What can we, as learning professionals, learn from the art of storytelling and its use within the entertainment industry?Transmedia Learning is a concept I’ve been developing for a while now - in short, the term means ‘the use of story across multiple platforms for the purposes of Learning’.
The Power of StoryThe human need for story is as fundamental as the need for food and water. Cognitive psychologists describe how our mind attempts to understand and remembers how it assembles the bits and pieces of an experience into a story. Stories are how we remember, how we make sense of our world. From around the fire to the cave wall to the pen, the radio, moving pictures and then, by golly, moving pictures with sound – we constantly strive to tell story any which way we can.We are drawn into story, we laugh and cry, we participate - we discuss our favourite TV show the next day around the water fountain. Story allows us to safely explore concepts, challenges, things that go bump in the night - safely. We experience the extremes of our emotions; ultimately we simulate life through story. As we are hard wired this way, story is a powerful way to communicate a message and if we get it right, a very lucrative business, a trick the marketing industry has not missed.As Robert McKee, the author of ‘Story’ states, "Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience.”
Whilst online searching for stories and their impact, I found this tribute to ER created by a fan.Have to be honest I cried, see how you go…Then I started to browse the comments and found;
The term Transmedia is used in entertainment to describe the delivery of the story across multiple platforms, think The Matrix where you could watch the film, play the game, read the comic etc. Blogging – A blend of the term ‘Web Log’. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs. The ability of readers to leave comments in an interactive format is the essential component of many blogs.Alternate Reality Games – e.g. World Without Oil (www.worldwithoutoil.org). Whereas traditional gaming is designed to help people escape from reality, alternate reality games are actually designed to make reality more engaging.Video Sharing Sites – Think YouTube!Social Networks – Networks like facebook, LinkedIn and Plaxo that provide a social networking service.Forums - an online discussion site where people can hold conversations in the form of posted messages.Wikis – Think Wikipedia, a site that allows easy creation and editing of any number of web pages.Augmented Reality – augmented reality is any technology that overlays virtual information on top of the real world.Social Virtual Worlds – Anyone for a second life, online?Television – Film - World Wide WebMassively Multi-player Online Role-playing Game (MMORPG) – in which a very large number of players interact with one another within a virtual game world - e.g. World of Warcraft.Social networking and micro-blogging service – example, Twitter and Yammer.How do these and other platforms work together to deliver a story? It is not just simply the same information delivered on multiple platforms but the delivery of a story where each platform gives meaning and contributes something distinctive to the experience of the whole.
An example of each platform contributing something distinctive is the campaign leading up to the release of The Dark Knight. This example encapsulates the Transmedia experience“The campaign centred on the web, branched out over mobile, mail, flash mobs, scavenger hunts, casual games, user generated content, collaborative narratives and streaming video. The audience was immersed into the saga of Gotham City from the last frame of Batman Begins to the opening scene of The Dark Knight”.Over 10 million participants - 75 countries = highly effective and engaging entertainment/marketing campaign. What can we as learning professionals learn from the storytelling skill and implementation of the entertainment industry?
Why is story so important for us to use in People Development?We are hardwired to learn through story which means it is a natural, interesting and engaging experience for us.Plus, as Kathleen Carroll (CEO of Brain-Friendly Learning) states;“Story gives meaning and importance to learnings which could otherwise be perceived as dry, uninteresting facts”Not sure about you, but 'Introduction to Financial Statements' isn’t up there on my bedtime reading list… However, stories of people trying to build their businesses and the skills they need to do so is interesting. Why? Suddenly the content has meaning and importance.So, if we are hardwired to learn through story, if story gives us meaning and impetus to change… the question I have been asking myself for a long time now is… 'What is the difference between entertainment and learning?' – if by telling a story, by simulating life, we are learning, remembering and sense making this is effectively the same process, different purpose. This leads me to a quote by Marshall McLuhan whose work is considered the cornerstone of media theory;
“Anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn't know the first thing about either.”(He also said “The medium is the message” and coined the term “Global Village” in the 1960s!)
Transmedia Storytelling for the purpose of learning = Transmedia LearningSo, I started to develop the diagram for Transmedia Learning, and instantly realised there is no difference and so here it is again…The theory and approach is the same, however, we’ll probably need to consider different technical solutions to applications such as Twitter and facebook. SharePoint offers forums, file sharing, Yammer offers micro blogging, communities, direct messages and groups.The beauty is, that in order to further understand how people use them, we have an immense pool of marketing and entertainment professionals well-versed in using all of these platforms from whom we can learn and then apply in our field.The key as mentioned is to ensure fit for purpose – use each platform as nature intended.In the era of the collaborative web, we as L&D professionals have the vehicle to reach individuals, give people a voice, enable them to be heard, share stories and leverage the collective intelligence. What I’m supporting is the use Story to start the conversation, to give meaning and importance to what can sometimes be perceived as dry, uninteresting facts.As with any learning solution, the key to a Transmedia Learning Solution is in knowing the audience, the story and the delivery platforms
PeaceMaker is described by its creators as “a video game to teach peace”. Allowing players to explore, experiment and learn at their own pace.“In the same vein as the U.N.'s aid-relief game Food Force (with more than 4 million downloads in 15 months) techno do-gooders are proliferating, and gamers are saving the world”Within months Peacemaker had already sold over 100,000 copies. This means hundreds of thousands of people paid money to play a serious game… a learning game. Now, maybe that’s a model we can follow to assist our L&D budgets…
see how augmented reality is ever increasing in our lives…Simple clean and effective – and exactly what I need to show me how to assemble Ikea furniture!
Play it, before you live it.World Without Oil (WWO) was a serious alternate reality game in 2007, a massively collaborative simulation of a global oil crisis, it set the model for using a net-native storytelling method (‘alternate reality’) to meet civic and educational goals.WWO invited people from all walks of life to contribute “collective imagination” to confront a real-world issue: the risk our thirst for oil poses to our economy, climate and quality of life. It was a milestone in the quest to use games as democratic, collaborative platforms for exploring possible futures and sparking future-changing action.
In ShortTake that ‘content people need to know and then act upon’ and build the story to make a powerful, clear and meaningful experience which in turn will initiate behavioral change.Know thy platforms and use them as nature intended = fit for purpose – click and read is neither interactive nor a compelling learning experience. Use the internet for the collaborative, interactive medium it is, save 'read and turn' for books, at least participants can draw in them.Integrate the story approach into your learning strategy. What story experiences are you offering your participants, how can they share their stories, hear other's stories, interact in a meaningful way with ‘content’.4. Face the challenges head on and don’t lose sight of the end game - there is a reason why millions of people are on social networking sites, blogs, playing games, spending hours watching cats and bunnies on YouTube and running around dressed up as the joker… the love of story and our new ways to tell and experience them…
Strategy – Practical – you probably know this but if not;Get very friendly with your IT teamDevelop a clear People Development IT StrategyAlign your culture with a digital approach and policy (Corporate Leadership Council has good resources to assist)Practice what you preachHow to write a story? I recommend starting with Robert McKee’s Story, there is also a great article by him - Harvard Business Review Storytelling that moves people.Once upon a time, in a land not so far away I was asked to review some online learning that was about to be implemented. After much reading and much clicking I asked the vendor, Why do we have to click every button to move on? To which the reply was ‘to motivate people to complete the training’‘No’, I replied, ‘making the content engaging, relevant, meaningful and collaborative will motivate people to complete the training’. We have collaborative, exciting, relevant and increasingly cost effective storytelling tools at our disposal. From around the boardroom table to films, games, social networks, blogs, augmented reality and alternate reality games, the opportunities are endless.
"Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience.” Robert McKee
Farewell to ER – Fan Tribute The power of story to invoke action, participation and in this case skill, time and dedication to make a fan tribute to ER http://www.youtube.com/user/spaceyume
Fan Comments Spaceyume “When it comes to an unbelievably amazing character like John Carter and a phenomenal show as ER, there always is so much to talk about... I used to think TV was just for fun...Definatly been a life-changing experience...” Nfurtado23 "I loved the ER Tribute, I just watch it everyday. Dr.Carter inspires me, I think he's the perfect example of who I wanna be”
Augmented Reality Business Opportunities Recognition by Gary P Hayes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkYC1kBPR6o
Alternate Reality Games “Play it before you live it" People invited from all walks of life to contribute collective imagination to confront a real-world issue – the threat oil poses to our economy, climate and quality of life. “Best of all, it was compellingly fun...”