogue).
The question still remains as to how to aggregate this thinking to provide a toolkit for experience measurement across a whole interactive storyworld experience. The answer is the definition of Key Performance Indicators that can be used alongside the semantic differential scale and used as a way of mapping the experience at design and throughout the development stage. Using KPIs in the measurement of engagement is a recent development and their use will continue to evolve with improved understanding of the changing nature of audience behaviours.
In summary, the process outlined can provide:
1. Awareness of how the experience is working (in concept or post-initial design)
2. Effective design (or redesign) of the elements of the experience.
3. Implementation of the renewed strategy to take into account experience measurement data.
The results can then be visualized in an Experience Scope that acts as a ‘barometer’ to take the temperature of any part of the experience at any given point.
Within the ‘Scope’ is the identification of aggregated data from user focus groups to create a picture of how that stage or section is being experienced and, therefore, create more effective ‘connected dialogues’ with an ever-evolving audience.
When looking at this through the eyes of children – to be able to play and learn more about themselves in a more effective and purposeful way will allow the changing landscape of storytelling to serve a real and more socially resonant purpose.