Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tube Tuesday: Terrific Transmedia

Transmedia storytelling shares a narrative across multiple platforms, with each channel making a unique contribution to the story. Done well, transmedia content creates an immersive experience and brings characters to life in new ways. Occasionally, reading through a fictional Twitter account or Tumblr post, I find myself momentarily forgetting that these people are not, in fact, real. It's a wonderful, if fleeting, return to childhood.

I imagine it's a rush to have one of your favorite characters reply to you online too. I don't know personally because I have thus far been only a passive participant. I am what online community managers might call a "stalker" for the transmedia channels of my favorite webseries. I rarely create content or participate in discussions, but I read it voraciously. The cool thing about transmedia storytelling is it is as engaging for readers like me, as it is for artists, fan fic writers, and people who just enjoy chatting up fictional characters on their favorite social media platforms. That, and like the webseries themselves, it's hours of entertainment, accessible to anyone with an internet connection, and it's free. 

So, for today's Tube Tuesday, I'm sharing the transmedia storytelling techniques from some of my favorite webseries. The talented creative teams behind each of these examples took different approaches, but all of their content drew me deeper into the world of the show and made me feel connected to their characters' stories in a way that T.V. shows and movies alone rarely do.

The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy 

The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy is a modern adaptation of  J.M. Barrie's novel. The show takes place in Neverland, Ohio where Mr. Darling is the editor of the local newspaper, the Kensington Chronicle. The Chronicle also publishes an online edition for fans of the show to enjoy. In the series, the Darling siblings and Peter all work at the paper at one time or another, and their characters create content for the online edition too. 

Michael Darling currently provides hilarious advice through "Dear Darling," answering questions fans submitted on the Kensington Chronicle's website. 
The transmedia fun extends to Twitter too, where the characters have accounts and fans who want to participate in Neverlandia can register names, job titles, and Twitter handles on the Town Ledger.

Pemberley Digital  

Pemberley Digital (PD) made its appearance as William Darcy's company in the production company's first webseries, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. LBD was my first experience with transmedia storytelling. I will admit to creating a list of all the character's Twitter handles so I wouldn't miss anything. I also followed the eldest Bennet sister, Jane, on Pinterest because I really loved her clothes.

All of PD's webseries have incorporated some elements of transmedia storytelling, but I want to talk specifically about Welcome to Sanditon, the second series Pemberley produced loosely based on the unfinished story Sanditon by Jane Austen. 

The series was set in a fictional seaside town in California in the same world as LBD. The two series were connected through the main character - Darcy's sister, Gigi, and an imaginary piece of technology created by her brother's company called Domino. Think Skype but with a quick and easy interface to record conversations and upload videos. 

Fans were given the opportunity to "use Domino" to record and upload videos as town residents. Unfortunately, it seems that the Domino platform site is now defunct, so the videos are no longer available online, but highlights from user-submitted content is featured throughout the series. The FAQ provides a good overview as to how users could participate and how PD managed the community.

Classic Alice

Classic Alice is an original webseries about Alice Rackham, a college student and aspiring writer, who, after a bad grade on an assignment, decides to seek life experience and emotional growth by living her life according to a succession of classic novels.  Featured books include: Crime & Punishment, Pygmalion, A Christmas Carol, and Macbeth, among others. 

There is a lot of transmedia content for this series and I haven't been following all of it. As soon as I discovered (and instantly fell in love with) Classic Alice, (because I am a #booknerd) I immediately followed the characters on Twitter. I also pop by the website now and again to catch-up on any narrative I might have missed, which the creators kindly archive via a useful social media curating tool called Storify. During a story arc about Alice facing off with a real jerk for a contentious student election, I started following Alice's University, Valeton, on Twitter and checked out the student paper's Tumblr to see how fictional student journalists were covering it.

The fictional Valeton University website.
What I have not done yet (and wish I had/ so now I probably will) is listen to the two derivative podcasts
  • Pens v. Lens where Alice and her love interest, Andrew, sit down and chat about some of their favorite stories as they're told through literature and film. 
  • This Proof is Treble where Alice's BFF Cara, a music major, shares some of her favorite tunes, centered around a theme. 
The creators have also developed a Valeton University website, which I hadn't spent any time on until I started working on this post. The look and feel of the site is certainly close to the university websites I remember from my college days, but the student forums, while an interesting concept, don't seem to see much engagement.

Kissing in the Rain and the Fan-Canon Experience

Kissing in the Rain (KitR) is an original two-part series produced by Shipwrecked, the team that created A Tell-Tale Vlog, starring a darkly deadpan and unintentionally humorous Edgar Allen Poe.

KitR chronicles the stories of two actor couples falling in love as they star opposite one another in project after project, Lily and James and Audrey and Henry. Like Sanditon and New Adventures, KitR encouraged fans to creatively contribute to the show through what the creators dubbed The Fan Canon Experience. After each week's episode, fan's took to Tumblr and wrote fan fiction, song mixes, and one-liners from the characters' perspectives using official tracked hashtags. The creative team reviewed the submissions and reblogged a select few to make them series "canon," meaning those submissions became an official part of the storyline. For more insight into how the creative team managed the experience, take a look at Director Yulin Kaling's detailed description.

Of all of the transmedia storytelling devices I've described here, KitR's official fan-created stories were the most keep-me-up-too-late-can't-put-it-down engaging.

Final Thoughts

More than just sit-back-and-enjoy entertainment, these shows create a personally engaging experience. Why leave home and pay money to see a show when great art is available for you to watch, participate in, and enjoy on your laptop? The problem of shrinking audiences for live arts is a constant discussion in our sector, on blogs, and in academic programs. Online transmedia storytelling provides an avenue for live arts organizations to engage with a different audience and a younger, tech savvy one at that.

Drawing people in with storytelling has an added advantage: That feeling of connection inspires people to give. Classic Alice and New Adventures both ran successful Indiegogo campaigns to fund their second seasons.

My swag from the New Adventures of P&W and Classic Alice crowdfunding campaigns.
I was one of the many people inspired to give to these projects.

So, how can the live arts capture some of the transmedia storytelling magic? How have the arts organizations that have embraced it gone about it? Thoughts to ponder 'til next time.

References and Further Reading

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tube Tuesday: Subway the Series

Yup, #TubeTuesday is back too! Basically, whenever I have something from YouTube to share, I'll post it on a Tuesday. Because I like alliteration. A lot. :-)

This week, I'd like to share a project I am proud to say I worked on both as an extra and production assistant: Subway the Series! My talented friend Veronica Dang wore all the hats - she's the creator, writer, and director, and she stars as Mary Frick, a germaphobic Pennsylvania Dutch Mennonite IT Tech, alongside Christopher Wren as sandwich artiste David Ho.

The premiere episode chronicles their first meeting, where else but on the NYC Subway. In it, you'll see me make two disgusted faces. Enjoy and please share!

Monday, June 15, 2015

ArtsTechChick's Advice for 2015 Arts Admin Grads

With the benefit of a year's hindsight, here are three pieces of (hopefully) sage advice I'd like to share with the class of 2015, specifically you fresh-faced newly trained arts administrators, as you embark on your job search.

1. Enjoy your accomplishment. Don't start the job search the day after graduation!

Congradulations! You finished grad school and it was no easy feat. Take time to pat yourself on the back and revel in that for a little while. Yes, you need to find a job and put that expensive and hard-earned degree to use, but try not to be in such a rush that you forget to enjoy the moment and celebrate the successes you've already achieved.

I'm extremely grateful for the week that the artstechhubs and I spent driving across country because it gave me time where there was nothing for me to do but drive and think and talk. Internet signal is not exactly consistent everywhere, and I was exhausted after 10-12 hours of driving everyday, so I really couldn't start my job search. Sure, I had bouts of anxiety about not having a job from time to time, but having something else fun and exciting to focus on helped me to give myself permission to relax and enjoy some responsibility-free time. Working adults don't get nearly enough of it.

2. Find the job that's right for you. Even if it doesn't come along right away.

Our first couple weeks here I was preoccupied with getting settled in our new home. We hardly brought any of our furniture from NYC so we had a lot of shopping to do, and the stuff we sent with movers took nearly three weeks to arrive. The artstechhubs had already started work, so getting the household in order was up to me and I didn't start really looking for a job until after we were unpacked in late June. And it didn't take long for the "I'm-never-going-to-find-a-job-in-this-field-I'm-useless" anxiety to kick in once I really started searching.

I went on a lot of interviews - both informational and for available positions. It took me four months to find my first job and I had started to feel pretty desperate. On paper, I thought the job looked like a great fit, but after just a couple months in the role, I realized it wasn't the right position or organization for me. In hindsight, there are a couple of things I think I should have more thoughtfully considered that could have helped me realize it wasn't the right opportunity before I accepted:

  • The tasks that I enjoyed during my internships, rather than the department and job title. 
I had enjoyed my internships and coursework in both development and marketing, so  I searched for jobs in those departments. But what I loved most about my internship at the Bush was using my technical skills to make the job of development easier, not so much doing the strategizing and schmoozing involved in development work.
  • The discussions, ideas, and assignments that inspired me most during grad school
The discussions and assignments I engaged in most passionately, including my thesis topic, had to do with pushing the boundaries and implementing innovative approaches to the business of art with the goal of creating a sustainable sector. I wasn't really invested in conversations about ensuring the survival of an individual organization or long-standing institution, but I would always engage thoughtfully in discussions about how to make sure that everyone for generations to come can experience art that they can relate to and engage with on a personal level
I'm lucky to have now found a role where the organization and the work I do further that cause. 

3. Don't be afraid to change your mind. Even if it means starting your search over.

It's hard to take the long view of your career when you're drifting without a job and even harder to consider leaving once you've accepted your first position. However, no matter how strategic you are about targeting the perfect role, it's impossible to know for sure that a job is right for you until you're actually working in it. So that means that some of you will make a mistake, like I did. But this first job after grad school starts you down a career path and the further down that path you walk, the harder it will be to make a U-turn. In my experience, leaving a job early isn't viewed as negatively as most people believe, especially when you can articulate clearly to an interviewer why the job you're leaving isn't the right fit for you (and the one you're pursuing with them is).

So new grads, there's my two - well three - cents. Best of luck to you, and welcome to the field! Any path you take to administer the arts will be stressful and challenging and *spoiler alert* probably not very financially rewarding. May you find a niche that's rewarding in the ways that matter most to you, and allows you to support art that inspires you.

You're welcome: http://ryangoslingartsadmin.tumblr.com/

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

My 1-year Post-Graduation Reflection

It's been two years since I started this blog when I was about to embark on my summer adventure in London.

A year since I graduated from my Master's program at NYU.

A year since the artstechhubs and I got in a minivan with our cats and drove across the country to our new west coast home in Seattle.

A lot has changed.

Sadly, our beloved cat Tommy passed away at the end of 2014. Christmas was not very merry.

His name comes from either Rapunzel's sidekick in Tangled
or the French mathematician, depending if you ask me or
the artstechhubs.

But after grieving for our lost companion, we opened our hearts and our home to another rescue and adopted an adorable 2-year old rat terrier mix from the Seattle Humane Society. We named him Pascal.

He's been a member of the artstech household for about 2.5 months now, and he's full of energy and love. So far we couldn't be happier and Sparrow the cat seems (mostly) ok with him too.
Mount Rainier. Lovely any time of year with lots of
cage-free greenery.

Our lifestyle is different here than it was in NYC. There are LOTS more unrestrained trees. We have a car, and a dog to take for walks every day. Despite the city's reputation for clouds and rain, I think I actually get more Vitamin D here than I did in NYC because there's at least a chance of the sun making an appearance during the winter months.

It's my professional life, however, that's seen the most change. I've been thinking a lot about how I approached finding a job in my field in a new city and what I might do differently, had I the chance to do this first year post-graduation over again. I think that I've found my way to the right place to establish my career, but it took a (nearly) year-long circuitous path for me to get here.

May and June always feel like transitional months to me, and not just because of the steadily warming weather with the promise of summer ahead. I think it has to do with graduations. I've been through three of them now and the period afterwards is always a transition. As a result, I tend to make my resolutions for the year ahead now, rather than on January 1st. Also, motivation comes easier to me in the sunshine. :-) With that in mind, on its two year anniversary, I'm resuscitating and relaunching my blog with the goal of publishing 1-2 new posts each month for the next year. So lots of artstech stuff to look forward to!

My next post (already written, hurray!) will impart some of the lessons I learned traveling my circuitous professional path this past year to this year's graduating arts administrators.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Poc Poc My Heart: GERMINAL at On the Boards

When Antoine Defoort & Halory Goerger's GERMINAL was described to me, the first thing that came to mind was the book The World Without Us by Alan Weisman, which explores, "How our planet would respond without the relentless pressure of human presence." I imagined our four newly conscious humans perplexedly making their way through the detritus of our once brilliant civilization. I think I may need take a break from reading dystopian fiction...

In actuality, GERMINAL is nearly the reverse, as four human beings discover their own consciousness and begin to explore and shape a brand new universe inside the four walls of the theatre without any preconceived notions or expectations.

Technology was nearly a fifth character in the play, having an invaluable role in the development of this universe. The team of new humans discover their ability to communicate through text and technology first, their thoughts projected on panels on the back wall. They only test the power of their own voices after digging up a microphone hidden in the depths of the floor with a pick axe. The "manual" for the universe is itself a laptop (with a very recognizable hill-themed wallpaper), used to control the projections on the back wall and the development of their environment.

Together, the characters decide that their ultimate goal is to create a chronological series of events. And as they go about it, categorizing and digging up more of their world in the process, the show is by turns thoughtful, funny, and optimistic.  The characters make the most of their small universe, celebrating the unique series of events they created there.

When I tried to picture this play, I imagined an exploration of human consciousness more like Sartre - if funny, then darkly so - and expected that I would leave the theatre with less faith in humanity than when I walked in. I was pleasantly surprised by the shows playful optimism and left the theatre with a bit more bounce in my step, and a more hopeful outlook as I resume writing the next event in my own small universe.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Hey folks, as you might have guessed, I've been taking a bit of a break from blogging. I've decided to take a few months to focus on finishing my thesis and graduating from my master's program at NYU (eek!)

But don't worry, I'll be back this summer with new posts. In the meantime, have a look-see at these articles, websites, and other arts-related stuff I've enjoyed perusing lately:
Now I leave you (temporarily) with a quote about avant-garde theatre that's been rolling around in my brain since I read it, from Taylor Mac in his recent interview with Bomb Magazine:

"We could do more of what the fashion industry does—they make avant-garde fashion something you want to see. You may not want to wear it, but you want to see it and experience it. So if theater could figure out a way to convince people that unconventional forms are exciting. “Oh you might get bored by this? That's exciting!” The idea that the play or the performance is supposed to solve everything for you in the moment is insidious...I don't think we change the world by somebody coming to see our play and saying, “My world is changed!” We change the world by whether or not we actually inspire them to do something afterwards."

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Data Management at Small(ish) Arts Orgs - Part 1

Disclaimer: This series is based solely on my personal experiences. I'd love to hear about yours!

@BushCatMarley approves of digital data management.
At each of my internships, one of the first questions I ask myself is "How are they managing their data?" Since the beginning my professional life, I've had a nerdy interest in data management and a compulsion to bring data together and organize it in an accessible, efficient way.

Some arts and culture organizations embrace these ideas with open arms and encourage employees to make time in their day to work on process improvements. At others, employees are under so much pressure to complete the tasks required to fund, produce, and market their art that they do not feel they have the luxury of taking any time away to improve the technology and processes that will help them better manage and engage with their data. Suggestions to do so are at best put in the lowest priority queue and at worst ignored. On one hand, I get it: making art is the most important goal and with a limited budget and staff, there's a lot to do just to get the show on stage, make sure it's funded, and let people know about it. But based on my experience at non-arts non-profits and for-profit enterprises, I firmly believe that investing time and resources in data management provides an extraordinarily high ROI, including a less-stressed, more productive staff!

So where do we go from here? How can arts organizations, especially small ones with limited staff and budgets, tackle data management challenges?

There's another important question to ask, before making any recommendations: What sorts of data do arts organizations need to manage? Any organization looking to evaluate and improve data management, needs to first take an inventory of the types of data they want to store, analyze, and track.

A Quick and Dirty Example: Data at a Small Non-Profit Theatre 

Audience: Contact info, ticket purchases, donations, attendance patterns, demographics, personal notes (on potential donors, loyal attendees, allergies, seating preferences, etc.)

Artists: Contact info, contracts, agency info, program participation, career tracking

Support staff: Documents created by in-house staff. Everything from meeting notes, to grant applications, and play scripts.

Marketing: E-mail blasts, website management, social media, logos, print media designs

Paper files also provide excellent kitty seats.
@Bush_Cat_Pirate, keeping the Bush's
files under control.
Financial: Managing the organization's budget. Accounting and taxes aren't really my specialties, so I won't go into it here, but it is worth mentioning. Note that I consider this separate from tracking fundraising prospects and donations.

Paper: You know, from back in the day before computers. And press reviews, and letters received from foundations and other supporters. It will be awhile before any theatre goes paperless, simply because other organizations we work with require it (many, many grants still ask for paper applications with a postmark date deadline). So a good old-fashioned paper filing system is absolutely necessary. Or a really quick scanner. Or a slow one and an intern. (kidding...mostly.)

It's also important to keep in mind that managing data doesn't just mean storing it. It also means organizing data in a meaningful way, so that it can be accessed and analyzed to provide powerful information about how audiences, donors, and artists are responding to the organization's programming, marketing, and fundraising efforts. That's the kind of information that helps arts organizations build audiences.

Coming up in Parts 2 & 3...

  • How do these organizations manage their data?
  • What challenges are they facing?
  • What can small arts organizations do to organize their data in a more meaningful (and sustainable) way?