Portal and Transmedia

With an increasing focus on consumer engagement, many media producers have taken to expanding existing media franchises across different platforms. Beyond simply mirroring the same story across platforms, in transmedia storytelling “each medium makes it own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story” and gives a unique, but independent, fragment of story (Jenkins). Valve Corporation for the last several years has embraced transmedia with increasing fervor as a method of supplementing the stories of their popular video game franchises. A particularly rich example of how Valve has integrated an existing franchise into a transmedia experience is their comic, Portal 2: Lab Rat, produced alongside the 2011 release of their video game Portal 2.

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Starting with the humble release of the short space warping puzzle video game Portal in 2007, the Portal franchise has since branched out across multiple forms of media to become a true transmedia experience. The video games Portal and Portal 2 form the backbone of the Portal franchise and have been accompanied by the release of two sophisticated alternate reality games (the first of which required players to at one point contact an obscure phone number to connect to a modem in the kitchen of a Portal developer’s house), several animated vignettes, and the aforementioned comic book titled Portal 2: Lab Rat. The comic was released online for free and bridges the gap between Portal and Portal 2 with a separate story that follows a new character: a schizophrenic scientist known as the Ratman.

In the first Portal, there are several references to an obscure character whose “rat dens” (pictured below, left image) are found hidden behind the sterile walls of the “test facility” the player spends most of the game. Since the creator of these spaces, which contain strange and psychotic scrawlings and images, never appears in the game, the game creates a sense of mystery and a feeling that the world of the game is larger than what is shown in the game. This creates negative capability, or in the words of Henry Jenkins, a set of “potential plots which can not be fully told or extra details which hint at more than can be revealed” (Jenkins).

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Interactive puzzle games, according to Janet Murray, “have a slower pace of engagement” and can “take advantage of this slower pace to offer a richer level of story satisfaction” (Murray 52). Indeed, Portal can get away with hiding narrative elements, like the rat dens, in the environment for this reason and can safely assume most players will see them as they carefully traverse each map looking for a solution for each puzzle.

The shadowy character is revealed in Portal: Lab Rat, whose signature scrawls feature in the background of the first page (shown above, right image). The story features Doug Rattmann (or simply, the Ratman) who follows the game character in the events near the end of the first game. By explaining who the character is, Valve has not only filled the void left by the negative capability created by the secret rat dens, but has also fulfilled fans who want to know more about the underpinnings of the game’s environment and plot.

In Portal 2, the Ratman’s writings appear with more prominence and play a slightly more important role in the game than in Portal. However, the actual Ratman character is still only referred to symbolically and indirectly; a character whose actual plot is ancillary to the game’s main plot. These symbolic images, such as the one seen in-game below (right image), drive more interest in the character. In contrast with the references in Portal, these references are more direct, and perhaps more significantly, exist in reference to the story in the comic which did not exist when the first Portal was released. Because of this, these references become migratory cues, or hints to the player that there is a connection with another story that is not being told in the game, which in this case, can be found in the comic.

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This transition from a reference to a character that does not exist in any medium to a direct reference to a character who does exist in comic book form, highlights a key similarity between negative capability and migratory cues. As Geoffrey Long observes, media producers are capable of “utilizing negative capability to craft potential migratory cues,” like the references in the original Portal, which can then “become actualized as migratory cues when those extensions are made available,” as in the case of Portal 2 and Portal 2: Lab Rat (Long 60).

Looking at this transmedia extension shows how a media producing company, like Valve, can extend a successful work into a larger transmedia experience through the use of negative capability and migratory cues. The disjoint, but canonical, nature of each story creates a “unified and coordinated entertainment experience” that ultimately creates a rich experience for fans of the franchise.

Works Cited:

Jenkins, Henry. “Transmedia Storytelling 101.” Confessions of an AcaFan. N.p., 22 Mar. 2007. Web. 27 Feb. 2014. <http://henryjenkins.org/2007/03/transmedia_storytelling_101.html>.

Long, Geoffrey A. Transmedia Storytelling: Business, Aesthetics and Production at the Jim Henson Company. Thesis. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2007. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Murray, Janet Horowitz. “Harbingers of the Holodeck.” Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. New York: Free, 1997. 53. Print.

Halo and the Structures of Transmediation

             Transmediation is a technique that uses multiple forms of media, known as platforms, as a way to tell a unified storyline. This is a technique typically executed through new media. Transmedia is composed of several essential structures that serve to define it. The Halo Canon uses transmediation as a way to build the Halo universe. A canon is a collection of texts that are produced by one author and recognized as genuinely that authors vision. World building is something the creators of Halo have heavily used in order to let fans dive into the halo universe head on. World building is when an author releases stories through different medias in order to explain and create a complete story for fans to consume. The Halo Canon feeds off this particular structure. Bungie and Microsoft, Halo’s creators, have released several books alongside the primary texts. (video games) They did this in order to open fans to more storyline between games, as well as introduce more characters and places within the fictional space.Image

 

The cover even says, “The official prequel to the award-winning Xbox game!”. The books while serving the purpose of world building also simultaneously serve as contributors to additive comprehension. Additive comprehension is another transmedia technique where a text serves as a addition to the understanding of the narrative. This particular book serves as a prequel to the first Halo game which is the original text, thus enhancing the original narrative, Halo: Combat Evolved. Henry Jenkins attempts to define several of the characteristics of transmedia storytelling in his blog titled, “Transmedia Storytelling 101”. He defines additive comprehension in the same fashion and comments on the necessity of the function that additive story telling serves. The Halo creators have brilliantly created additive comprehension even within their video game series which is considered the primary texts in the canon. An example of this is the 5th video game installment, Halo 3 ODST. ImageImage

This game served to tell more events that occurred during the game Halo 3 but through a different perspective. This game was released two years after the first Halo 3 game was released. A brilliant move by Microsoft in my opinion. The Halo franchise is a perfect example of relatively small scale transmedia storytelling. This is one of the many reasons why thousands of people and I love the Halo canon.

References:

http://henryjenkins.org/2007/03/transmedia_storytelling_101.html

https://fms110spring2014.wordpress.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halo_(series)#Books

Aside

Angel Valencia

Is Wikipedia reliable? Is it considered a source? Is Wikipedia good or bad? Both? A lot of questions arise when it comes to Wikipedia. Many experts will say Wikipedia is not reliable, others say its just a quick starting point for research. But overall, can we trust the information that’s put on Wikipedia by “average people”? That’s one, if not the main question presented by the 2-parted article: Henry Jenkins’ “What Wikipedia Can Teach Us About New Media Literacies.”

The Wikipedia article I selected was Comedy Central’s Tosh.0. The show is considered controversial, shocking, and funny. Despite it’s infamous comedy style, the show is one of the most watched shows among adults (18-49) the night its aired, averaging millions of viewers (Tosh.0). I chose this page because of its history involving Wikipedia. Jenkins talks about collective intelligence, “the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others towards a common goal” (Jenkins). Just like the Tosh.0 page and others, people really do work together on Wikipedia to put together information for the common good. For example, the Tosh.0 page has had about 959 revisions, and 382 by top ten users. It averages about 16 edits a month, a slow average particular due to the page being locked to some. Most are minor, but Wikipedia and users do a good job at keeping the information relevant and accurate. Despite a control in user activity with the page, there’s can still be questions raised on true accuracy. 

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Is the information on Wikipedia put by people assumed to be correct 100% of the time? One can argue that not all information is right. Jenkins raises the question by stating, “There are legitimate concerns about the credibility of online information and the breakdown of traditional notions of expertise which should be debated.”(Jenkins) The statement refers to concern of the younger generation not questioning the source of Wikipedia; instead, they rely on it, or have too much “faith” in it. Because a lot of non-scholarly experts write Wikipedia pages, it’s hard trust in its accuracy. I bring up this point because Tosh.0 has had a history with Wikipedia. In 2010, Daniel Tosh told his viewers to change up a “boring page” for the show, causing quite a stir. The page was severely vandalized for comical reasons, resulting in a lockdown for the page, and an “apology” by Daniel to Wikipedia (Wikipedia).

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Just like this page, if a student, referred by Jenkins, were to stumble upon wrong information on the page, would they question it? If a source of information can be altered and revised in a non-accurate way, is it still a true source of information? Yes and No. Its no surprise Wikipedia has suffered a lot of vandalism misfortune with its information. However, Wikipedia does its best to stop this kind of activity. For example it will lock up pages, so only a selected few can edit them. Such is the case with the Tosh.0 Wikipedia page that is still locked to the unregistered to this day. It is important to monitor activity on Wikipedia, since it is a source of information used by a lot of people. Even If the information is not scholarly, it is still information put together by people” towards a common goal.” Overall, Information should be questioned with Wikipedia, although it’s a still a good source for general knowledge, and not super-detailed, super-accurate knowledge.

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Work Cited:

 Jenkins, Henry. “WHAT WIKIPEDIA CAN TEACH US ABOUT THE NEW MEDIA LITERACIES (PART ONE).” Confessions of an AcaFan. N.p., 26 June 2007. Web. 14 Feb. 2014.

 “Tosh.0.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2014.

 “Wikipedia in Culture.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2014.

Kate Voegele

Kate Voegele has been my favorite musician since I first heard her sing and watched her on the television show “One Tree Hill” back in 2008. She is an American singer-songwriter and actress and made her debut in music in 2003. So far she has released three albums and is currently working on her fourth, hoping to be released sometime in 2014. She is not the most well known musician and most people have never heard about her. I decided to choose her Wikipedia page because I know it would not be extensively long and I know a lot about her music and life. Her page was created June of 2005 and has had a total of 937 revisions in the past 8 years; which is not much at all. The most recent edit was made January 2, 2014 and there is only an average of 9 edits per month.

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In Henry Jenkins “What Wikipedia Can Teach Us About New Media Literacies” he talks about collective intelligence and how Wikipedia is the perfect example of it. Collective intelligence is “the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others towards a common goal” (Part 2). This Kate Voegele page however does not showcase a huge amount of collective intelligence. The whole page is mostly about her music and has nothing but a sentence about her early life and personal life. There is no knowledge pooled about her life and the page does not describe who she is at all.

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Henry Jenkins also mentions “collective intelligence places new emphasis upon diversity: the more diverse the participants, the richer the final outcome” (Part 2). I noticed as well in Kate Voegele’s Wikipedia page that there was not a diverse amount of participants. Therefore the final outcome is not particularly rich. As you can see there is one main user, “wkhelp” who has made 38 edits and the number of edits rapidly decrease from there. There is not a diverse amount of participants which also in turn creates mistakes that have not been fixed. The last line of the page states she is working on her fourth album and it is set to release in 2013. It is currently 2014 already and the last edit was made in January but no one has fixed this mistake yet.

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One thing I did notice was the most edits that has happened on her page is in 2009, more specifically May. May 2009 was when her album “A Fine Mess” was released and she was still on “One Tree Hill” at that time. This was probably her biggest and most popular album thus far. The pattern of edits seem to show that when a new album is released the edits increase as well.

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All in all I feel her Wikipedia page is not a great example of collective intelligence because it has been up for about 8 years now and there is not much content and only about 900 edits. The most interesting part and another defining factor as to why it is not a great example of collective intelligence is because the Wikipedia page is the second link to show up when you Google Kate Voegele.

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Works Cited

http://henryjenkins.org/2007/06/what_wikipedia_can_teach_us_ab_1.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kate_Voegele

Manchester City F.C.

Wikipedia, according to Henry Jenkins, is a tangible representation of the New Media principle, Collective Intelligence. I found an article on Wikipedia.org about the Manchester City Football Club. (M.C.F.C.) From the article’s creation in January of 2003, to its most recent edit, the 12th of February 2014, it has accumulated  6,895 total revisions. 71.23 percent of these revisions were users, and 28.77% were just IPs.

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This article is a fantastic example of collective intelligence in Wikipedia as well as our culture. One Editor by the pseudonym ‘Oldelpaso’ made 582 edits on this article alone. This user seems to have credibility as he only edits football articles as well as witnessed Manchester City F.C. take the premier league Championship in 2012. This user is also been a wiki editor since February of 2005. Other large editors of this page share a similar story. The article’s credibility is also justified by the fact that its editing is now semi restricted. I find the article to be well laid out when it chronologically displays the history of the club. Manchester City F.C. historically has only been a successful club the last few years. They won the 2012 Barclay’s Premier League title as the article chronicles. My knowledge of the club does not exceed what is presented in this document, however, everything I do know about M.C.F.C. is correctly depicted in this article.

Jenkins suggests that participatory culture becomes collective intelligence in his blog post, What Wikipedia Can Teach Us About the New Media Literacies. In Wikipedia articles like this one, the term “scholarly article” doesn’t exactly fit as how FMS 110 and Jenkins define it. However, M.C.F.C. has a huge fan base and this articles credibility to being collective intelligence comes from the fan base’s collective knowledge. Fans tend to be crazy about their teams, especially in the premier league in England.

I find that the article provides extensive knowledge and towards the club and its history. It has been edited by two thousand three hundred seven users. fifty-four and a half percent of these edits come from the top ten percent of active users. Jenkins would find that this article qualifies as relevant to new media studies. Increasing reliance on Wikipedia can be dangerous but only if the articles used are scholarly as it has been defined. Here is a better example of how communities of people can use Wikipedia to put their passion into the palms of anyone interested or curious about the subject matter.

Jenkins, Henry. “WHAT WIKIPEDIA CAN TEACH US ABOUT THE NEW MEDIA LITERACIES (PART TWO).” Web log post. Confessions of an AcaFan. N.p., 27 June 2007. Web. 13 Feb. 2014.

http://henryjenkins.org/2007/06/what_wikipedia_can_teach_us_ab.html

“Manchester City F.C.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 12 February 2014. Web. 13 February 2014.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manchester_City_F.C.

“Manchester City F.C. – Article revision statistics” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 12 February 2014. Web. 13 February 2014.

https://tools.wmflabs.org/xtools/articleinfo/index.php?article=Manchester_City_F.C.&lang=en&wiki=wikipedia

Myspace

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Myspace was founded in 2003 and became the most visited social networking site in the world from 2005 until 2008. It was one of the first and only sites like it, where people were allowed to customize their page and pick their music, along with keeping up with social networking. It was the thing to have or you weren’t considered “cool”. In late 2008 Facebook took over as the main social networking site. Since then the number of Myspace users have declined steadily in spite of several redesigns. Myspace today is run by Justin Timberlake and its main feature is a streaming music player where users can queue songs and make their own playlists. The classic Myspace has completely been deleted so the old Myspace that everyone knew and used is gone. This “new Myspace” has radically changed it’s intention and focus from what it once was.

 

When Myspace first got popular, everyone had to have one. I remember my friends kept pushing me to get one even though I did not want to. It was the trend back then. Parents didn’t trust it and teens loved it. Myspace had people going through the 4 stages of amazement when it was launched. According to Onian, the 4 stages are

  1. A striking visual or aural experience.

    Everyone was amazed at how much customization could go into each individual page. Users were allowed to change anything at a drop of a hat from their pictures, wallpaper, layout to who their top 10 friends were.

  2. Physical Paralysis

    Users were extremely shocked at everything Myspace offered.

  3. A mental reaction leading to learning.

    I remember going on all my friends Myspace pages and seeing how different every single one was. There were infinite things to learn about it. The one thing everyone picked up was changing their layout and their background. This taught basic html and CSS, something most people would not even consider thinking about. This amazement made users want to learn how to customize everything about their page.

  4. A new action (Gunning, 41).

    Myspace became the way of life. It was the main form of talking to friends after school, sharing photos, and showing people how much friends or comments you had. It was always open and users were constantly on it. We accepted this “new technology as second nature” (Gunning, 40).

 

As years went on Myspace dropped in popularity as Facebook came into play. To combat this, owners of Myspace tried to redesign. They aimed to de-familiarize ,“make it strange” (Gunning, 45) users with the interface to renew wonder in people. Myspace was trying to “[refashion] discourse away from the automatic so that the familiar becomes strange and can be rediscovered in its sensual specificity and vividness” (Gunning, 45). To my knowledge this has not worked. Through the many redesigns, Myspace still remains a distant memory. I have not heard anyone bring up Myspace unless it is to reminisce. Myspace has become this uncanny platform. It used to be all about social networking but now it is about music and sharing and listening to music-which there are multiple other more popular ways to stream and share music. It has become so different and unfamiliar and only time will tell if greater and constant exposure will overcome the idea that everyone has of Myspace and how it is not relevant anymore. 

 

Works Cited:

Gunning, Tom. (2003) “Re-Newing Old Technologies: Astonishment, SecondNature, and the Uncanny in Technology from the Previous Turn-of the Century”. In D. Thorburn and H. Jenkins (eds), Rethinking Media Change:The Aesthetics of Transition. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp 39-60.

 

Reddit

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If one were to ask a college student if they know of Reddit, the most common answer would be yes. reddit is a very unique website when it comes to online forums. It was founded by two 22 year old graduates from University of Virginia in June of 2005(The History of Reddit). Reddit users, also known as redditors, flock to reddit to be up to date on news and topics currently trending. The idea of reddit is that any user can submit an entry under certain “subreddits”, which are subsections of reddit where anything can be found, ranging from cute animals to horrific pictures. Now you may be thinking, what is the big deal about this reddit website? What makes reddit so extraordinary is that it is an anonymous forum of social media that is direct at the general population. It allows one to be themselves and not worry about what their peers would think. Accounts can also be created in a matter of seconds, and the website is very easy to navigate which draws lots of users in. Interestingly, many of these ideas can be linked to Tom Gunnings article “Re-Newing Old Technologies.”

In Tom Gunnings article, he states “Astonishment is inherently an unstable and temporary experience. One finds it difficult to be continually astonished by the same thing”(Gunning). Unlike Instagram where photos and videos can only be posted, reddit is filled with anything you can think of on the internet. Based on the subreddits you visit, you look at anything you want. This is very important in our generation because we are known as the “We Generation”, meaning we want certain things and have things personalized our way. There is always something new on reddit every day which leads one to believe that this website will thrive for a long amount of time. It also states in the article that “new technologies evoke not only a short-lived wonder based on unfamiliarity which greater and constant exposure will overcome, but also a possibly less dramatic but more enduring sense of the uncanny”(Gunning). This can be related to almost any activity. For example, a new game may be trending in the app store. The game may be the most fun game on your phone, but in the next week, it will be old and a new one will replace it. This seems to be a common occurring theme, showing in many social media sites like Myspace and Friendster. However, reddit is only growing in size and continues to impress me every day as more people join. It gives a new insight to other peoples lives, some you may even know personally.

Reddit can become very addicting, and it is apparent in the image of “What my parents think I do” in the meme. My friends constantly think it is making me more stupid, but I really am much more up to date on things going on in the news. Society tends to think of redditors as the common computer geek, seen in the picture above. Also, journalists have been caught using articles and even stealing comments word for word pertaining to a certain subject. Unfortunately, my girlfriends knows what kind of stuff can get posted on there like nude pictures, and I think the picture is pretty self explanatory. The last picture of what I really do seems to capture the whole idea of reddit. It is super engaging, and your identity is unknown which is symbolized by the guy wearing a ski mask over his face.

Citations

Vreeswijk, S.. N.p.. Web. 30 Jan 2014. <http://www.stikkymedia.com/blog/history-reddit&gt;.

Gunning, T. 2003. ‘Re-newing Old Technologies: Astonishment, Second Nature and the Uncanny in Technology From the Previous Turn-of the-Century’, in Thorburn, D. and Jenkins, H. (eds) Rethinking Media Change: The Aesthetics of Transition. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press