Egbert van Wyngaarden Interview

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  • What is the significance of the Bilkent Media Future Initiative?

I’m greatly honored and pleased to be invited to head the BMFI. It’s a fascinating challenge to work with young Turkish storytellers, filmmakers, designers and scientists on innovative media projects. We’ll be working with a human-centered design approach, which means that we closely look what media users actually need and like to do around the ideas we’re going to develop. The participants will build prototypes of new media experiences and test them with their target groups during a field day. This is quite a novel way of working. Also, we’ll be really approaching media from a digital point of view, which means making them very social, mobile, participatory and integration new technologies wherever possible.

  • How and why did you decide to head this workshop?

Andreas Treske and Ahmet Gurata invited me and gave me carte blanche. They said, we’d like to do something really new, please make a concept and we’ll organize it for you. That’s exciting, no? So I thought of creating an environment where storytellers, games designers, social media experts, creative technologists would accompany the students and help them approach their media projects from as many different perspectives as possible. A sort of writer’s room for the 21st century really. Bilkent University is near Cyberpark and major players in the fields of technology and media, which is a great context to work in.

  • What are your expectations from the workshop? From the participants and events?

Well first, it’s up to the participants to tell me what they would be really excited about. They are the ones making the media of the future! The BMFI team will then help them develop their ideas as well as we can. I hope we’ll find themes that are really relevant to people in Turkey, and that we can find original and compelling way to engage audiences for these themes. Create, Connect, Change is my motto. Create great stories and media experiences. Find inspiring way for people to connect to that. And then use the transformative power of digital media to affect positive change.

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  • What will be the contribution of this sort of university workshops to the development of media?

The participants will basically learn a new, more interdisciplinary and agile approach to media making. I use a lot of design thinking techniques that help people from different fields of expertise to work creatively together and to really understand what media users need. This is what future media making is about: creating relevant experiences for the people out there.

  • Why “transmedia storytelling” is so powerful? Why is it such an important technique?

I avoid speaking of transmedia nowadays as the word is very confusing. It basically means that in the digital space we have content, platforms and people and the question is, how do you combine the three in a way that makes sense to the audience, sense from a creative perspective and economic sense too of course. With so many different devices, media and platforms at our disposal, creating projects that cross borders and transcend single formats now is the natural thing to do.

  • Transmedia works began early but we actually understand what it is now, and still they are rare around the world. Therefore, transmedia storytelling seems like offering small possibilities because of huge financial, technical and intellectual needs. How can traditional producers deal with this and meet the expectations of young consumers?

Before the Internet, there was a scarcity of content and an abundant audience. Media producers could so to speak make whatever they wanted and would always find customers. Today there is an abundance of content, which makes it much harder to reach people. So what traditional producers and distributors must learn is to empathize with their audiences and to design media experiences that are based on a deep understanding of the people they are made for. Transmedia is nothing rare; it’s the new standard. Every successful project, be it a film or a game or a novel, extends in one-way or another across different media and platforms. If it’s not part of the concept, people will create extra features themselves. Think of what happens around really popular stories. People write fan fiction, they create wikis, they make characters speak on Twitter, and often there is an enormous dynamic in social media.

  • TV shows, movies like Matrix, Harry Potter, TV series, games, even cartoons such as Pokémon… All are examples of transmedia practices. But, all these are also commercial and these practices somehow expand the potential market with different audience segments. They do not point out any common value or aim. So, how can transmedia create value in digital age?

This is a really important question. Value in digital media is no longer just that you sell a product. Content is cheap to reproduce, people don’t want to pay so much for content anymore. But they will pay for something that can’t be reproduced so easily, that is unique: great experiences, being part of story worlds, participation, contributing. The basis for value creation today is fan culture. So how can you build your project in such a way that an audience will really want to be part of what you’re doing? One secret certainly is that you have to propose a theme that is important for your audience, something that appeals to them on a deep, emotional level. Stories have always done that, it’s what makers them timeless and universal.

  • At the most basic level, transmedia practices are stories told across multiple media in an interdisciplinary way. However, these practices almost are not in real world, they are most in possible worlds like in games or fictional productions. How can transmedia storytelling be used in news as the medium of reality?

If you think in terms of story worlds rather than single stories or media formats you’ll begin to see that transmedia storytelling is everywhere. It’s not a new gimmick; it’s something that naturally happens as soon as people engage with themes. It’s a way to make human experience accessible, to create an environment in which we can ask questions and get answers that we wouldn’t get somewhere else. Religions, political movements, sports events, cultural festivals, brands, even small and big historical moments: they all can be understood as narrative frameworks in which many stories, many protagonists, many mediatic forms, many ways to interact can be included. Reality is full of story worlds, because story worlds give meaning to life.

  • The pace of the world is so fast; everything changes easily in every minute. Media is one of the best reflections of this pace. What do you think about the near future of transmedia, where do you see transmedia five years from now?

First of all, whatever the developments, we’ll always need strong themes and compelling stories and characters. That will never change. The biggest transformation I expect to happen is that the way we interact with media will become still more personalized and intuitive. What you do, what you experience through media will more and more depend on the context you’re in. This sounds a little abstract but what I mean is that technology will become increasingly invisible and that the way we interact with stories, games and storyworlds will become fluid and natural. I’d like the participants of BMFI to be really visionary and to really think hard about how storytelling and media can be put at the service of the people they are intended for and to really help them improve their lives.

[Interview by Burcu Cura, Bilkent COMD]

Thank you.

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