Transmedia Storytelling Using Social Media – Prezi

Picking a social media channel for transmedia storytelling requires an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each channel. Writing for Twitter is a very difference experience than writing for a blog. A transmedia story published using Twitter must deal not just with the 140 character limit, but how the audience uses the platform.

In the last post, I took a look at using both Facebook and Pinterest to publish a short photo essay. In this post, I’m going to talk about my experience with Prezi.

I’ve been using Prezi since mid-2010 as a tool for doing presentations, including for an information design, a sociology course, and a storytelling/social media course. In each case, Prezi replaced PowerPoint. The advantage of Prezi is that it is much easier to integrate text, still images, audio, and video into a presentation.

The premise behind Prezi is that you lay out the various elements of your content on a workspace and then connect them using a “path” that you or your audience can follow simply by pressing the forward and back keys on a computer. There are also some neat tricks that allow you to zoom in and out of any element, making it possible to hide, for example, one image inside another and then reveal it as the user moves along the path.

As an experiment, I spent a couple of hours translating the Autumn at 59 photo essay I did in Facebook and Pinterest into Prezi. The results in Prezi are more dynamic because of the zooming and rotating capabilities that Facebook and Pinterest don’t have. Although I didn’t use them in this experiment, audio or video clips to the Prezi could easily be added.

I did find the text handling a little cumbersome, but with a little bit of extra work the look of the story could be improved significantly.

About the same time as I was working on the Autumn at 59 Prezi, I noticed a scene in a television show in which a character suffering from schizophrenia had literally papered the walls of his house with hundreds of clippings, circled and highlighted parts of those clippings, and linked them with pins and thread. This device for representing certain types of mental illness has been used a number of times in films and TV shows that I’ve seen and it got me to thinking about a character I’m working on.

This character is obsessed with quantum theory, the National Security Agency (NSA), and being spied on. Was there a way to use the concept of walls covered with clippings in a way that the audience could take a closer look?

Prezi seemed like it might be able to handle the job. The screen capture below shows a series of images captured from actual websites, video clips, still images, and text. Links to all of the content shown are active and connect to the source materials.

While this quick sample, done in less than two hours, is still pretty thin on story, it demonstrates how Prezi can be used as an interactive component in a transmedia narrative. Users are able to go to the site and navigate a designated path through the clippings. They also have the option of zooming out for a broad overview of the site and then zooming in again to see the details of any clipping on the screen. Including live hyperlinks gives the users even more flexibility by letting them look at the original source materials.

With a little more time and planning, this kind of integration of fictional and non-fictional content holds great promise.

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