A Literacy of the Imagination

a deeper look at innovation through the lenses of media, technology, venture investment and hyperculture

Power to the People: How We Will Control the Future of Media #remix #remediation #storytelling #context #brands

It’s intriguing, and often confounding, to witness the progression of convergence culture in terms of how media objects and stories can flourish.

Storytelling, as both a practice and an artform, is literally changing its own face as accessibility to digital tools and channels becomes the new delivery system. Further, networks of people are superseding the more traditional forms of content delivery at a breakneck pace. The YouTube phenomenon, for one, has culminated in audience participation whereby people not only interact with stories, but they actually become a part of the narrative -- Ridley Scott’s “Life in a Day” is a more passive example, but the implications are enormous.

Frank Rose’s concept of “deep media” - beautifully discussed in his book The Art of Immersion - is a great, sweeping commentary on how we, as media, are faced with wondrous challenges and opportunities to tell stories. You can listen to Mitch Joel's recent podcast with Frank Rose here.

It made me think about where our media future lies within the storytelling paradigm; on one side is an old, established system that enforces boundaries between people and the media they consume (studios, TV networks, publishers, etc.), and on the other side is emergent web territory where the lines are blurring between games, consoles, entertainment, books, brands, fiction, reality and audiences.

Where do we meet in the middle? Is there a middle? Is there a beginning or an end?

What we do know is that the possibilities are now knocking loudly at our door, and this has little if anything to do with designations like “traditional” or “digital”, at least not when it comes to telling stories.

Remediation – the idea that visual media achieve their cultural significance precisely by paying homage to, rivaling, and refashioning such earlier media as perspective painting, photography, film, and television – is a concept that was introduced by Jay David Boulter and Richard Grusin in 2000, and in part, has served as the basis for other groundbreaking commentaries from the likes of Lawrence Lessig and Patricia Aufderheide around rights management and making copyright work for artists of all types.

What does this mean? It means that the damn is breaking whether the entertainment studios and TV networks like it or not. Here is one of my favorite remediation pieces from 2008, a one-minute story of “Romeo & Juliet”.

This also means that content is no longer king, context is.

If you consider that we can now deliver content to large audiences – or a tail of niche audience segments – then context (and more pointedly, relevance) is the driver for interaction and participation. Brands, as the buyers and owners of media, have a unique opportunity to facilitate the movements of people all over the world who are ready to tell and make stories. And who provides that context? We do.

Here is how Nike might activate us to tell a story about or related to the brand. Note that “branded content” doesn’t have to be directly about brands or products, rather what those brands, products and associated themes can mean to culture at large.

First, conversations are indexed based on common interests or affinities.

Power to the People: How We Will Control the Future of Media #remix #remediation #storytelling #context #brands

[© ThinkState; designer @GavinKeech]

These conversations then produce identifiable patterns and clusters of reorganized data, or fractals.

Power to the People: How We Will Control the Future of Media #remix #remediation #storytelling #context #brands

[© ThinkState; designer @GavinKeech]

Visual media in the form of pictures, videos, films, music and other assets are then aligned with those fractals.

Power to the People: How We Will Control the Future of Media #remix #remediation #storytelling #context #brands

[© ThinkState; designer @GavinKeech]

Using online storymaking and editing tools, the media is then remixed according to user preferences and affinities; these renditions of story can be consensus-based, or more personal, but the context for these stories emerges through participatory narrative.

Power to the People: How We Will Control the Future of Media #remix #remediation #storytelling #context #brands

[© ThinkState; designer @GavinKeech]

What do you see in your media future?  
How can we federate new standards for online publishing and cross-platform syndication?
How can we make better use of media and technology to tell better stories?