The Transmedia Beat

As some of you might have noticed, I published”One Year in Transmedia” a couple of weeks ago, a curation of this blogcombined with a number of interviews with some really intelligent and creativepeople in the field of transmedia. In one of the answers – ”What instrument doyou see yourself playing in the transmedia orchestra?” – Andrea Phillips wrotesomething that got me thinking. She answered:

[…]I’d say percussion. I’m the inexorabledrumbeat that keeps each section on time and coordinated as the symphony playsout. With no beat, the rest of it kind of falls apart, doesn’t it? And even inplaces where there is no drumming, the section is still an invisible presenceas the rhythm keeping time in your head. That’s me!

This feels very true to me. If you talk about transmedia, oneof the most interesting challenges is how to engage the audience in whateveryou are trying to offer them, and once engaged, how to keep them engaged. Inthis, the “beat” that Andrea describes above feels absolutely crucial. Talkingabout rhythm it all makes even more sense:

Rhythm – Rhythm is made up of sounds and silences. These sound and silencesare put together to form patterns of sounds which are repeated to create arhythm. A rhythm has a steady beat, but it may also have different kinds ofbeats.

So you have the sounds of your transmediaproperty – the videos, the web sites, the blogs, the social media output and soon – developed and produced and distributed in order to catch the imaginationof your target audience and hook them to your story and your content. Then youhave the silences of your property. Some might call them ”sandboxes”, some”cheese holes”; they’re the parts of your story and your content that simplyare not there yet.

If you’ve designed your property and storywell and hooked your audience, this is where they engage themselves to contribute,create and communicate. It doesn’t matter if it’s an ARG or a treasure huntonline, if it’s contributing to a book or a graphic novel or if it’s somethingcompletely different. These silences are where you give your audience twosticks and a drum, and ask them to keep the beat going. It’s a possibility tobe genuinely amazed by the skill and the devotion and the creativity of theones who engage themselves.

Personally I feel the studies of the art of composing andcreating for a number of instruments bear a lot of resemblance, at the veryleast on a philosophical level, to the work of a transmedia producer, creatorand storyteller. Just look at one of the definitions of the specific term”upbeat”:

Anunaccented beat or beats that occur before the first beat of thefollowing measure. In other words, this is an impulse in a measured rhythm that immediatelyprecedes, and hence anticipates, the downbeat. It can be the last beat ina bar wherethat bar precedes a new bar of music. 3. The upward stroke made by a conductor to indicate the beat that leadsinto a new measure.

Anyone else feel this is a good definition ofone of the transmedia conductor’s important tasks? The task to get everyone’sattention and point to what’s coming next, to make sure the orchestra plays insync and the audience stays onboard.

I think I’m going to study some more music 🙂.

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