Posts Tagged program
A refresher on Alternate Reality Games, Transmedia Storytelling, and Engagement
While I highlighted the opportunities with Alternate Reality Games and Transmedia Storytelling in my last post, I wanted to take a moment to share a recent production that I’ve been looking into that really highlights how this format works: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (LBD) is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The characters in the story have their own online presence within various social media outlets and interact with one another through Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, ThisIsMyJam, Websites, and more (various examples shown). The characters share their stories with one another through these dynamic media and oftentimes interact with the audience as well.
While this has engaged a pretty significant audience (fandom), what is really incredible is the way in which the audience has begun to participate with one another. A recent update to the story included new information that Lydia Bennet (Lizzie’s youngest sister in the updated version) has been caught up in a sex tape scandal (remember, this is not meant to be perfectly along the storyline that Jane Austen wrote, but one that resonates with the audience of this retelling). There was a huge outcry from the audience expressing dismay at this turn of events. So much so, that that there was discussion the fandom should look for a hacker who would be willing to hack the website on which the video’s seller was collecting interested buyers with a countdown clock. This created an immediate problem for the producers/writers of the story. If the site indeed had been taken down, the team would have to develop a way to get around the change in the storyline created by the audience, and at great expense. In this way, the audience collaborated to solve the problem of the character, rather than maintain their understanding that this was simply part of the story for consumption.
Let’s start with the Fourth Wall
In theater, the Fourth Wall is the theoretical veil between the audience and the stage. Breaking the Fourth Wall happens when the players on the stage actively communicate directly to the audience. There are countless examples in which the magic of the story playing on any stage (screen applies here too) is broken in this way, but the practice is increasing with evermore prevalent new media projects. In my last post, I described Transmedia Storytelling and Alternate Reality Games as a way of telling a story through multiple media streams and its ability to engage an audience in new and immersive ways. But breaking the Fourth Wall can be used to engage the audience in participating in the story through these methods to expand the value of the experience that the audience has. For more on the Fourth Wall, check out Wikipedia for a quick overview, or TV Tropes for all kinds of cool information about the idea and the way that the this device may be used.
Now, to the Fifth Wall
There is another proposed wall which has been less well explored, and often debated as to its name: The Fifth Wall. The operational definition that I like is the veil that separates members of the audience from one another. For a long time, the audience has been the passive observer of entertainment with notable exceptions of breaking the Fourth Wall. But, rarely does a media experience really ask for members of the audience to work with one another. This concept of the Fifth Wall could have significant implications in the sharing of narrative within an Alternate Reality Game with a true Transmedia Story backbone. Consider the opportunities of having participants in the audience that can help guide the story cooperatively; sharing goals, pushing one another toward success, battling challenges together. If your friends’ friends impact your health in positive and negative ways (see previous posts about link influence here), what about engaging a first node relationship more directly to change the perception of the second or third node to ripple back through the network to you. In this way, the network then begins to course with change and as you make changes that influence others, their responsive changes come back to you. In this way, helping others get healthier helps you get healthier.
The Walls and their implications within LBD
The surprising situation that happened within the LBD is that while the narrative has been so clearly billed as a story, with many instances of the Fourth Wall being broken (the producers actually have entire blog postings dedicated to talking about the production process as it is occurring), it turns out that the Fifth Wall nearly took down the production. The audience reverted to a sense of belief as they interacted with one another. The characters, then, are part of the audience – and the audience part of the characters. This creates a shared experience where the audience felt that they were responsible for helping solve the problem for the character.
The investment of the audience in their shared experience (this includes characters, as mentioned above) has huge implications for health programming. Imagine a story with so much motivation and movement as LBD written to achieve Salutogenesis by creating a shared landscape around health behaviors. If we know that education, knowledge, and external incentives are not motivations for behavior change, is this the next landscape to try? We think it is.
To our health,
adaptation, Alternate Reality Game, engagement, fifth wall, fourth wall, Health, Healthcare, jane austen, lizzie bennet, mines, Mines and Associates, Network, program, salutogenesis, Social Media, the lizzie bennet diaries, Transmedia Storytelling, tumblr, Twitter, web, wellbeing, Wellness, youtube
Let’s take a moment to discuss the great ‘Social Media at Work’ debate. You’re familiar, I’m sure, with this concept. It starts with a question like this:
“Why would we allow our employees to spend ‘work time’ doing things other than work?”
or another popular alternative,
“Do we want to allow employees to engage in social networking where they could release PCI (a play on PHI in the health world, Protected Health Information: Private Corporate Information).”
or the myriad other great arguments for canning social media in the workplace.
In 2011, MINES had the great honor of presenting at the EAPA International Conference on Wellness Programs where we posited an alternative to traditional wellness programs that relied on the value of social media with employees as a means to increasing adoption, bolstering adherence through social relationships, and positioning health as a social venture where people are spending increasing amounts of their free (and yes, even work) time engaging in health. The core of most Wellness programs is similar to that of traditional EAP; a sort of ‘we’re there when you need us’ or ‘wait-and-see’ approach. Wellness programs, however, often incentivize participation through monetary carrots or sticks. This is a one-to-one approach to health. Those of you that get to play with relational databases, however, recognize that there are many ways to connect entities (data, people, sites, etc.).
Social Media has the ability to act in a many-to-many way; that is, connecting me to my friend, and my friend’s friend, and all of us to an expert (be it a website, user, resource, or anything else) to engage on a topic. This is an extremely powerful tool that is starting to be leveraged by a handful of companies – similar to the group therapy model where part of treatment is engaging with other individuals that are currently in treatment, rather than solely with the doc, therapist, CAC, or sponsor.
At the conclusion of our presentation, an attendee posed the following question during the Q and A:
“My company doesn’t allow access to Social Media at work, what recommendation do you have for a company that wants to consider leveraging Social Media but its’ employees don’t have access to it.”
The answer from our CEO went something like
“At MINES, we’ve created a culture wherein every employee is expected to do their best. I trust that my employees are doing just that and see that they do their best every day and until I see different results, I trust my employees to not abuse the system.”
“Short and unobtrusive breaks, such as a quick surf of the Internet, enables the mind to rest itself, leading to a higher total net concentration for a days’ work, and as a result, increased productivity.”
That’s pretty interesting and kind of common sense when you think about it. Looking to an interview with the guru of productivity, Tim Ferriss, on LifeHack is the argument that we should…
“Take frequent breaks and strive to constantly eliminate instead of organize.”
So, despite all of the many reasons to not allow employees onto these Social Media sites, here we see the interplay of increasing productivity by taking breaks, and Social Media as an opportunity to boost creativity and rest the mind. It’s certainly interesting.
Keep in mind; we’re not suggesting that every company, organization, or government entity allow unfettered access to social media sites. We recognize that many of the groups that we work with each day have significant and valid arguments to be made as to why they do not allow access from a workstation provided by their IT department; but most arguments are worthy of reexamination as new information becomes available and the growing trend in BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) will have significant consequences as well when it comes to the Social Media, or WILB (Workplace Internet Leisure Browsing), debates – a topic we’ll tackle in the next iteration of Health inSite.
To Our Health,
anti-virus, Assistance, Bring Your Own Device, BYOD, CEO, CIO, EAPA, Employee, Facebook, Health, Health inSite, lifehack, myspace, policies, productivity, program, restricting social media at work, Social Media, Tim Ferriss, Twitter, Wellness, workplace