Interaction Generalist & EngD Student
I am a 23 year old EngD Research Student from cider country, in south west England. I am currently enroled on the CDE doctoral program between Bournemouth/Bath University, and industry based at Bristol based animation company Wonky Films. My research program focuses audience engagement. How are people driven to participate in online environments, and how can we make more engaging content with new technologies and platforms available to us.
I completed my B.A Animation and Interactive Media Course at the University of Gloucestershire where I achieved a first class honors degree, also picking up the Ken Browning award for top graduate on the course. Over the three year course I was able to really expand my creative knowledge completing projects in various media over the 3 years.
My practical expericence lie in flash design and development through which I have completed freelance projects with companies in both Bristol and Cheltenham. I have also completed video production and VFX projects using After Effects. A keen interest in After Effects and VFX began after being commended in the 2009 YCN awards for my "I saved Energy" viral video. I also have practical experience in web design, completing a number of personal and professional projects
Im always looking to learn and improve my design skills, submerging myself each day into a creative world seeking to be inspired, to improve and to create.
Outside of being a bit of a geek, I enjoy cooking, cross country running and supporting the Toon Army.
Flash game for Help the Hospice’s, hospice care week marketing campaign
Flash Game created for the Cheltenham Science Festival marketing campaign
Score for bristol game created for Bristol Council world cup stadium bid campaign
Random flash platform game created at University
Flash Game to coincide with the Wonky Films short comedy film series “Suburban Myths”
Easter Game created for Wonky Films
There is an overriding feeling that individuals are adverse to paying for content on the web, with a proliferation of free alternatives and often ways round obtaining content that people attempt to charge for “free” has become an expectation on the web.
Thus for content creators an ad-supported model has been pretty much the only way to deliver free content to it’s audience. Those creatives behind the wealth of content that we consume daily (without a single monetary transaction cost) ultimately need a return for the work they put in. It is after all their job and their livelihood to deliver entertainment to the masses. With the audience aversion to paying for content adverts are largely seen as the alternative to gaining this return for the value they provide to audiences.
However adverts are disliked by everyone, they are annoying, intrusive and often disrupt our consumption experience. Yet if individuals are’t willing to pay for content there is not other alternative, right?
Wrong. I have always held the opinion that audience aversion to paying for content is more down to there being no quick and unobtrusive ways for people to pay for content, not just an unwillingness to pay. If something with which we engage provides us with more value than we put it often we will seek ways to return that value. With open social web platforms we can see this in the way we openly share things that provide us with value, how we join communities to discuss services of value and how we spend time creating UGC around what we find valuable.
All these things however are still non-monetary. Yet what webcomic site Penny Arcade has offered its audience is a way to return value monetarily using the kickstarter crowdfunding platform. Penny Arcade in its early days was funded through donations and what they themselves called crowd-begging. Now Penny Arcade are returning to this model in order to strengthen the direct relationship with their audience, and work for them and not the advertisers.
Their crowdfunding campaign seeks to raise upwards of $1,000,000 in order to run Penny Arcade ad-free for a year. The $1,000,000 figure what they explain in their campaign video would be the cost of running Penny Arcade for a year. The video perfectly highlights what I mentioned earlier, the content they produce is they job, the work they do and the content they provide costs money, thus they need a return to continue providing value to the audience.
The video nicely ends with the line “We should at least ask them whether it’s something they want to do”. Long has it been an assumption that an audience wouldn’t want to pay for content over seeing ads, but unless you ask how do you know?
And it seems that such an assumption is like a suggested is just that an assumption. Provided with a method in which they can return value to something that provides a worthwhile engaging experience the audience can seek to do so. Just looking at the comments is evidence;
I rarely comment on thing but I’d just like to say that you guys deserve my money. You’ve given me amazing and free content for years and it’s an honour to give what little I can back. It will truly be a brilliant thing and hope for the future if we can pull this off, together.
Audiences are willing to pay back the value they have received. Obviously this is not something that will work for every content creator, Penny Arcade does have a huge audience and only a small percentage of which will probably end up paying. For smaller sites and less established creators raising $1,000,000 can be all but a pipe-dream. Also it will be interesting to see if such a funding model is sustainable. With the campaign set to have penny arcade ad-free for just a year, will they be back next year? and will they be as successful?
The main point of all this however shows that there is life beyond adverts and free seemingly isn’t the only way to survie on the internet.
A couple of weeks ago I popped down to cardiff for the playArk talks organised by the thinkArk group. The day offered some very interesting talks on the notion of play, and how play can enhance creativity, learning and engagement.
The day started with Gareth Louden talking about the importance of play for creativity and learning. His alk was opened by asking the audience where they have their most creative ideas. After asking a number of audience members where they come up with their ideas, he pointed out that no one mentioned that they have them at their desk or in the office. I myself have most of my ideas when i have no way of writing them down (sods law). The routine of the office limits people creativity, with repetition of habit stifling the imagination, and not allowing for the experience of new ideas.
One statistic he used from research he had carried out was that 85% of people prefer to solve problems or puzzles by playing, showing that play can be much more effective than pure thought. I always find that the best way to learn is by doing, rather than just reading about something. This way you experience the problem, and can learn from you mistakes.
Another example Gareth pointed to was the marshmallow challenge:
With the marshmallow challenge the people who perform the best are young children, as they play with the problem. Getting stuk in the kids play, thus creating prototypes and then going on to refine each of heir revisions. Adults on the other hand, think about the process to much,trying to come up with a definitive answer before experience the problem first hand and ultimately failing.
This empathises the importance of rapid prototyping and trying out ideas. You learn best from experience, and their is no shame in failure. In fact fear of failure is one of the stiflers of creativity.
Gareth’s talk overall emphasised the power of play and the important role it can play in breaking up routine, thus encouraging imagination and creativity. The concept of playtime from school I feel should be implemented in the work place, allowing for the refreshing and inspiring of individuals.
Wendy Bright took to the stage next. This talk was about the development of apps and content for children with autism. These apps and interactive experiences would allow the children to explore the environment and respond the sensory impulse, rather than direct instruction. Through interaction with these experiences it was found that they could encourage social interaction amongst the children, something which children with autism ofter struggle with.
In the talk it was suggested that by only providing simple interaction, the experiences allow for the user to use their own imagination and creativity, which in turn allowed them to make up their own games and uses from the interaction. The simpler you make things the more creative it allows the user to be, allowing them to express themselves in ways they wish. The explorative nature removes the contraints that many interactive experiences implement which can make them frustrating.
You can check out the project here
Now considering playArk was a series of talks abot play and games, it was inevitable that eventually the term “Gamification” would arise. David Sharps talk unfortunately largely centered around the term and made me feel no better about it. The examples provided in the talk, I felt did exactly what most “gamified” products do, polish a turd. Much of what gamification seems to be about is shaking a bit of glitter onto boring mundane tasks and making out they are now fun and more engaging.
One example was an app that from what i could see simply put a golf style interface over the process of aligning your workforce to certain clients. The trouble is I couldn’t really see how this made the process any better? All it seemed to do was make what is essentially a spreadsheet style process a little more attractive. This doesn’t really enhance the process, whilst it will temporarily add a novelty factor, this will soon wear off.
The other example that was pointed too was a company whose stocktaking process was running inefficiently. Thus the process was “gamified”, challenging the workforce to complete the tasks with accuracy and speed. Different shops would then compete on a leader board, encouraging staff to maintain high levels of efficiency. However is this really gamification? Or just getting your staff to do their jobs properly.
Just over a year ago I had the pleasure of working in a subway (yes i was once a sandwich artsist and have a degree in subway university!!) Whilst working there, they had a similar process. All the stores within the region would compete in a sales leader board. The store I worked in was generally rubbish because the problem was their was no value in the competition. Putting in a leader board was just superficial, it didn’t make the job any more rewarding or valuable. Underneath all the gamification gloss is still mundane tasks, void of value.
In the afternoon both Matt Locke and Alice Taylor covered attention within their talks, discussing how we are in an attention economy. Thus we need to design for peoples attention, and games and play can help grab that attention and be powerful teaching tools. Matt Locke also argued how feedback is essential, and how feedback can help enhance the design of products and content. And Mark Stevenson writer of this book suggested that innovation is about being optimistic about making mistakes and that not trying is intolerable. Without trying one will never know.
Next up Power to the Pixel.
Just over a week ago enjoyed an awesome trip to Amsterdam and Picnic Festival 2011, thanks to being picked to be part of the European Creative Business Network Trade Mission. The trip was extremely interesting and inspiring, with much of the trip spent talking to or listening to awesome interesting people.
The talks, which I managed to attend, were extremely diverse in the content they covered. Some just plain mental (Heath Bunting – Switching identities), others awe inspiring (Scott Snibbe/Blaise Aguera y Arcas ) and one in which for a moment I thought the speaker may be going for a record for coining as many “ification” as possible in one presentation after throwing two out in successive slides, thankfully however two was his limit. Hopefully “creatification” and “tatification” will fail to catch on.
Had a successful morning on the Thursday with the opportunity to present Wonky at the marketplace. After a quiet first hour the marketplace quickly filled up. It was great to have so many people stop and chat for a while and it wasn’t long until all Wonky paraphernalia had disappeared (Think the use of the umlaut went down well over there).
The rest of my time at Picnic was spent in the different talks listening to the different people talk about all the great stuff they had been doing. This has inspired a number of ideas of my own to get working on.
Scott Snibbe presentation on Biophilia the first app album (by Bjork) was a particular highlight. Need to try out the album first hand, but from the presentation it looks like they have created some really nice intuitive and innovative interactions with the music. The project identifies the possibilities that the new technologies uncover in creating more explorative and engaging content. Each song and its apps helps unite nature (the theme and exploration of the album) and music through technology, allowing interactive exploration through each song. Below is the video of his talk…
Artist Heath Buntings talk on his Status Project was fascinating in its absolute madness. If I have it correct, he has spent his time working out how to legally create a completely new identity complete with health care, tax code, credit card etc etc but not have it tied to a physical human thus making it transferable. Therefore if you wanted to live two separate lives you can do so by creating yourself a whole new identity. Although completely bizarre and unbelievable one cant help but be intrigued and want to create a new identity for yourself. Check out the projects site here.
Lawrence Lessig always gives a good talk, having seen a few over on TED.com and it was great to watch his talk in person at picnic. His talk entitled Help U.S was a plea of help to change the ridiculous stance on copyright by many, and in particular the U.S coporates/government. He makes good points that the behaviour of kids on the internet today is to take what’s already been done and remix it to create culture, a read write culture. Stating that its not breaking copyright, but extending the material and making it something new. Therefore its foolish to attempt to block this and try and make a read only culture because these kids can and therefore do. Lessig obviously explains it much better than me so watch it below…
And here are some of the Listomania examples his points out…
And also some of his ted talks…
Other talk highlights included Amanda Mooney – Trust me and I’ll trust you, where she talked about how big companies are in a fantastic position to make a difference and not only create value (money) for themselves, but also value that makes a difference to society. Thus in doing so increasing and developing trust between consumers, whom are becoming increasingly more vocal and wise to companies who fail to live up to their promises. Blaise Aguera y Arcas talked about mircosofts photosynth software, which showed that Microsoft can actually make something useful, and good. Toby Barnes offered an insight into the ChromaMOMA project and the thinking behind other projects that make life playable. Again great insight and inspiration into how new technologies can help create new layers and interactive experiences which we can implement into everyday life.
Overall fantastic trip, would definitely recommend Picnic Festival, and if your are ever in Amsterdam I would recommend the free tour from Dam Square, you will learn some very interesting facts to bombard people with, for instance did you know that there are 20,000 bikes found in the Amstel river a year (apparently) and there is a mind blowing Miracle of Amsterdam, but I won’t give that away.
So last week saw the transform@lab workshop sessions come to an end, with a final week in Newport. The whole transform@lab programme has been a great experience, with some fantastic workshop/lecture sessions, and has provided a great opportunity to develop some app and game ideas for the iLand project.
Since the Budapest session, we completed a 3 day visit to Paris and last weeks concluding 4 days in Newport which ended with 2 pitching sessions infront of industry experts.
Paris for me was by far the best session of the four overall, as the workshops tackled areas of specific interest to myself. These provided a wealth of insight and inspiration on how to develop areas of the iLand project. They also sparked ideas for future projects that are now in the pipeline!
The first day of the Paris workshops were lead by Antoine Visonneau from OODA and titled “From ideas to interfaces”. This first day of workshops took us through the processes used and required in taking ideas from their starting point to their end point as real interfaces.
The first part of the day focused on ideas and theory on the “Human Factor” in interaction design, and how humans perceive and understand information. Much of this came as a refresher of some of the stuff covered in the Advanced Human Computer Interaction module I took in Bath earlier in the year, but also covered some new ideas and areas.
Included in the presentation were some surprising examples of how visual information can be perceived in different ways. For example how many letter F’s are in the following sentence (answer at the bottom of the page).
FINISHED FILES ARE THE RESULT OF YEARS OF SCIENTIFIC STUDY COMBINED WITH THE EXPERIENCE OF YEARS
This first session ended with being introduced to the idea of personas. A concept that I had not been introduced to before. These are a description of the ideal or typical user of your idea/product. These personas incorporate the individuals personality, values and their objectives for using the product/interface/etc. For example a Persona for iLand may go as follows
“Beth is a 6year old, whom has a younger brother and an older sister. She lives at home with her two siblings and her mother and father. Beth loves reading books and watching cartoons on television. She likes using her imagination and entering into fantasy worlds which she can explore to her hearts content. She likes watching television, but also likes content that allows her to explore the world that she is presented with, and allows her to interact. Therefore she likes to play fun and simple games online. Beth looks for content that entertains, educates and that allows here to have fun and explore”
With these personas worked up we moved on to creating scenario in which these personas may find themselves whilst using elements of our projects. Again scenarios was something else in which the rest of my education in interactive media had seemed to bypass (tuition fee’s well spent!!). Tackling a scenario, I was able to think about how exactly I was intending to get my ideal user across the proposed multiple platforms within the project idea. Using these personas and scenarios, I found was really useful at looking at the project from the users point of view, allowing consideration of how the user will actually find their way through the interaction. This is something which I find I can often bypass, and then watch in frustration when I view someone interacting not as intended with something I have created, forgetting that its only easy for myself as I made it thus, know how the interaction should be done.
The first days session ended with the importance of sketching and getting ideas down on paper. This point was highlighted with the following facts that one can get through 20 sketches or 2 powerpoint wireframes an hour but only 0.3 photoshop mockups an hour. This emphasises how much more can be done through sketches, and that photoshop (other image manipulation tools are available) should only be considered once the layout and the interface design has been finalised. I for one am definitely guilty of hopping onto photoshop to early in the design/creation process and wasting a lot of time before, ive actually worked out the functionality and UI of the project.
The second days workshops were taken by Juan Estupinan whom took us through the process of agilie prototyping using Keynote or mockup software Balsamiq Balsamiq looks like it will become a really useful tool for myself, when thinking about the interface design of projects, as it allows you to get the designs down on paper quickly.
Agile prototyping is something which I have never really done before in projects, but also something which I will definitely do more often, allowing to consider the functionality of the project/interface without having to spend all the time and effort getting to work before being given the all clear.
Juan also demonstrated Adobe InDesign for making interactive magazines. The ease of adding the interactive elements to potentially make something as polished as Wired magazine was great to be introduced to, although it seems to actually publish something through adobe costs a small fortune (someone correct me if im wrong) so unfortunately for now I will simply be experimenting with it.
The second half of Juan’s workshops took us through some examples of interactive storytelling on tablet devices. Juan demonstrated some excellent examples of how interactive elements can be added into the storytelling experience on the iPad, and his examples included the fantastic Mr Morris Lessmore and Pedlar Lady…
I found these examples particularly inspirational, for developing iLand ideas and inspiring other ideas. It seems at Wonky we have the perfect skills in-house, with the animators, illustrators and my own flash developing skills to try our hand at testing some ideas out.
Adding this interactive layer to storytelling, I feel also raises some interesting questions from a theoretical perspective. For example does the interactive layer create a more engaging experience, by allowing the user to become more “hands on” in the story, and allowing them to explore the story world presented. Or does it do the opposite and break the story? Does the interactive element provide a distraction from the narrative and break the users experience of the story.
You can also make the case that such storybooks cause the user to not use their imagination. Part of the magic of reading comes from filling in the gaps and creating the world in your mind as you see fit and as you perceive it yourself. For example this is the reason that for many films that come from books never really cut it, as the break the world that the user has created in their mind. Although you can quickly counter argue this with the fact that many children’s books are illustrated thus giving the characters and the world to the user on a plate.
The Paris 3 days ended with a studio visit to Dagobert, whom showed us some case studies of their latest work, which looked fantastic and took us on a tour of their studio space in the heart of Paris. It looked like an awesome place to work.
In the few weeks between Paris and Newport I was able to get hands on developing some of the ideas that Paris inspired into the iLand project for the final week in Newport. This final week was probably the most hands on of the workshops in regards to having time to work on our individual projects. On Monday we were all given the incentive that the project that was judged the “best” by the pitching panellists at the end of the week would be going to Power to the Pixel. This lead to some frantic finalising and polishing of individual project. Apart from the frantic finalising of prototypes and pitches we also had a couple of lecture sessions.
The first of which came from Frank Boyd whom offered some valuable advice on pitching. Frank offered some very useful pitching formats and useful tips in preparation for the pitching sessions at the end of the week. In the practical part of Frank’s session, I for one came in for some much expected criticism for my pitching style, criticism which I was very grateful for and feel was able to take on board and present something 1000x more polished at the end of the week.
The second lecture was given by Jo Roach whom covered cross platform budgeting. Again an extremely useful lecture, as before I had absolutely no idea of how much anything costs or how to even consider putting together a budget. Jo’s session also show cased the two latest projects she herself has worked on and offered some useful tips on cost saving, marketing/getting eyes on projects and the process of creating cross platform projects.
The week concluded with two pitching sessions, where each group presented their projects to an industry panel.
The first on Wednesday was held in front of Kevin Moss (Playthisnext), Mark Johnson (Sequence), Michael Claque (Carbon) and Jamie King (Vodo). Not being a fan of speaking in front of people, I was naturally apprehensive and nervous about my pitch, however feel it went well in the end. The panel offered some great feedback on the project and some useful advice on how it could be developed in different ways, and also some pitching advice to take on board for Thursdays final pitch.
This final pitch was presented in front of Louise Brown (Channel 4), Robin Moore (BBC), Tracy Spottiswoode (Film Wales) and Tishna Molla (Power to the Pixel), being last to pitch allowed me plenty of time to get nervous once again. Although again I feel it went ok, and both days of pitching offered a great opportunity to get an experience of pitching/presenting. After all practice makes perfect. The advice and feedback offered at the end of the second pitching again was extremely useful.
Thursdays pitching ended with an announcement of which project had one the pitch competition judged by all the panellists, and I was extremely pleased to hear that the iiLand project was judged in first place, resulting in some tickets to Power to the Pixel. (Woooohoooo, glad I held off buying some tickets a few weeks ago).
Overall the transform@lab was a fantastic experience, offering excellent workshops, master classes and development time. The whole four months has offered fantastic advice and inspiration from all the stuff we have been shown and talked about. The opportunity to meet all the fellow participants and mentors on the workshop has also been brilliant, and I would definitely recommend it to others.
Oh yeh there are 6 F’s in the sentence above
Another post on engagement, based mainly on one of the papers i was reading today which mirrored similar sentiments to other items i have read previously. This sentiment is that to encourage user generated content and build better communities around your project or brand, you should go after and nurture those in your community whom are the most influential and post the most content.
“should start by identifying and nurturing the small percentage of users who post quality content” (Bughin, 2007)
Whilst this will be beneficial down to the fact the recognition of efforts can encourage individuals to post more and to continue contributing content…
“Identifying though leaders and promoting their participation boosted the number of contributions and improved the quality of the postings” (Bughin, 2007)
Surely all this does in the long run is alienate those whom are deemed to not be posting enough, or posting “quality” content. In a creative context for instance should those individuals whom are not so artistically/creatively blessed be punished or prevented from contributing because their submission is deemed to be of poor quality. Do we not then begin to create an elitist community, one which is undemocratic as it promotes the views of the influential few against others, which then goes against the nature of what the web is proposed to be about… democratic and offering everyone the opportunity to be heard.
By concentrating attention on the influential the 5-10% of individuals who contribute in a community will never increase…
“5 to 10 percent of the users contribute half to all of the content” (Burghin, 2007)
Would it not be more beneficial to understand what prevents the other 90% from contributing, and encouraging them to participate increasing the amount of their postings and then in turn the quality of their contribution. It is the easy option to further motivate the already motivated, a short term solution. However surely the best way to generate long term engagement within a community is to nurture the entire community to encourage diversity, variety and debate.
The other issue that arises as i read more on engagement is that a lot of the material is directed, or assumes that the resources are their to follow the methods to generate engagement. Therefore directed at larger brands and companies. Much of the material doesn’t take into account smaller companies with limited resources. There needs to be more research that takes into account smaller projects/brands/companies which can help generate an understanding of how to break the viscous circle of engagement
Finally got round to getting myself back down to the PM studio for one of their lunchtime talks. As ever it was another goodun. This week the talk came from Red Wasp an indie games studio from the glorious brizzle, talking about marketing without millions.
Found the talk interesting as it raised a few ideas relevant to the LYHO project, and getting the message out there. An interesting point was raised at the beginning that a lot of advice out there on blogs in books etc about marketing tends to be directed at, or assumes that you have the resources to undertake all their tips. Which I have also found, in a lot a “top ten tip” articles at least one of them goes on about buying ads etc, thats great if you can afford to do it. What it comes back to is that although sometimes the internet is presented in a utopian light that anyone can get rich or be heard just isn’t true. Those with the resources to be heard get heard and those without it yes can still make it but have to bust a gut and think of the tools outside the box.
Its like the advice to use twitter and facebook (again this was mentioned in the talk) yes they are good tools, but again everyone is using them, to do exactly what you are trying to do, and once again you end up drowning in all the noise.
Another point raised is the fact that the social media tools are all about the two-way communication. Which is obvious in the whole fact its “SOCIAL” media. But i think this is one thing that i still need to get to grips with. Even on my own personal social networks im more of a lurker. Much of what i post has always been just emitting updates or posts one way, rather than encouraging participation or building conversation, so encouraging and engaging more in two way conversation is definitely something i need to start doing more and getting to grips with.
The two way communication leads in to the building of relationships and not just expecting things to fall into place. You need to give just as much as you receive. In the social web, there is no room for selfishness, give and thall shalt receive. Making it easy for others is key. If people can’t see how they can help, there not going to, and if they see no value in helping there not going. This links back to the stuff on engagement. If people see not gratification for themselves in participating then why would they bother?
One point made during the talk is that many people viewing or engaging on the Red Wasp platforms, whether they come from twitter/facebook/blog, tend to stick to there one mode of engagement. I found this quite interesting, as we are lead to believe that we are cross platform these days, but i think we tend to engage on one platform largely and move only due to availability.
For instance tv isn’t going to be killed by web, its just many people find it easier to consume tv content on the web, in their own time. Also the whole notion of people preferring to consume web content in bite size chunks like video on youtube, i believe has only been the case because until recently internet speed, and the length of what can be uploaded has limited longform viewing on the internet. As more and more film and television content is readily available on the web at good quality then the average length of video consumed is going to shoot up. We can only engage with what is available at the end of the day.
One of the points raised from the audience was an app available for £2.00 may do better than the same app available for a cheaper app available at £0.99. I think the psychology of price points is an interesting study. Whether people will pay the higher price over the lower one due to the perception of quality.
Another thought that the talk raised was that engagement tends to be measured by the wrong factors these days. Many people will judge you on amount of followers/friends/likers etc. However many of these people are just there to join a crowd. Liking and following is too easy, its one click of a button and then you forget. Many people i follow on my personal twitter i did without really thinking about it. Im not engaged with many of them. Facebook is even worse, i’ve liked a fair few pages but probably never looked at them more than once. The first like is the easiest, its the bothering to get round to unliking stuff which is difficult and results in bad measure of popularity or engagement. Its another example of quality vs quantity. Its certainly much better to have few people who are truely engaged than a many whom are superficial. Need to stop thinking in numbers!!
Time for the weekend
So far during the process of my doctorate one of the key themes that has arisen out the projects that have been undertaken, is engagement. Everyone is seeking to have audiences engaged around their content, and to be successful creatively you need people to be engaged with what you do and the content which you produce.
Experiences in crowdfunding show you need your audience to be engaged, but to achieve engagement you need content to engage them. However to produce this content you need the resources to create the content. To by-pass the dependence on your own resources you can seek the participatory nature of your audience and utilize their desire to create and inspire them to provide content. However in order to do this you need content to activate and motivate them into participating. What we end up with is a viscous circle of engagement.
The fact that you need your audience to be engaged in crowdfunding can be backed up by the fact that many crowdfunding efforts receive the majority of their funds from friends and family. This group is already engaged by default in what you do. By the very nature that they are your friends, your family means they have an interest in what you do, support what you do and are “active” participants in your life and what you do.
So therefore the questions are, and this now doesn’t just relate to crowdfunded content, but to all content/project in general is how to get those whom are not already engaged, engaged? What does engagement mean and how is it achieved?
When first thinking about and beginning to write down thoughts on engagement, I initially jumped to the conclusion, like many other people currently, that we are now more engaged and active in our media participation than we have been previously. After discussing such thoughts and beginning my extended reading on the subject, such a conclusion is wrong.
“the urge to create content for media is neither historically new nor confined to the development of new information and communication technologies (ICTs)” (Barthel & Harrison, 2009)
Human behaviour has not changed. What has changed is the free availability of the tools and the platforms required to express our engagement or interest with certain content.
“new media technologies now enable vastly more users to experiment with a wider and seemingly more varied range of collaborative creative activites” (Barthel & Harrison, 2009)
It is not that we are now more active and engaged but that, our engagement is now more visible and direct. Previously consuming certain content may have resulted us in engaging in conversation with fellow friends, now such consumption can lead us to expressing delight or displeasure directly to the creators of content, yet that doesn’t mean we are more active or engaged.
You can argue that engagement online is different to engagement offline. Online users are more fickle, quick to move on to the next thing, with less time to quench their entertainment thirst. Thus they consume in bite-size snacks, “made to be munched easily with increased frequency and maximum speed” (Shao, 2009). Therefore one could argue that consumers online aren’t seeking to be engaged like they would be with a book or a film, but to pass the time, with false entertainment that is no more lasting than a gust of wind. Engagement in this environment is immediately gratifying, but has no enduring or lasting emotional attachment.
Yet which engagement today is more valuable? If one has thousands of eyeballs on their content today, but no-one talking about it a few months down the line, is that better than only hundreds watching today, but still talking about it in a few months or even years? Should content be produced for the moment, or to last the moment?
Whilst being engaged and active in our consumption is nothing new…
“What is not well understood, as sociologists Beer and Burrows (2007) have commented, are the motivations that drive this explosion of creative and collaborative activity” (Harrison & Barthel, 2009).
What motivates people to be visibly active in their participation, to create their own expressions of content, join communities and express opinions about content with people that they otherwise have no links with? Shao (2009) uses, uses and gratifications theory to shine light on why people create UGC, for information and entertainment, social interaction and community development and self expression and self actualization.
Leung (2009) also backs this up; “Recognition and social needs are two significant motivations for internet content generation”. Users create content in order to receive recognition for their efforts and to increase their social status, and in receiving such recognition we are likely to respond with further content.
“we are more likely to behave (respond) to a given stimulus if we are rewarded” (Turner, 2010)
This is why competitions and badging and the whole gamification malarky works so well. Receiving recognition increase our impression of ourselves, breathes confidence and encourages our further participation. Therefore it makes it important that once audiences are engaged the conversation is two way. The audience shouldn’t be left alone and their participation should be responded to. Not just in the hope another viewer would respond, but also directly.
What comes across in some of the motivations and reasons for engagement is that they are about “self” and in the interests of the individual (Leung, 2009) & (Shao, 2009). Therefore are the interests of your audience before the interests of your selves/ your content. Your audience is creating and participating for the their own self interests, gratifications and entertainment, rather than for the interests of a company or content. If a users motivation for contribution is self-expression then providing tools to express themselves is key as shown in the successful examples; Facebook, Myspace and Simons Cat.
Whilst also aiming to understand motivations for participation, it is just as important to understand what prevents it. Obvious reasons come down to lack of content, as is said hundreds of times “Content is King” (Harden & Haymen, 2009) without content their is no glue to hold together your audience and inspire participation. What can also prevent participation is users not understanding they can participate, or not seeing a clear reason as to why they should or what value they could bring.
“Users in online communities may have difficulty either in finding opportunities to add value, or in understanding the value of their contributions to the community” (Rashid, 2006)
Thus clear guidance or signposting can help encourage the user towards the desired goal. Also ensure their participation is towards a valuable use, will help them understand/see value in their participation. UGC for the sake of UGC is pointless, it should effect some outcome or have some reward in order to make its implementation worthwhile and to give the user motivation/reason to participate.
Time to continue my reading and attempts to define engagement and its motivations…
Gaming is huge. Console gaming, flash gaming, Social gaming, mobile games, location based games, gamification, the list goes go on and on. No longer are games for the geeky kid in a dark room, that stereotype is long gone. Everyone is a gamer, whether they think so or not. Games can create lasting engagement, a hook to get people coming back, to get people talking.
Recent game produced for LYHO site Mr Chicken resulted in an increase in traffic, time spent on the site and return visits. The coinciding app, although in small numbers increased the youtube views of the trailer.
Although what im saying is pretty obvious and not necessarily new, i think games are under used. The geeky kid stereotype still inflicts its use. Video is the ever popular medium for marketing/viral, yet games can provide more. More engagement, a reason to return, competition and longer lasting.
Games as well can provide a means for generating revenue. On the web no-one is going to pay to watch a video, yet people will pay to play games, through micropayments (farmville) and app downloads along with the potential revenue made from in game advertising. Could such potential revenue created from mini/casual games fund the production of other content such as animation or film as well as bringing people to and sticking people to the other content?
What is the true power of the game?
I was very happy to be accepted on the Transformatlab cross platform development lab. So far I have completed the sessions in both Newport and Budapest, with the final sessions in Paris and Newport still to come.
All the projects are starting to take shape, personally I am working across many of the projects being the only participant with experience in programming games and apps. Whilst also working/helping other projects out with any game based help they require, I aim to apply what i learn from the lab to the iLand project at Wonky Films, to help further develop the digital strategy.
During the first session in Newport we spent a week getting to know fellow participants and each proposed project. The lecture sessions during this week concentrated on the term “transmedia” (my issues with transmedia will come later) and lots of “business” lectures relating to pitching, ip and copyright issues and developing business values and brands. These lectures were particularly useful as the business side of the creativity is one that is rarely, if at all touched upon during undergrad studies. Whilst many of us many never need to be “fully” involved in this side, it is still useful to have an understanding of the potential issues, and to know where you stand.
The stand out session for me, during this week was the “Doctor Who” lecture, which gave an insight into the ways that Doctor Who is being developed across platforms. What i found really interesting was the latest edition of game episodes, where players can play as the doctor and be guided through an episode. This is something different from many “cross-platform” projects where games and other media are usually tacked on to the end, and nothing to do with the main story/content. Instead what is being created is a more interactive and immersive storytelling. The game is the story not just an additional extra, and the viewer can become the “hero”.
The Budapest session went by far too quick, only being three days (still trying to work out how two weeks in Newport, compared to only a combined 6days in Paris and Budapest is fair) but was introduced to a lot of cool technology and projects being developed over there. The week started off with a visit to Kitchen Budapest an innovation lab in the heart of Budapest. During the visit we were introduced to a number of the projects developed/being developed at the lab. A particular favorite of mine was the Beat Your Mouse project. This project is a website and mobile application, where the user aims to beat the distance covered by their mouse (and keystrokes), through daily exercise. The project directly tackles the issue that we all currently spend far too much time in-front of computers and not enough time exercising. I feel the way the project relates the issue into mouse distance and physical walking distance to be particularly powerful as it can reveal some alarming stats, as you believe you must move more than your mouse in a given day. It is also another example of “gamification”, with the user provided with a opponent to try and defeat, giving exercise an extra “fun” dimension.
Other projects we were introduced to were Source Binder an application where you can add and change flash nodes, to create interesting effects/visualisations, different mini applications, or create prototypes of applications using different flash api’s without the headache of code (although some understanding of basic properties, and what things can actually do is helpful)
Animata is real-time animation software, to create animations and interactive installations. The example below shows the characters controlled by sound input, pretty cool! (Would be interesting to see these fellas rocking out to some metal though)
The talks in Budapest were a lot more techy, than in Newport and really interesting and inspiring. As well as the talks/lectures, we had more workshops on the projects. Narrowing down which ones will be taken forward and refining what elements can be produced in the time before the pitch in September.
Since the workshops i’ve been getting my head around webcam code in flash to create little games using the webcam as a controller instead, specifically targeted towards one of the projects which aims to get kids more active. So far i’ve found such a controller in flash can be rather troublesome, as it detects all motion on screen. This means the controller can get confused, but I have managed to find some work arounds to make it more sensitive.
Using such a control mechanism does make the game more interesting and fun to play, however its coming up with the types of games where such a control mechanism is suitable, rather than being there for the sake of it. In respects to the “Kid Kit” project on the transformatlab, such a mechanism is perfect to get kids moving whilst playing, although there are obvious issues with the originality, with the Wii and Xbox Kinect systems around.
I’ve also stated looking into Stencyl a flash game creation tool, which takes away much of the coding headache. Looks like a great tool, especially the physics engine and the upcoming iphone addition which looks promising with the ability to access the GameCenter and iAd (which im not sure if you can do just using flash?).
By the end of the transformatLab project I plan to have developed the digital iLand project further, on both the business and game/app side. Looked at how “transmedia” can effect the project, looking at how each of the elements works together, like cogs, to create the larger iLand world. Also i hope to have made a positive impact on other peoples projects through gaming/app assistance and ideas and to come away with ideas that can be applied back into Wonky projects.
Very much looking forward to the rest of the workshops. Roll on Paris.
It’s been a while, and it looks my new years resolution of writing on here often has completely failed, but time to revive it. Keep eyes peeled for some postings over the next few days, on crowdfunding, transmedia, and other bits and bobs. In the meantime have a play on Cam Pong… web cam pong created using the http://www.ostrichflash.wordpress.com source code. Been looking at this code for the last couple of days playing with what it can do as research into motion based games for http://www.transformatlab.eu, where i am one of the participants.
Jackett resigns and then a day later Sir Alex retires, surely not just a coincidence? #fergieretires
RT @PeteLordAardman: Looking forward to seeing everyone @ShowMeTheAni down @CUBECINEMA on 17th April http://t.co/fwOvxWuyvP - talking ab ...
Cider tasting on a school night! Say whaaaat http://t.co/NUpyPY2iAT
Just posted a photo http://t.co/FSdz4y9o0x
Of monsters & men! http://t.co/7Ck4AgWuX5
@CrowdGazetteUK Not great, was only going to use it as supplementary data anyway so have just omitted it from the findings
Hey Loic Remy how do like your new club now? #bbcfootball
@ShootingPeople can you help a PhD student and RT this crowdfunding survey for the attention of Filmmakers http://t.co/X1A1VDLz
@sundancefest can you help out a PhD student and RT this crowdfunding survey for the attention of Filmmakers http://t.co/X1A1VDLz
@EncountersSFF can you help a PhD student and RT this crowdfunding survey for the attention of Filmmakers http://t.co/X1A1VDLz
Hey @wshed can you help out a PhD student and RT this crowdfunding survey for the attention of Filmmakers http://t.co/X1A1VDLz
White walk to work http://t.co/CvxLzgBS
@CrowdGazetteUK until Monday would be super!!
Hey @Indiegogo can you help out a PhD student and RT this crowdfunding survey! Calling all Filmmakers http://t.co/X1A1VDLz
Hey @CrowdGazetteUK can you help out a PhD student and RT this crowdfunding survey! Calling all Filmmakers http://t.co/X1A1VDLz