Creating the future? QR codes + new forms of storytelling

There is something retro about the concept of ‘storytelling’ and I prefer it to the concept of immersive experience when it comes to new media forms, not least because I find that storytelling has an essence of duration, playfulness and process to it. Of course these are edgy, perhaps for some even superfluous distinctions – after all Henry Jenkings in his Transmedia Storytelling 101 blogpost ultimately thinks of storytelling as the means to an end (an experience):

Transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience.

But I’ve been rethinking about transmedia storytelling (stories unraveling across media forms) and our awareness, as users and consumers, of such practices, in marketing and art, after chairing the interesting plenary last week (at the Staging Illusions – Digital and cultural Fantasy conference) – where Astrid Ensslin (Bangor University) talked about the complex layering and the narrative movement across and between texts and media forms in online gaming.

I find quite intriguing however the way in which QR codes are becoming increasingly visible in physical everyday spaces and how artistic/academic practice seems to (once more) embrace these as signs of ubiquitous computing /and participation. For instance, Simone O’Callaghan combines QR codes with analogue artforms (she embeds them in printmaking) as part of her PhD at the University of Dundee, Scotland, in order to make technology, as she states, less intimidating to people. Jeff Watson is also working towards a PhD at Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts and examines “transmedia interaction design, with an emphasis on the design and implementation of cross-platform pervasive games”. As he writes in his artist statement “My work is about the future of performance, play, and public space”.

Amazing – how the future is performatively produced through these discursive practices. As Sarah Kember said in her keynote address at the same conference (engaging with the work of Wendy Brown and Lucy Suchman) there are issues of privacy to be considered here, issues of personal and social boundaries (where is the off button in a smart home, as she put it) when, like a trojan horse, ambient intelligence will extract huge amounts of data from users.

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