PP1.14 #4 Transmedia - Engagement and User Experience

Final in a four-part series of online materials for the RMIT University Media Program course, COMM2322 Production Project 1, curated by course coordinator, Kyla Brettle


  1. In this lecture we examine the intersection between the transmedia work and those who use/experience it.

    We are approaching this aspect of TM from two angles; the first is to think about what kind of engagement and participation strategies we build into a piece, ‘where’ we place the user and their contributions in the structure of work - and the second is to think about the overall usability of the work, if it’s clear where the user is ‘supposed to go next’, and other questions that relate more closely to the field of interaction design.

  2. In this first segment Emma Beddows sets the scene for us, introducing and detailing the ideal type of ‘audience, user, player, interactant’  

    Beddows, E. (2014) “Understanding Transmedia Consumption” Commissioned by RMIT PP1.

  3. PP1 Understanding Transmedia Consumption

  4. So, what kinds of ‘engagement strategies’ can we deploy in our works? This is a big question - and one I don’t have to go into in a lot of detail here, as (final year production students in the Media Program at RMIT) you focused on this question in the second year course, Integrated Media 2.

    As a refresher, however, draw your attention to some of the key ideas you would have read and discussed in the essay, “Interactive Documentary: Setting the Field”. In this essay Aston and Gaudenzi (2012) develop a taxonomy of interactive documentaries that ‘analyse i-docs through their interactive logic, rather than through the digital platform that they use, their topic or their message’ (2012, p.126). This can also be seen as providing a framework for thinking about how users engage with TM works. According to Aston and Gaudenizi, the interactant – audience, user, player, prosumer, produser - then, becomes the central subject linking a diverse array of non-fiction projects and providing a lens through which to understand the nature of ‘interactive bond between reality, the user and the artefact’ (ibid). Gaudenzi identifies four modes of ‘idoc’; conversational, hypertext, participative and experiential.

    Conversational modes solicit a ‘call and response’ relationship with the interactant, placing them within a three-dimensional world through which they can freely navigate. The mode is used to describe projects that adopt game like structures. A local example is ABC Innovation’s “Gallipoli” (2009), an educational documentary in which the dramatic terrain of Gallipoli, one of the most influential factors in the battle, is recreated in 3D animation. 

    Hypertext modes focus on the link as the primary interactive mechanism; ‘[giving] the user an exploratory role, normally enacted by clicking on pre-existing options’ (p.127). A relatively old form of idoc, the roots of which can be found in CDRoms and the earliest forms of digital atefects to be labeled interactive documentaries. 

    Participative modes have developed with the advent of Web 2.0 and the capacity for constructing ‘a two-way relationship between digital authors and their users’. The authors cite Dovey and Rose’s forthcoming 2013 publication, further defining it as ‘staging a conversation’ between producer and user. Key definitions for understanding different modes of collaboration is provided by Hyde et al (2012) in “What is Collaboration Anyway?”. Here the authors distinguish between collaboration and sharing and provide a qualitative framework for assessing different types of collaborations based on intention, goals, questions of self-governance, coordination mechanism, property, knowledge transfer, identity, scale, network topology accessibility and equality. 

    The final interactive mode proposed by Gaudenzi is described as ‘experiential because it brings users into physical space, and creates an experience that challenges their senses and their enacted perception of the world’ (p.128).  The mode draws on alternate reality techniques and tools to blur the distinction between virtual and physical reality. 


    Aston, J. & S.Gaudenzi (2012). ‘Interactive documentary: setting the field’, Studies in Documentary Film 6(2): 125-139.

    Hyde, A., M. Linksvayer, kanarinka et al, (2012). ‘What is Collaboration Anyway?’, in M. Mandiberg (ed), The Social Media Reader, New York, New York University Press: 53-70.

  5. In the presentation below, Emma Beddows speaks more specifically to facilitating engagement and participation in TM

    Beddows, Emma (2014). "Facilitating Engagement: participation" Commissioned by RMIT PP1.

  6. PP1 Facilitating Engagement: Participation
  7. Getting into the head of those who will use and experience your work is really important. One approach to doing this is to develop personas that represent different types of users; hardcore, active and passives. This approach is used often in interaction design.

    Christy Dena suggests you create persona cards based on people you know which include. Cards should include; basic information, background, needs, goals, aspirations, media, brands and tribes associated with. From here, log the persona’s ‘media day’ - starting from the time they wake up, log every media interaction they have - this will give you insights on the best way to ‘reach’ the target audience for your work and the types of technologies they feel most comfortable with.

    For more on persona cards read the blog post below: 

    Sauro, Jeff (2012) “7 Core Ideas About Personas And The User Experience” blog post

  8. In the final section of Transmedia Primer Christy Dena put together for you she details challenges posed by different points of entry in a work. This presentation works well with the ‘channeling migration’ presentation Emma Beddows gave last week.

    Dena, Christy (2014). "Chapter 4" Transmedia Primer Presentation. Commissioned by RMIT PP1 *access notes

  9. So, beyond being good storytellers and making sure the narrative gives the interactant really compelling reasons to continue experiencing the story by navigating to the next media/platform instalment … how do we make it clear to users that is ‘where to go next’ without disrupting the logic of the storyworld? This gets us into the realm of interaction and game design.

    In the third ‘trimester’ of the course (weeks 9-12) we’ll be focusing quite a lot on the usability of your projects. Interactive designer, Ruben Stanton, will be giving each project group feedback and advice and we’ll also be using one of the workshop sessions in this period to review and give feedback on projects produced in one of the other workshop groups - this was extremely useful to project groups last year and should be so again. (In addition to this, Reuben suggests that once you have completed version of the project (week 8) that you should look over the shoulder of a user as they traverse and experience your piece)

    The problem with structuring the course this way, Reuben tells me, is that student producers need to be thinking about user experience in the early, rather than latter stages of the project … so that’s why you’re being asked to review the links below - combined, you should give you a good sense of things you need to keep in mind as we  cross the threshold - leaping from the R&D phase of the course into the first production period!

  10. Basic introduction on the principles of interaction design:
  11. A useful set of short articles on User Experience Design:

  12. There is also a bunch of Interaction Design stuff on Lynda.com

  13. And that's a WRAP!