From Transmedia Storytelling to Transmedia Activism

Hi Digital Diary Followers

With the recent launch online interactive fan experience The Capitol Tour it is easy to see how the Hunger Games falls into the category of Transmedia Storytelling. Starting with the success of book trilogy we have seen The Hunger Games empire grow across media channels spanning into four movies, the online experience, mobile applications and Facebook games.

However it seems that Transmedia Storytelling has also given way to a grassroots movement coined Transmedia Activism. Jenkins describes Transmedia activism as the effort to promote social change, like Transmedia storytelling, by sharing media messages across multiple platforms. Activist fan organizations tap into the myth-making capacity of transmedia franchises to motivate social and political change.

Sticking with the theme of The Hunger Games this grassroots style of activism was seen when the movie was released last year. Oxfam America used hundred of volunteers from the Imagine Better Project to blanket movie theatres during the opening weekend to promote the campaign “Hunger Is Not a Game” which sought to battle world hunger. Using the hype around opening of a new transmedia channel the organisation attempted to make a change explains Vicky Rateau who was the manager of the campaign (Dylan Stableford, 2012).

It is not the first time transmedia storytelling has been used to attempt to promote social change. In 2007 a similar campaign was launched known as The Harry Potter Alliance which used parallels from the book to alert people about the effects of global warming, poverty and genocide (Dylan Stableford, 2012). Looking on the Imagine Better website it states It is a place where we take all of the stories and communities that excite us and turn them into fuel for a better world” (Imagine Better Project).

However it seems these heart-warming stories of social change do not have a happy ending again due to this idea of conglomerate control. After the launch of the Hunger Is Not a Game campaign it did not take long for Lionsgate to ask Imagine Better to remove all references to the movie and threaten to take down the site due to copyright (Steven Zeitchik, 2012). A spokesperson also stated that the campaign came into conflict with deals that the studio made with other anti-hunger groups (Steven Zeitchik, 2012).

Evan Dehavan of Ignition Interative sum up the idea well when he states “we want to bring things to life and allow people to tell stories through technology rather than telling people to live within these boxes and these rules while they’re making something. Now we’re just looking forward to fans and the world seeing what we’ve created.”

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A Reflective Perspective

Looking back over my past five blog posts it’s interesting to reflect on what I’ve learnt about the media. I think we are all guilty, myself included, of readily accepting assumptions when it comes to the media today. Taking a nuanced approach to the topics each week allowed for me to think of the role of the media in a new light.

The theories aligned with blog posts one and two I believe played the biggest role in changing my beliefs about the media. It was really fascinating to have to take step back, push all my assumptions away and think about what was actually wrong with the media effects model. It taught me not to accept everything at face value i.e. such as the idea that violent video games cause violent people and that the media isn’t always “the bad guy” when it comes to the role it plays in society. It was also interesting to see the media’s role in influencing audiences in terms of advertisement. One concept that I particularly found fascinating was the idea that we never see an image rather a representation of an image which was filled with messages that the media wanted us to consume. By using a real life example this confirmed my belief about the role of the media in the persuasion of the audience.

By reviewing other peers’ blogs it also was interesting to see how different people reacted to different theories and ideas. As students we were all consuming the same information however all coming up with varying views. Reading differing responses shaped my view to the role of the media. The greatest example of this was courtneyshalavin‘s post about media control. Instead of looking at media control in terms of the conglomerates she looked at how the audiences shaped media control. I had never even thought to think of the topic media control from this perspective and it was interesting to see how a students perspective on what she believed the role of the media was.

Overall I think that these blog posts have helped to confirm that the media is closely intertwined with society and have a very large impact on the way that we live our lives.

Honey Boo Boo in the Mediated Sphere

Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. The reality television show which follows the life of the southern, overweight, seven year old sassy pageant star Alana Thompson. Do I need to say much more? Being a self confessed follower of the show it is easy to understand how the show can lead to mass debate within the mediated public sphere.

Exploitation of children is the under riding call of debate within the mediated public sphere. Christopher Zara, 2012 in his article argues that children like Alana are far too young to give “informed consent” when entering reality television and the consequence of thrusting a seven year old into the national spotlight has overseen a volatile mix of inflated ego and diminished boundaries. Another issue, which draws debate in the mediated public sphere, is Alana and her families “pleasantly plump” state. It is fair to say the show promotes behaviours that lead to obesity particularly seen in Alana’s class one-liners: “I wish I had an extra finger, then I could grab more cheeseballs.” (Alanna Thompson). Jane Valez Mitchell expresses in an interview “When I see this I become outraged because we have an obesity crisis in the country. It is codependent enabling. It’s an outrage”.

The show has even led to debate on quite surprising topics such as poverty. “The show gives viewers unfettered glimpses of lives lived near the poverty line” (Jamshid Ghazi Askar, 2013) and has called for question in the mediated sphere whether viewers respect or ridicule of the poor by watching this show. On one hand the show has been described as a solution that soothes the aches and pains of busy lives” because the show is a form of entertainment that is approachable, fun loving and light (Jeremy Wo, 2012) but on the other, it has been used by viewers as a way to make themselves feel better by comparison (celebuzz, 2012).

An example of Honey Boo Boo in the mediated public sphere is the popular YouTube series Kids React. The children were asked to watch a number of clips from the show and then asked to give their opinions on issues that had been identified with the show.

So it seems although Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is an example of modern day “trashy television” there are a number of serious issues which can be derived and debated in the mediated public sphere.

Slack Audiences on Active Issues

Thinking about the idea of the audience it drew my attention back to an example I briefly touched on in one of my initial posts – YouTube’s CTFxCinemea run by Alli. Alli Trippy is an example of a user who is participating in the dialogical context. Alli basically reviews movies each week however she calls on her audience to be a part of her experience.

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Not only does Alli give her own opinions about the movies within her videos however she also features her users video responses. Alli seemingly generates a massed conversation on her channel and facilitates the sharing of content and opinions with anyone being able to contribute and participate.

The channel Alli, which is responsible for CTFxCineama, is also tied to other channels including charlestrippy and CTFxC. Alli and her husband Charles have quite untraditionally become popular media personalities through dialogic media with CTFxC alone entertaining almost 700,000 subscribers with over 340,000,000 video views. Alli and Charles are an example of how the new prosumers are using the media in extraordinary ways.

However due to the rise of the prosumer, the many individual perspectives and the ease to which these perspective can be voiced it can result in the message losing it’s meaning.  This can been seen through the idea of Slacktivism.

“Slativism is like a first kiss, you can’t make a baby by kissing just like you can’t end poverty or elect a president or gain civil rights by joining a Facebook group or tweeting or forwarding an SMS” (Mary Joyce, 2011).

A most recent example of Slacktivism is people posting red equals signs to social networking sites in favour of gay marriage. The photo, which been reported to have been uploaded more than 2.7 million times to Facebook, (The Oracle, 2013) coincides with the Supreme Court beginning hearings on Proposition 8 and the Defence of Marriage Act in Washington. The photo however clearly means little in regards to an individual’s commitment to working toward equal rights and can be seen as casting false positive light. (The Oracle, 2013). The red equals sign has also immediately fallen into the Internet memes sensation showing the desensitization of the issue of homosexual rights because of this campaign.

This example demonstrates that the role of the seemingly active audience is having a very passive effect on current issues within society. However empowerment of the audience has also had some seemingly very interesting impacts on the way society works and how the audience uses their meaning to convey their messages.

Media Control

Hey Digital Diary Followers

Most of the media has been absorbed by large conglomerates, ‘families’ or chains (Meier). Looking at the media I consume it is very easy to trace it back to two or three major companies. The Walt Disney Company funnily enough owns one of my personal favourite shows – Revenge. The notion that there are only a handful of companies controlling our media raises some interesting questions on the issue of control and the impact that conglomerates have on consumers.

Meier states the global merging of the media industry and traditional corporate power encourages the spread of certain values often creating a conservative, “common sense” view of the world. This can be seen in the case of Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation’s perspective on homosexuality. It has been noted that the company has often taken a very conservative approach in regards to issues dealing with homosexuality. Distribution channels such as Fox news have made links to homosexuality and pedophilia and the New York Post has been seen as a reliable source of anti-LGBT material and has been associated with being “virulently homophobic” (Mohammad, 2011).

These values in regards to homosexuality can be rooted in Murdoch’s ideological position on the case:

“I believe it is wrong. I’m considered homophobic but I think that the family – father, mother, children – is fundamental to our civilisation.” (Maza, 2011)

Because of Murdoch’s personal ideology the consumers of his companies media seem to be receiving a biased messages on homosexuality. This can in turn have very lasting effects on the consumers because they are valuing information, which comes from an individual’s perspective of the issue.

Another issue with control is when a company raises concerns about corporate greed. Although we know News Corporations perspective on homosexuality it didn’t “apparently hate the gays enough to not make a buck off them” (Mohammad, 2011).  In 2011 New Corporation published Wedding Pride – a magazine aimed at catering to newlywed gay and lesbian couples in New York where advertisers were making up to $5,400 for first page advertisement (Maza, 2011). This example raised the question for me should control be given to companies who are purely driven by the greed for money? It is important to ask why it matters who controls the media because ultimately it is the consumer who is affected by it the decisions made by corporations.