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Irking Christy Dena

Christy Dena and Jeff Gomez have long been powerful and effective advocates for innovation in the structure of entertainment.  Following her Tweets, I found reference to people like me, here: 

“For all the newcomers to the area who are excitedly exploring #transmedia – a big welcome! Go for it! I hope you create great projects!”   (about 9 hours ago via web)


“It is just the people who have suddenly entered the area or have been quiet all these years and are suddenly public experts that irk me.”   (about 9 hours ago via web)

While I don’t mean to imply that Christy is chastising my latecomer’s remarks disparaging the recent success of transmedia advocates in gaining a measure of recognition from mainstream media , the shoe fits perfectly well.  I might as well wear it proudly. 

I’ve been dropping my goofy opinions around the internet for years, frequenting places like Henry Jenkins’ aca/fan blog, Lessig space, and six years of critiquing photgraphs over at  Most of the stuff I’ve contributed, logical and coherent or otherwise, persistently questions definitions and assumptions that signify the current tide of expert and popular opinion.

I’ve confused and irritated a lot of professional and amateur photographers by asking (for example) why so many of them repeal the law of gravity by cocking their cameras at peculiar angles in order to take “visually dynamic” pictures.  How can fetish photography be deeply personal when most of it dwells on fashion statements about mass-produced materials; latex, piercings, wigs…?  And a thousand other questions bent on connecting authorial intent to uncommunicative execution.  In six years, I spoke with lots of gearheads whose rationale for making photographs had surprisingly little to do with the people they photographed, the people who viewed their pictures, and nothing in particular to do with communication.  It was about costly hardware, advancing technology and gadgety stuff…leaving the heavy lifting of making sense of the image to the viewer because the photographer generally didn’t know or care how a given image was interpreted.  I cared.

A similar set of questions arise for me in cinema.  Early in the course of writing this blog I tried to express my confusion concerning the very long cinematic tradition of photographing and editing human interaction from multiple visual angles.  Robert Montgomery’s 1946 film, The Lady in the Lake is an fascinating, disciplined and failed attempt at bringing Raymond Chandler to the screen through the eyes of Philip Marlowe.  An enormous 1946 movie camera is only one technical part of the problem, the filmmaker chose to completely eliminate the streaming voice of Marlowe’s thought, which is Chandler’s cardinal virtue. 

If the holy grail of modern entertainment is “audience engagement”, maybe the traditional practices of multiple-camera/quick-cuts and counterintuitive point of view is an enormous impediment industry leaders need to dispense with.  The most effective means to communicate the difference (that these words don’t really convey) between a camera’s coherent point of view and what Hollywood’s been doing for 90 years is neatly expemplifed in With the Angels,  webseries I found at

At Lawrence Lessig’s blog, in mid-2008, I asked why the Highlander ethos (“there can be only one”) applies to the American presidency.  There and at Huffington Post (somewhere) and at Bill Moyers’ blog I asked if anyone know how large a percentage of my contribution to the Obama campaign was instantly consigned to the very deep pocket of the magnates of mainstream media — the same names that turned out empty pockets when the writers’ strike highlighted their conviction that the internet was strictly a promotional medium possessed of indeterminate commercial potential.

About 90%  of the questions I ask go unanswered.  No matter.  Irking Christy Dean is not one of my objectives.  Much higher on my to-do list is the task of simply understanding what the hell she and an easy dozen of highly-qualified experts have to say about transmedia. 

A few hours after Christy mentioned being irked, Nina Paley Tweeted a link to this:

Mike Masnick’s article suggests, perhaps only to me, that the marriage of art and commerce, copywrite and professional recognition…is based in our collective (suspect) faith in avarice as the driving social force that fosters culture.  Hellboy 2, I learned from the commentary last night, was budgeted at $85million.  The superhero films with which it was slated to compete for the attention of audiences averaged $175million, each.  Maybe money matters.  Maybe insanely generous compensation packages for executives in failing industries and institutions makes some kind of sense.  And maybe nobody’s questioning nutty perceptions of business-as-usual.  I care…not about health insurance, my reputation as a media analyst (I spitshine other people’s desktop telephones for a living), and not about lots of adult concerns that bother other people.  For some unaccountable reason, I care about transmedia, creative freedom and the apprehension authorial intent, among other things.  And I’ll probably go on questioning authorities (who very rarely respond/participate/interact) anyway.

Christy Dena is certainly not specifically irked at me.  This blog is slightly less influential than a germ in a flea on the tail of a dog that wags for other reasons, but to anybody who happens to be listening, I think it’s time to dissolve the bonds in our thinking that elevate professionalism in art over artists’ more-amateur pursuits; choices not guided by money.  Something’s going to wag this dog differently. 

Let’s go to irk, if necessary.

19 Apr 10 - Posted by | Uncategorized |


  1. Hey Scott,

    I think I recognize the proverbial pea under the mattress here & my response swings from a number of different vantages.

    First, although I’ve been immersed in digital/interactive storytelling since 2001 (and obsessed with fragmented narratives long before that), transmedia hasn’t always been the term I would have used & it doesn’t really apply to a lot of the interactive/digital stuff I continue to look at. So it’s a floating field with one term that has suddenly become the buzz word for a variety of reasons. ‘Storyworld’ was last fall’s buzzy idea. Upshot being there are a lot of people in this space for whom the term transmedia is crystalizing long-standing practice that may or may not reflect the entirety of that practice.

    2 – I do end up in conversations with those who really are new to this way of thinking & designing who really don’t get it – but that’s ok as it forces me to refine the way I talk about this kind of storytelling. Over the past couple of years, I’ve boiled a 3 day workshop down to increasingly shorter distillations – 3 hr, 1 hr, then a 5 minute Ignite talk – that’s a lesson in finding the gold & how to communicate it. (And initially I timed the Ignite talk slide show wrong & boiled it down to 1 minute & 40 seconds – perfect elevator pitch if I was running the slide show on my iPhone!)

    3 – the driving interest in the hype around transmedia is the commercial potential – which is fine & there are solid reasons for this. Commercial transmedia rollouts will likely continue to dominate what is widely understood as transmedia. But, BUT, transmedia projects do not have to be solely commercial in orientation, which is where I’m assuming artists will rapidly begin to co-opt these strategies & create transmedia works that are not created with ROI as the forefront concern. Peter Greenaway’s Tulse Luper may be the example of a ‘non-commercial’ transmedia venture – I don’t imagine the website/installations/game are driving up dvd sales, but they exist nonetheless.

    last thought, when I talk about the opportunities of transmedia development I’ve boiled it down to the following – we can treat the digital landscape as a content delivery system designed to monetize content & maximize ROI or we can treat it as a poetic medium that can support rich immersive experiences that sustain short & long form narratives in new & unexpected ways. There’s not an absolute dichotomy here by any means but a question often of focus. My interest is definitely in the latter and it’s this aspect of the possibilities of transmedia that needs more time to explain. Not necessarily harder, but just not as well known. Lots more to say but that maybe sums it up for me


    Comment by siobhan o'flynn | 21 Apr 10

  2. oh I’ve been reading fairy tales of late hence the pea/mattress & I don’t believe spit-shining telephones for an instant!

    Comment by siobhan o'flynn | 21 Apr 10

  3. Siobhan,
    Blessed be the Pea Smackers! I think you’ve hit it on the head, that “transmedia entertainment” is a remarkably polarizing term. There’s this capsular summary of Transmedia Hollywood:

    that contains this wonderfully alienating paragraph:
    “An audience member, who was clear to identify himself as Head of New Media at Vivendi as well as intellectually fascinated by ARGs, succinctly cut-to-the-chase of the argument by asking,
    ‘At what point does this move from intellectual masturbation into something that is actually successful and digestible and something that will perpetuate?'”

    When the dust settles, vertically and horizontally integrated, global mainstream media conglomerates will have defined “transmedia entertainment properties” to their insatiable satisfaction.
    And I’ll still be looking for better means to describe and appreciate the kinds of unexpectable properties you clearly see as potentiated in this arena. It seems like I stand a better chance of getting a clue by following you. So I will.

    Transmedia Hollywood Quicktime Podcasts:

    Comment by Scott Ellington | 21 Apr 10

  4. now this statement intrigues me from the article on Transmedia Hollywood day (which I was registered for but could not line up the travel plans):

    …as Jordan Weisman put it, “If we don’t figure out how to charge for them, we don’t have an art form.”

    and again, ‘…another audience member was quick to point out that if we’re talking ROI, then this is not an artform.’

    … is art defined solely by what sells? wow.

    Comment by siobhan o'flynn | 21 Apr 10

    • Evidently The Industry can’t recognize an artform that doesn’t pay off BIG. I guess intellectual masturbation and charity are the refused refuse of reel life Heads of New Media.

      The UCLA “legacy” link is permitting me to download 4 Quicktime podcasts of the #transH one-day stand. Transcript fragments and tweets suggest an understated barfight…I’m all anticipation.

      Comment by Scott Ellington | 21 Apr 10

  5. Hello Scott,

    I find it funny that you think/present yourself as being “less influential”; and I must say, I’m flattered that I my name makes your blog post title! Hehe. Now, this is probably because I’m quite tired at the moment, but I’m not sure why you think I would be referring to you? Of particular interest to me though is what you want to know? You seem to be putting forward that there are unanswered questions about transmedia. Have what I’ve communicated about the area confused you? Do you have any questions for me? If so, fire away! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    Comment by Christy Dena | 23 Apr 10

    • Hi Christy,
      I actually am less influential than the rest of that sentence fragment. I have a predisposition to paranoid delusion, so, over the years, I’ve learned to examine my conscience to determine how much of the scathing truth in a blanket, public remark by a person-of-interest actually applies to me.
      “Enough” to admit it stung a little.
      I’d like to know what it takes to get into the conversation without appearing to be an annoying, upstart know-it-all.
      None of those statements I’ve just made are questions. And I don’t believe anybody’s got answers for the stuff I wonder about.
      Is Roger Ebert facilitating careful thought about the future of entertainment by saying that videogames will never be art?
      Is media designed for people or tailored to meet the needs of funding sources?
      Is my idea bad…(that is) suggesting to independent filmmakers that posting clues to the best way for us potential customers to access and support their work is to post their confidential licensing contracts (and their summarized reccommendations) on their websites?

      And, finally, why the hell did I open my mouth at Robert Pratten’s blog and draw your attention here prematurely?

      I don’t have a ton of answers, but I’d like to contribute something of value to improving the questions asked.

      Thanks for asking.

      Comment by Scott Ellington | 23 Apr 10

  6. Well, you’ve just shown me one of the negative effects of airing my irks in public. It isn’t your fault, but I must admit I find it frustrating. I am careful what I say most of the time, but I also use social media as a personal outlet. Obviously I can’t/should’t do that because some personal rants can offend. I’m sorry for that.

    But I still don’t see how you think I could be referring to you? Unless I’m mistaken, you don’t come across to me as a buzz chaser. Though you perhaps do strike me as someone who prefers to ask questions than have them answered…!

    I thought with this statement — “Irking Christy Dean is not one of my objectives. Much higher on my to-do list is the task of simply understanding what the hell she and an easy dozen of highly-qualified experts have to say about transmedia.” — you were saying that you find me hard to understand. That is one reason why I opened up the discourse.

    As for the questions you ask. You made it clear you’re not asking ME anything at all. But here are my thoughts anyway, do with them what you will.

    “Is Roger Ebert facilitating careful thought about the future of entertainment by saying that videogames will never be art?”

    On first blush I say no. Over the years and in my research I’ve seen every emerging creative practice (coming from a new medium) being questioned in exactly the same way. So, for me, Ebert offers nothing to the conversation. However, for some people that is the crux of the issue and so it helps them think about it further. I don’t see where the conversation can go though. You either agree or disagree or debate the nature of art. Same old same old in my mind.

    “Is media designed for people or tailored to meet the needs of funding sources?”

    One of my ongoing personal pondering topics is how creative practice is influenced. How and why people go from creating highly alternative fringe works to working on multi-million dollar projects with no significant meaning? How and why do products and services change over time? What influences people’s creative decisions? In my own observations and developing practice and business, I’ve noticed that many people do create/develop media and creative projects according to predefined needs/funding etc. For me, it is a case of coming up with ideas and figuring out how to make them happen. They involve something I personally need to say, and balancing that with ensuring a point comes across in some way. Sometimes I’ve had to compromise in order to make the message clear to audiences. I still haven’t figured that out. But as for media products & services. I’m currently working on two and am finding the process of their development interesting. I’m using a development model in which I develop the technology with a mix of personal inspiration and audience need. If customers can be validated, then investment/income can occur. So there is mix of both audience and funding there. But I suspect you’re thinking more generally about pervasive media like television, iPods and the like.

    “Is my idea bad…(that is) suggesting to independent filmmakers that posting clues to the best way for us potential customers to access and support their work is to post their confidential licensing contracts (and their summarized reccommendations) on their websites?”

    I’m not quite sure what this is about. I didn’t actually come to your site through Robert’s blog so I’m obviously missing the greater context. But my response now is how posting confidential licensing contracts will help customers access and support their work? What customers are you referring to? General audiences? If so, then I agree they need to know about the all aspects of a creative work. I’ve been saying for years that too many practitioners orphan their work unnecessarily making it hard/impossible for people to find all the parts of their work. But if you’re talking about potential partners/investors etc, then they don’t need to see the actual contract either, just need info.

    Over to you, if you wish. Otherwise, keep on questioning! 🙂

    Comment by Christy Dena | 23 Apr 10

    • Bottom to top: Crowdfunding (by general audiences) and transparency are the default approach I meant to propose as a change from the present condition (business-as-usual) which involves secret deals, nondisclosure agreements and cloaked relationships.
      The Writers Guild of America, by going on strike and being vocal, opened my eyes to ridiculously low compensation for storyarchitecture cloaked in complex legal documents and layers of complicated history.
      The strike afforded about a hundred days of sunshine where there’s rarely any. I saw people and creators united in the absence of corrupting influences. It seemed natural. I hoped a natural opennes would persist and generalize.
      Lance Weiler’s description of the conventional distribution process he encounted in spreading The Last Broadcast led me to believe that contractual transparency and crowdfunding-on-steroids was the way to take the wheel Lance invented and make it more easily replicable for other independent filmmakers and for indentured employees in writers rooms in Hollywood…that the confidentiality agreement is probably always some kind of green light on the highway to hell. Partners/investors who object to public contracts probably should not be easily accepted as partners and investors.

      Rober Pratten is one of many people I appear to have aliented (in the ongoing process of striving to keep my damned mouth shut and learn a little something). Sometimes my observations/questions/suggestions result in confusion, but mostly they end the other person’s participation in the conversation I thought I was having.

      Five years, lots of mumbling to air that died while I was still talking. One adapts.

      Creative practice seems generally to refer only to people who generate content. And copyright seems to enforce the requirement that receipt of value results in payment to the generator of content. I learned from you, specifically (and folks who frequent PowerToThePixel, generally) that perceived value to the filmmaker isn’t necessarily limited to money. The DIY documentary-arena “feels” to me as though the greater form of compensation is evidence of audience activation-activism; civic/interpersonal/voluntary…engagement. That unlike the language of copyright, value is more meaningfully defined in human terms, not only financial.

      Roger Ebert’s recent remarks on the artistic value of videogames open with a reference to an older post I haven’t yet found. This new set of provocative statements barely addresses content creators, and speaks highly of the experience of passive audiences, readers, viewers while denigrating the deeply-engaged audiences that are better known as players. I think it’s an ass-backward, absurd, ridiculous argument in which he sets himself up as the devil’s advocate for flaming in effigy by advocates of the inevitable futures of entertainment. He’s got the general public talking about the future of art and entertainment. I’d like to believe Roger Ebert’s paving the bridge between movies and ARGs with his back (which is peppered with 3300 reader comments at his blog, most of them passionate).

      Transparently airing your irks in public facilitated this conversation — which means I have lots more studying to do in order to more-ably hold up my end of the conversation when next I encounter one of my personal heroes.

      Good evening, Wonder Woman. (absolutely zero facetiousness here.)

      Comment by Scott Ellington | 23 Apr 10

  7. Hey Christy! HI Scott!

    a small response to your comment, Christy as to video games, ’emerging creative practices & the question of art re. art & my own recent experience.

    I’ve been following the UK theater experience, Such Tweet Sorrow, on twitter and I’m loving it and I think it’s realizing the potential of twitter for an artistically rich experience in an amazing way and I really haven’t seen this done before in a way that I’ve wanted to continue following. Usually it’s a dip in, ok I get it, moving’ on phenomena for me.

    Ditto data visualization which can be beautiful & complex but most often boring until I found Jonathan Harris’ work a few years back – brilliant, simple, aesthetically gorgeous and emotionally rich use of data mining (twitter, chat rooms….)

    So I agree with you Christy, some times all it takes is that brilliant creative & unexpected use of a medium that suddenly announces a new creative vision & the possibilities of a new artistic form. In games, Flower…

    off to walk the dogs!

    Comment by siobhan o'flynn | 23 Apr 10

  8. ooo Scott – copyright aha!

    check out the MIT Future of Technology panel on Purefold – the creative commons transmedia project started by RSA Films & Ag8:

    And then let’s have a chat about what Tom Himpe told me about the Creative Commons agreement – FASCINATING!

    Comment by siobhan o'flynn | 23 Apr 10

    • Most of the questions I posed to moderators prior to FoE4 went unanswered, and the one I directed at PureFold through BackChanl was bombed out of existence;

      PureFold seemed to transparently solicit visions of the future and the nature of being human from everyone in the whole wide world…except…the sources of funding, Brands.

      Waht? CEOs and CCOs don’t have creative visions? Commercial products don’t exist for socially-relevant reasons? Is it all about buzz and image and money?

      You’ve mentioned that PureFold desisted for want of guild/union interest in Creative Commons agreements. I figured to keep my mouth shut and learn a few things in the fullness of time, by simply listening. Is my tiny/silly/misinformed blog-space the place? Anywhere you care to share your conversation with Tom…that’s where I’ll be listening!

      Comment by Scott Ellington | 23 Apr 10

      • To be clear, Scott, brands were not shut out of the conversation about the future and nature of being human. On the contrary, they determined the initial conversation topics around which others could flock. More than about merely commercial products, their topics of interest were about anything from the future of transport to the future of energy. So it was very much about a conversation between filmmakers & writers, consumers and brands.

        Regarding Creative Commons, that proved indeed problematic with the guilds in the US, as they’re not at all accustomed to this way of working. Hence we were forced to do production from the UK.

        Comment by Tom Himpe | 02 May 10

      • and i should say “people” here, NOT consumers

        Comment by Tom Himpe | 02 May 10

  9. Thank you, Tom!

    Comment by Scott Ellington | 02 May 10

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