This weekend, I was able to spend some personal time crafting a small but satisfying digital story.1 This project was a one-time endeavor that doesn’t readily fit any of the usual definitions. It’s not really an ARG,2 although it does contain some ARG elements. Technically it qualifies as a transmedia story since it connects with the audience via a website, social media and the telephone, but its scope is more akin to a haiku than a full story. And it contains elements of parody, although those elements are limited to a portion of one web page.
In my mind, what I created is an act of guerilla transmedia storytelling. Sort of a single freestanding act of street theater, but performed in a transmedia realm.
Like many people, I’ve played around the creative edges of nontraditional communication since I was a kid. In grade school, we played games using pay phones that allowed you to call them. Just before our high school graduation, we spray-painted the actual size floor plan for a proposed fine arts building on the parking lot where it was supposed to have been built.3 In college, we held staged and improv arguments in public spaces.4 In the mid 1990s, some of the first websites I built were for non-existent products5 or fictional historical events. But despite these examples, when it comes to communication, I’m far from the only one who occasionally decides to color outside the lines. (And I don’t rank myself among the most creative, most knowledgeable or most effective in that group.)
While Hollywood, digital advertising agencies, universities and others are busy codifying the concepts of transmedia communications and creating bigger and better transmedia properties, there will be others who are just following their artistic urges. After the very first commercial ARGs, we saw game-playing fans begin creating their own grass roots ARGs. We’re now beginning to see such grass roots creativity in other areas of transmedia communications. Meanwhile, the barriers to entry into the digital realm are low and trending down.
My advice? Watch the edges — that’s where the unexpected will arise and tomorrow’s Picassos and Hemingways will emerge.
Let me know what you think via the comments section below.
- If you’re interested in taking a look, here’s an entry point. [↩]
- Alternate Reality Game [↩]
- For four years, our class raised funds for the construction of that building and we were told we would be the first class to graduate from its auditorium. For the record, I graduated from high school in 1981. The first class that did graduate from a new building was the Class of 2005, and that new building was a fieldhouse instead of a fine arts building. [↩]
- In one case, a female friend and I pretended to be a couple, then had a loud “argument” in a video store where she accused me of sleeping with her sister. [↩]
- Think Whacky Packs. [↩]