Four Peaks Salon: Transmedia Storytelling and Net Neutrality

Transmedia Storytelling and Net Neutrality were the topics of the night last Tuesday at the MDCM’s first ever Four Peaks public salon. The salon started with a live broadcast of MediaSpaceTV featuring an interview between MCDM director Hanson Hosein and Brent Friedman, CEO of Electric Farm Entertainment. Transmedia Storytelling, an interactive and multi-platform storytelling method, is according to Friedman, a way of exploring “additional tributaries,” and selecting tools from a “digital sandbox.”

One example, a show called “Valemont” developed by Friedman for MTV, is a teenage murder mystery told through multiple digital platforms, including television, websites, and mobile apps. Friedman extolled the virtues of a digitally literate audience—one that watches television behind the glow of a laptop—who will “work” for good content by searching the web and downloading mobile apps in addition to viewing television.

MediaSpace Live Broadcsat

Most of these concepts are familiar to gamers who have long enjoyed controlling stories with multiple characters, objectives and potential plotlines. But the backing of major companies in new mediums such as T.V. speak to a growing interest in interactive storytelling and new media delivery systems.

When the live broadcast concluded, Hosein and Friedman then joined a bustling crowd in Kane Hall for a salon-style discussion about net neutrality. The panelists, or “conversation lubricators,” Hosein’s preferred term, were a veritable Whidbey Island Mafia: John de Pre Gauntt, from Media Dojo (see his post The Transmedia Hairball), Russell Sparkman, of Fusionspark Media, and Friedman, all do business from the lovely Puget Sound region, sparking some to wonder on the live Twitter feed whether the region is emerging as a “storytelling capitol.”

The question of the night became quickly became “who owns the pipes?” a discussion of Net Neutrality in response to the proposed merger of Comcast and NBC, which was announced earlier that day and approved that very evening. Net Neutrality, or the idea that neither government nor service providers (like Comcast) should regulate the many facets of the Internet, has polarized people across the nation.

Friedman, like most creatives, expressed a desire for complete freedom in his endeavors but recognizes the advantages of a “stratified” system. Like most goods and services in a capitalist society, Friedman asserted, one can either pay for fast and reliable internet, or receive slower access for free.

Speakers at the Four Peaks Salon

Gauntt, who referred to the most recent FCC ruling about mobile service as a “giant regulatory hairball,” questioned exactly “what Internet are we talking about?” drawing lines between the Internet of documents, the World Wide Web, the Internet of Apps, or the cloud.

But an audience member who identified herself as a member of the UW Department of Education reacted to the complacent tone of the discussion with a question that spoke to hearts of many of the media makers and public citizens gathered in the audience.

“Do we want Comcast and NBC to be our only storytellers?”

To a crowd of nodding heads, she went on to wonder if big media corporations can begin to slow down content they find undesirable, making their own content easiest to consume, what will happen to the independent storytellers who also use the Internet?

Friedman argued that Hollywood, and the entertainment industry in general, are reactive—they will provide what people want. If market research shows that the Internet populace wants cat videos, the entertainment industry will either make cat videos more available or create shows that involve cat videos. While other panelists seemed to disagree, they did concur that perhaps the debate about Net Neutrality—and the laws and regulations almost bound to occur in the future—will spark an Internet uprising in the vein of Shawn Fanning, the creator of Napster.

As the first Four Peaks salon, Tuesday night’s discussion was a proper introduction to a grand occasion that will surely take the concepts of Transmedia Storytelling and Net Neutrality to new heights. As the main public forum for Four Peaks, the salon is a fitting event style that promotes audience interaction through multiple digital platforms such as Livestream and Twitter feed. The webcast of the salon is now available (the program starts at 11:14).  Stay tuned to Flip the Media for information on the next Four Peaks Salon.

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