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Media Convergence & Desire

I want a great big screen. With all the necessary plug-ins. So I can participate fully and easily in media convergence: search the net, watch movies and web series from downloads and discs, watch television, read and write scripts and stories and emails, chat on Facebook and Twitter, pay my bills, talk and view on Skype, look at, edit and upload photos and clips, play and create games. And all of it from my bed.

One wall in my bedroom is already a kind of screen, a great big window. Total entertainment, day or night. When I lie down, and turn my eyes right, I see the sky, which is always changing, the birds that come and go and sit on the power lines, stars at night, the moon. When I sit up, I see the sea and all the traffic going around and in and out of and over Wellington harbour: container ships, ferries, tugs, cruise ships, yachts and little sailing boats, canoes and rowboats, planes and helicopters. Swimmers sometimes. At night, a beacon. Hutt City’s lights over the other side of the water. Fireworks a few times a year. And when I get out of bed I can see the curve of Oriental Parade, the golden sand, the Norfolk pines, the top of the sea wall, and, on the wide footpath, Wellington’s flaneurs and flaneuses, their families old and young, their pets, their bikes, their skates and skateboards. At night the swoop of street lights and the lights that thread through the Norfolk pines. (Can’t see the road, which I’m glad about.) And, when there’s no roaring wind, there are lots of sounds associated with the view. My favorites are the birds very early and the rowers and their coaches a tiny bit later and ruru—owls—late at night, the voices of people walking on the zigzag outside, the waves breaking on the beach anytime. I love it all.

(The window's in a little wooden house over the road, up on a bit of hillside obscured by the closest Norfolk pine)
But there’s also this space over the fireplace at the end of my bed. It is exactly the right size for my great big screen and in exactly the right place. And this week, I’ve added a reader to my wish-list. I want to read books on white paper on my big screen, books that include links to music and videos. When I read the latest analysis I could find of the readers currently available, not one of them provides exactly what I want, and I couldn’t establish whether and how they might plug into my ideal new screen. But it’s only a matter of time before the perfect reader appears. It could even look like this, giving me the capacity to add to and alter other people's work, not something I want to do, but the idea of a reader that invites collaboration/alteration is nifty, a text version of Photoshop. I imagine that it'll arrive around 2015, or earlier, not 2050.

Thanks, & @nzdodo via @PipAdam

I want a white screen text reading function on my big screen partly because I’m exploring the differences between various genres. Hemingway’s, the novella I’m writing, started as an experiment, because I wanted to explore the differences between writing a script (ultimately for the screen) and a piece of fiction with about as many words, for publication on pages that readers hold in their hand. And Hemingway’s continues to look and feel a bit like a script and I sometimes struggle to reach my 500 words a day because I don’t know whether it will end up as a novella, or a graphic novel (hand-held, with pages to turn), an e-Book with links to music (Hemingway’s includes a retro New Year’s party sequence with songs like Ten Guitars and Up on the Roof and Knock Three Times and I hear them in my head as I write the text, and would like the reader to hear them as they read), or whether it’s just a long treatment for a feature script or teledrama. Or, or… And I don’t know what I want it to end up as. But somehow, because my head’s filled with sights and sounds as I write, I can’t quite imagine Hemingway’s as ‘just’ text. And as I’ve thought about this, and about reading text on white paper with links to video on my new and multifunctional big screen, I’ve also thought about the Development script—the next draft is my next project—and how I could embed links to images and footage and music in the script, and publish the script for people to enjoy onscreen.

In the meantime, I’ve been following the adventures of Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, who writes chick lit and young adult fiction, and is very active in social media, on Twitter and on Facebook. I learned about her through Twitter, because one of her novels has been optioned for television, and she’s not happy with the script, and she’s Tweeted about it, and posted about her concerns on her blog and I was fascinated. (The interview with her I've most enjoyed predates these difficulties.)

On Facebook and Twitter, Alisa asks for comments on various aspects of her work: podcast chapters of her books, proposed cover art, a character’s possible profession. One of Alisa’s latest projects is setting up Cats Eye Films to produce The Kindred, her new young adult supernatural crossover romance trilogy.

And the other week, Alisa asked about the forthcoming publication of one of her e-novels, “If I put hyperlinks in the e-book to songs the characters are listening to, or shoes they're wearing, or books they're reading, would you use them?” Because of my interest in product placement and branded entertainment, I was right into that discussion of course.

Alisa’s new novel, All that Glitters, is available on Lulu, and on Amazon as a paperback, and on Kindle from Amazon. It’s also available on Smashwords, for online reading, in .html and JavaScript, or on Kindle, on Epub, as a .pdf and .rtf, as an .lrf for a Sony reader, as a .pdb for Palm reading devices, and as plain text to down load or to view as a webpage. I can log-in on Smashwords to review All That Glitters, in writing or on video.

In one of Alisa’s Facebook posts, she said that in the few days since publication All That Glitters did better than any of her e-books that her publisher has released. I imagine this success is partly because of her social media skills, but perhaps it’s also because we’re in the middle of a revolution in delivery, demonstrated by all the All That Glitters formats. For now, because the only screens I own are my iBook and a very simple hand-me-down cellphone, if any book has hyperlinks, I’ll just download the .pdf to read on my laptop and follow them that way.

From another of Alisa's brief Facebook posts, I understood that although doing well as an e-book, All That Glitters is doing better as a paperback. This could be because of some of the other social aspects of reading. As Kaila Colbin put it in a recent post:

The purveyors of eReaders have forgotten an essential element: specifically, that books are social objects, that a successful replacement of a physical book will not only look and feel like a real book, but will allow you to lend it to your friends, to swap it out at an honesty library, or to donate it to your local community center. Take my book club. Rather than have all the attendees read the same book and then discuss, we all just read whatever we feel like, then bring the books together, review what we've read, and share them around. Or take BookCrossing, a community of nearly one million readers who freely "catch and release" books in the wild, allowing the tomes to roam the world unhindered. There is a social dynamic at play in these interactions that should be fostered, not silenced. 
Kaila has some suggestions about how to foster the book's 'social object' element; and in the comments that follow her post, it seems that these social aspects are being carefully considered by those who make eReaders, as they continue to develop their products.

Then there are 'vooks', video books; and Media Praxis’ video book, Learning From YouTube, due early in February. Media Praxis explains in a comment—among many comments—on her YouTube channel that "my video-book, while being about YouTube, and using a lot of YouTube, is not on YouTube, it's on a database that allows me to do all the things I could never stretch YouTube to do (like listing everything on it and their relationships, as only one example)." Her project there makes my head pop, so I was pleased to find a helpful interview about it. Here’s a taste of Learning From YouTube:

I've followed and enjoyed the Media Praxis blog for a while because its theoretical orientation sometimes challenges me to move beyond my inherent pragmatism. But until now I knew nothing about the writer; it didn't seem to matter. Then today, as I noodled on the Media Praxis channel I found that she is Alexandra Juhasz, an academic who also produced two Cheryl Dunye films: the classic Watermelon Woman and The OWLS, which I long to see. She's made documentaries I'd love to see, too, including one called Women of Vision, a history of feminist film and video.

On her Media Praxis radical media website, also a 'book', Alexandra totally seduces me with her desire to "together chew on and make use of the theoretical legacy of 'revolutionary practice,' a 100 year old project of interpreting and changing the world with film, this so that present-day theorist/makers can learn from and expand upon these magnificent and flawed ideas to contribute to the real world changes that we all know must happen here, and soon, in this radically media-saturated world in great need of a counter, intelligent, angry, and artful media praxis." Nothing less than a revolution will do.

So what have electronic readers, a novella project, a new e-book, vooks, and Media Praxis’ web-based projects got to do with women who want to make movies? They’re relevant because they demonstrate new and comparatively inexpensive possibilities available to all of us storytellers who want to make movies, as much as for those of us who don’t. They also animate one part of the transmedia continuum, where fictions engage with the non-fictional story about how to develop opportunities for women storytellers to create their work and to control and benefit from its delivery.

As I consider how easily Hemingway’s can become a hybrid form of storytelling because of new screen-oriented publication options, I’m totally excited about the potential. If I want to, at very little cost, I can play with sound, images and hyperlinks as soon as I’ve got the story down, and invite collaborators to join in. I’ve found it challenging to choose among some of the possible storylines, and have multiple endings in mind. Who knows how useful that work will be if, for example, I find someone who’d like to develop a game from Hemingway’s?

My big screen will be a while. First I have to deal with post-student debt, along with dentist, optician, all the necessary stuff. But my guess is that by the time I’ve saved up, the screen and the other hard- and software available will do everything I want. And more, which is beyond me to imagine today.

This is my 99th blog post. The 100th—up tomorrow—will be about media convergence too. And because today it's a year since we spent two days filming Development, I've just added some Development images to our Facebook page, which I think you can look at without joining Facebook.


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