Archive for the ‘Narratives’ Category

HomicideI’ve been reading Second-Shift, Media Aesthetics by John T Caldwell in the book New media : theories and practices of digitextuality. In his essay, Caldwell draws on examples from the early part of the 21st Century, where several American networks were experimenting with what has come to be called convergence. The cross-media spread of a narrative that takes place within a program or film is probably the most simplified explanation of it. The term second-shift aesthetics is coined by Caldwell in reference to the program Homicide, aired on HBO (I think?) where the program focussed on the characters who worked one of the homicide shifts, and the Internet presence was all about the second-shift characters, who followed up many of the leads and clues uncovered by the first shift. So the web stuff would include short episodes, as well as content such as the video clips that the first-shift team had been looking through for clues in the case, as well as additional material.This type of cross-media hybrid has become ever more popular with certain programs (America seems to do it best, for some reason and I’m not convinced it’s about budget either). Lost did it and Mad Men does it with characters even having Twitter accounts now. So, it’s a natural flow and a way for production companies to reach their audiences through the many different channels that viewers are now multi-tasking through in the course of an evening (or day, at work!). Rather than desperately panicking about where to find advertising revenue for TV, companies can now sell a bundled package of revenue streams (not sure if that is the right phrase for what I’m think of?) to advertisers. It’s the long tail in action, basically.

So, does this have any relevance for the live performance arts, visual artists or other non-moving image artists? Possibly, is the ambivalent answer! For a start, the advertising revenues might not be something that people are interested in pursuing, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth considering in some context. The other point is that of capturing the ongoing interest of audiences who may have that niggled to find out more about a show after having seen it, or even before seeing it, if they don’t mind spoilers. A street performance that has an experimental approach may become clearer when postcards handed out at the performance, lead people to blogs and video interviews. Rehearsals of RSC plays might help students deconstruct the text of a play they are studying, after having seen the live show.

But these are all extras. In some ways the model for them already exists in the DVD market with additional material, outtakes, interviews etcetera. Also, I noticed that the J.G. Ballard book I recently read, Cocaine Nights, came with links to websites and interviews and an extra short story, as part of a P.S. strategy, so publishers are gradually doing it (but that leads to discussions of The Kindle and e books, a whole other post). So it’s not original, but worth keeping in mind. The other option is for performers to consider how there own work might exist across different platforms. Like the Homicide example above, how would web material extend the narrative arc? Also importantly, is how does this become a natural part of the work and not just a gimmick? Maybe that’s just a matter of how deeply embedded in our lives the digital is, until it becomes transparent.


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Media Convergence, bringing together several strands of media that compliment one another and service the overall narrative or theme, offers an interesting way to model the idea of Ice Cubes as fulfilling some of the brand awareness aspects of the research brief.

It has been used with several TV programs, for example Lost, which exists primarily as a HBO show and also as various websites, that pull out strands and character backgrounds that might not be explored in the show itself.

By considering the use of multiple platforms as not just different transmission channels but as places where different strands of conversation take place, it might be possible to align this to the notion of how artists might want to use Ice Cubes for their own projects?

Instead of it being just a secondary function that ‘documents’ a performance or seminar, the use of web-based tools is factored into the event as a place where feedback or further additional narratives can occur. For example, in Lost, there were websites setup as though they were by the families of the survivors of the plane crash, or conspiracy theorists. These added to the sense of engagement with the program, as well as being a viral marketing tool. For a theatre performance, small snippets of action could be posted that aren’t in the final work but explore something beyond the moment of performance? Then discussions could take place in comments or video hosting websites or blogs?

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