How To Boost Your Creative Process
Because Transmedia projects are fundamentally transdisciplinary, they can only be the result of collaborative work between several team members, who come from various backgrounds or industries and have different skills. French digital and cultural communications consultant Karine Halpern created the 7 Transmedia Families deck of cards, a brainstorming and design thinking tool meant to help teams figure out how best to leverage the skills of their team members, boost the creative process and improve the transmedia project as it’s being built. Jammers, if you’re unsure what role you can play in a team, or if you’re stuck at some point of your project building, the cards are here to help – and the TSF team as well.
TransmediaSF: what is the deck of card?
Karine Halpern: The game should help people to get “transmedia ready”, no matter what their background or skills, or specialty are. The cards are based on a real game from the 19th century in its version with 6 family members. The original British version has 4 members and the French version has 6 adding the grand parents. For the Transmedia family game, we called family members “transmedia characters” so it does make sense in the context of transmedia production. It helps to design a more open storyworld, using more platforms and ideas. The game should be used for training, creative processes, design thinking, and it works very well as a tool for coaching and evaluating a transmedia project at any stage. There are several ways it can be used it. The guidelines only work for a small group, so the idea is to hack the game and reinvent the rules each time someone wants to use it. In a way, it is a transmedia tool.
TSF: what is the vision behind this project?
KH: This project is an experiment for a research work, and I wanted other people to use it for their own work too, as an experience in shared knowledge. I shared this project with designer Cynthia Jabar (http://www.cynthiajabar.com/), she was a very good partner to make the game a reality. The current version is the “Prototype”, but I am expecting feedback from practitioners (or advocates) in order to modify the cards so we can iterate and move to a more scalable version of it. About 80 people around the world have a deck of the prototype already. The most obvious family is, of course, the “Storyworld” family since the story is the key element of a transmedia project. But once you have a story, what’s next? You can’t just have a story, you also need to design an experience. For me, the most important family is actually the “Communities” family. It is your fan-base and your audience. The card game is basically looking for methodologies and best practices. I wanted to show how complex a native transmedia production could be. The 7 transmedia families shows that a transmedia project is fundamentally collaborative. Nobody can work on its own, you need a combination of different expertise to produce transmedia stories and experiences. In my opinion, it is necessary to have a least one card from each family to create a transmedia project. The goal is to use the deck of cards to figure out what cards – and what expertise – you need for your transmedia project. You can start by forming an ideal native transmedia opus, and then iterate; each model is ad hoc and you will never repeat a model.
TSF: How did you come up with all the cards and transmedia characters? Is it going to evolve?
KH: Besides the ideas already mentioned, I based my research on all the stories I came across and worked on during my career working in film, media and politics, so it really is an empirical work. I met with people like Lance Weiler, visited hackerspaces, attended conferences, read blogs, tweeted about it, attended workshops and meetings on the current Open Culture movement. I drew on my experience with creative processes, methodologies and maieutics, where asking the right question leads to the right answers. For now we are just about to design a crowd-funding campaign to pay back expenses of the prototype, share insights about the business model itself, create a 2.0 version, and then an 1 app! If it works well, it should lead to a collection of cards… Some would be free and online, some will be only IRL, some will be “collectors”. People could buy their cards online, and make their own to keep improving the mapping of transmedia families as the industry matures. The cards are under the Creative Commons license. We’ll most likely change the design, improve some cards, but the tool remains the same no matter what the cards say.
TSF: Are there old media professions as well as new media professions? Are some cards new types of profession we see emerging because of transmedia?
KH: We’re definitely seeing new professions emerge, but “old” professions are actually not that old and are still needed. However, it is true that the industry is also looking for more more polyvalent professionals, so in a way it is becoming harder to have only one expertise. The idea with the 7 families is to show that a transmedia project requires very different types of expertise, so we do need to work with others collaboratively, sometimes in co-creation. However, we do have a super power. We are Fairies and Alchemists, we can create transmedia from scratch (if not a franchise) and transmedia is changing the traditional models of creation and production, in the same way it is the concept of authorship, and business models. Transmedia as such is not a consequence of the digital age, but it is now emerging as an art form of itself because of the new tools available, the potential of interactivity and of social influence.
TSF: How can it typically be used in a hackathon or workshop? What advice would you give to people who don’t yet know how to use their skills for or what role they can play in the building of a transmedia project?
KH: First of all, be free. Basic mantra : everyone is a storyteller. Optional mantra: tools and platforms are here to serve you and not the other way around. The cards are made to foster communication, to help build good teams, and boost the creative process and thinking. Based on your needs and where you are in your creative process, you can get inspired by the cards, use them to improve the experience you’re designing, to think about group dynamics … If you are stuck or lacking creativity during while creating your project, take a short break, let it go. You can use the cards to boost your imagination, take a step back, or challenge your self. Typically, you can pick a card out of the complete game and ask those basic questions:
“Do I already have this profile in my team?”
“What skills do I have that can add value to my team and to the transmedia experience we’re building?”
“Is my transmedia project too big? Too small? Can this card change anything in my creative process to reach the right balance…”
Look at all the cards now: “What do I miss the most for a good native transmedia project?”
Turn to your team: “Can you read (interpret) this card for me?”
You can also pick each card you think you already have in the current development of your project, and ask what you’re missing. For instance, if you think you are done building your Storyworld, why not take a look at the Communities Family and explpore ways in which you could improve your Storyworld to make it more open. Then, take a card in the Gameplay family and try to think about whether adding some gaming elements would enhance the experience you’re building, for instance. The cards work very well if you are going to implement into Social Samba and Conducttr. Since the TransmediaJam will focus on social media, you might think that you only need the “Communities” family, but not at all. Every family has its own qualities and characteristics to bring.