Cyburbia

My favourite TV show is a transmedia experiment, apparently.

I found this out from the last UK edition of Wired magazine (which is a really good read, if a bit techno-utopian for a man who worries about  Grey Goo or a forthcoming android apocalypse), which contained an article on the future of TV and the growth of ‘transmedia’ (effectively entertainment that spans platforms to produce a coherent whole, often containing interactive elements). Doctor Who is an example of this, with it’s new downloadable computer games; shows like Heroes also dabbled with stuff like that, and The Blair Witch Project was a better transmedia campaign than it was a film.

I’ve got to say, I’m in two minds about all this. On the one hand, it’s cool – there’s scope for a lot of fun, innovative developments that could enrich and reinvigorate entertainment. It also shows that Old Media is starting to get to terms with New Media, which will also hopefully be good for the consumer. And, rooting for my team, it’s nice to see that Doctor Who is at the forefront of this for the BBC, because there are times when Doctor Who hasn’t been at the forefront of Doctor Who.

But you know what? Sometimes I’m lazy. Sometimes I just want to be a passive consumer, lying on the sofa and just enjoying a TV show for an hour. I don’t think that makes me a bad person, and what I’m concerned about is that the transmedia will become so important that producers forget that viewers might not want to spend hours online tracking down ‘the missing piece of the jigsaw’. Just tell us the darn story! Sometimes I’m in the mood to participate in that sort of thing, other times it’ll just annoy me. As long as the transmedia experiment takes into account that sometimes we just want to relax it’ll be fine. If it ends up sending me text messages trying to wind me up… Well, I know where my toilet is.

It ties in to my bipolar attitude towards technology. Sometimes I love it – I like having email and Facebook and Messenger and everything else. It’s great that there are so many communication tools available to us at little to no charge, and anything that gets people from different cultures, backgrounds and experiences talking to each other has to be a good thing. But that comes with a flipside – you’re on call 24-7. You can be halfway up a mountain and your phone will ring. You can find yourself checking work-related emails at midnight. When do you switch off? People might scoff at the concept of a Sabbath, but really, psychologically we periodically need to unwind and sometimes technology works against that.

I was at a U2 concert once and the people sitting in front of us spent half the gig playing on their mobile phones. Now maybe they hate U2, but that seems to be a bizarre reaction to a concert. You could argue it’s multitasking, but how is that sort of thing affecting us on a deeper level?

iPods are another thing. I love my new iPod. Moving the icons around the screen with my finger is so sci-fi I could weep. It’s great. But there I am at work, listening to the iPod while the rest of my team is out of the room. And I’m on the verge of singing at the top of my lungs, and while I’m getting my work done perfectly well, it’s not exactly conducive to good team work. There I am in my bubble. It’s a mental barrier that effectively says “Go away!”. Isn’t that rude?

And don’t get me started on teenagers sauntering across pedestrian crossings, hardly looking at the traffic but engrossed in some MP3 or other. According to radio adverts I’m hearing, that’s actually getting people killed.

And then don’t get me started on internet trolls, who post offensive diatribes against other users, safe in the knowledge that they’re on a completely different continent to their victims. Try that same behaviour in a pub in Dudley and, well, the consequences wouldn’t be pretty.

I dunno. Maybe I’m in Luddite mode today. But technology has unforeseen social impacts that we don’t expect, and while it’s good to major on the positive, let’s not forget the negative. Because then we can do something about it, and maybe make technology our tool rather than our master…

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