Story from Sound

Wellcome to Night Vale, podcasting, paranoia and fandom

I interviewed Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor the creators of Wellcome to Night Vale a few weeks back for the book on podcaiphone_lock_wallpaper__welcome_to_night_vale_by_aznnerd-d6o0n7psting that Martin Spinelli and I are developing.  Speaking with them you get the sense of their being two people who are disarmingly in touch with their art, the articles they have written about the genesis of the series speak to this as well.  They just created art, wrote and produced something that they enjoyed and then hope and assumed that others would enjoy it as well.  They had no expectation that others would connect with it with such passion, and in such numbers.

I am reminded of which Kate Valk told an audience member after a performance of House/Lights at the Performing Garage in 2000.  “Who do you make work for?” she was asked.  “Ourselves”. Came the reply.  Which could be read as being arrogant, or self-centred, but also speaks of confidence and a personalised realtionship to creative production.

At this time I am working on notes and outlining a chapter about the relationship between Night Vale and their audience, I delivered a paper at Cine-ExcessX (or IX I forget) on Friday (the 13th) that centered upon this issue.  This sense of authenticity is at the heart of the relationship, Fink and Cranor spoke to it when they said that they wouldn’t countenance adaptations of their work – and conversely that they don’t engage with fan art and fiction. Is their a pact here, unspoken and unwritten between the producers and their audience?  Does that explain the bond that can exist between the two?  The sense of loyalty and community that they have engendered through a project where, apparently, they haven’t anyone to join them, to follow them… they have just produced their work and the engaged and dug in and created their work and forged their bond.

Can this relationship be found in other podcasts?  Is RadioLab authentic?  Serial?  Love and Radio?  How can it hold together as these programmes and franchises grow?  At what point does asking for fans support become exploitation?

Why shouldn’t we ever go to the dog park?

Bleeding Edge commissioned

blood_in_waterLast week I received confirmation from the Wellcome Trust that they have commissioned a new transmedia project that I’m going to be writing and producing over the next year.  I’ll be working on it with Phillip Connolly (from the University of Brighton) and will be drawing in a whole range of people to work on the digital content, music, experience design and, of course, actors, because this is a drama.

Bleeding Edge will be a thriller concerned with the commodification of blood, an examination of how blood is a product that bought and sold and subject to market forces across the world.  It is also going to address a range of experimental developments in blood science, including research synthetic blood.  We’re working with a range of experts across the UK who will inform and channel the project, ensuring that we keep on the right side of the science as we create the fiction.

Creatively its going to opportunity to re-visit the approaches I developed when working on the Flickerman, to produce something that has layers of experience and allows the audience to dig deeply into and find more and more the further they explore.  As an academic it is a chance to test how audiences engage with this sort of work, who is likely to be drawn into the experience, what sort of people they are.  The key question, framed colloquially is, what triggers that the kind of intense degree of association with a media product that people become users, the top end of the curve of engagement.  The 0.1% who drive and shape interactive projects.

Over the next year I’m going to use this blog to map the progress of this project and as a scratchpad for ideas relating to the book on podcasting that I am currently in the process of developing with Dr Martin Spinelli from the University of Sussex.

Testing testing

Nothing to see here… move along I’m just testing this site out…