Transmedia Blog

Using Transmedia Storytelling to Increase Serendipity in Informal Learning

robert | November 1, 2016  ‐  No Comments

It’s long been known that combining informal learning with formal learning improves learning outcomes thanks to a beneficial effect on learner motivation. But informal learning means the learner decides what’s important or of interest to him. Hence, this could be at a tangent to what the instructor-as-expert thinks is important.

So what if we could build an informal learning environment that increased the likelihood of learners taking an interest in and directing themselves towards what the instructor thought were the key concepts, rather than leaving informal/unexpected learning to chance?

The diagram below shows the platforms typically associated with different types of learning – formal and informal. This article proposes an approach towards that Informal/Incidental learning that uses transmedia storytelling to increase the serendipity of learners reinforcing the formal learning.


What is Transmedia Storytelling?

Transmedia storytelling is telling a story across multiple platforms in such a way that the platforms are additive. That is, each platform highlights a unique perspective on the story and doesn’t just repurpose the same content.

For example, a minor character in a video might have their story told in a series of blog posts; or a location mentioned in an email might have its full details revealed on a tourism web page.

For us at Conducttr, transmedia storytelling is also a design principal we use to create participatory experiences. The double-layer model shown to the left in the diagram below shows how we would embed a learner journey on top of what might be typical instructional design.

Add to this model the aspects of timing and pacing and we get a four-layer “transmedia learning” model – the delivery of content over time in such a way that it’s designed to increase motivation and memory retention.


Lifelike Experiences

Working with our Brazilian partners, Lifelike, we’ve been able to experiment and improve our understanding of how to appropriate platforms that blend informal and formal learning.

In the diagram below we take a concept from transmedia storytelling which is the “storyworld”. A storyworld is typically a fictional world that encompasses a multitude of possible stories – for example the world of Harry Potter is one of wizards, wands and spells; James Bond is a world of espionage, guns and gadgets.   In the context of our transmedia learning, “in-world” means content in the fictional world we’ve wrapped around the learning (say a Twitter account from a mad professor searching for a flux capacitor) whereas “out-of-world” would be anything that’s not inside that fictional world (say a Wikipedia entry on Ohms Law).

Formal learning is most likely “out of world” whereas informal learning allows us to create “in world” content.

When it comes to intentional and incidental learning, direct communications to learners as afforded by email, SMS and phone calls lend themselves to very specific plot points or concepts or facts that the learner must come in contact with. Social media on the other hand is more community-based, more social of course, and this lends itself better to incidental learning.

None of this represents hard and fast rules – it’s just a rule of thumb – but the intention is to provide some introductory structure while designers new to transmedia storytelling find their feet.


Writing Learning Stories

The diagram below highlights how certain character archetypes might be employed for certain types of learning.

The “Mentor” for example, is a character like, say, Yoda, that guides the learner in an informal way through the challenges of the formal learning – offering hints and tips, anecdotes and compassion. The Mentor is like a parental figure (but “cool”!) whereas the Sidekick is more like friend.

The Sidekick might travel ahead of the learner, making mistakes in a fictional world that shine a light on the real world concepts of the formal learning.

Again, the position of the archetypes aren’t set in stone – the point of the diagram is to provide a starting point for ideas in storytelling and how the story characters might support the formal learning and be true to themselves.


Personalized Learning

Adaptive learning is something of a Holy Grail and we’re rather proud to have perfected our approach over several years now.

The diagram below is a template we use as a starting point for integrating a formal elearning with a fictional storyworld.

At the top of the diagram is a typical learner journey – start a course, complete assignments, finish the course. On the rows below are the data we seek to obtain about the learner’s progress and finally, on the bottom row, is the content we publish.

Note that in this model, we’re wrapping a fictional story around the instructional designer’s course with the intention of elucidating key concepts while proving fun, surprise and motivation. You can see too that we use the interactive narrative structure of “kernals” and “satellites” – kernals being the heart of soul or tent poles of the story while satellites are the fluffier bits, the parts of the story we’re free to personalize at will without derailing the plot.

Depending on the project, the “character interventions” might be purely fictional or could additionally be changes in course materials such as an easier task to improve motivation if the learner appears to be struggling.


Conclusion:  why so serious?

Transmedia storytelling offers an excellent opportunity to engage learners in a wrapper around formal structures and can do so in a very systematic, structured way without damaging the integrity of the desired informal or formal learning environment.

Good storytellers should allow themselves the opportunity to tell good stories with interactive characters – and apply this approach to any client category. For example, compliance training for bankers can be extremely dull but a transmedia approach with stories told, say, on SMS during a commute to work can firmly embed important lessons. Why shouldn’t corporates use fictional warlords and oligarchs to illustrate important rules of conduct?

And of course with interactivity comes performance assessment – so no longer can someone use their assistant to click through an exercise, because detailed activity tracking and peer comparisons can identify cheats, liabilities and top performers!

Creating a personalized, serendipitous informal learning environment around the learner increases motivation and learning that really sticks.




Connecting Amazon Echo to Conducttr

robert | October 13, 2016  ‐  No Comments

Here’s how to give Conducttr some Alexa Skills :)

Here’s the code used in the video example

  “intents”: [
      "intent": "GetFacebookMsg"
// Credit to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zt9WdE5kR6g for the code base!
var https = require(‘https’)
exports.handler = (event, context) => {
  try {
    if (event.session.new) {
      // New Session
      console.log(“NEW SESSION”)
    switch (event.request.type) {
      case “LaunchRequest”:
        // Launch Request
        console.log(`LAUNCH REQUEST`)
            buildSpeechletResponse(“Welcome to Conducttr”, true),
      case “IntentRequest”:
        // Intent Request
        console.log(`INTENT REQUEST`)
        switch(event.request.intent.name) {
          case “”: // INTENT GOES HERE
            var endpoint = “” // ENDPOINT GOES HERE
            var body = “”
            https.get(endpoint, (response) => {
              response.on(‘data’, (chunk) => { body += chunk })
              response.on(‘end’, () => {
                var data = JSON.parse(body)
                var last_comment = data.results[0].this_tweet  // MODIFY THIS TO SUIT YOUR DATA
                    buildSpeechletResponse(`hmmm… ${last_comment}`, true),
            throw “Invalid intent”
      case “SessionEndedRequest”:
        // Session Ended Request
        console.log(`SESSION ENDED REQUEST`)
        context.fail(`INVALID REQUEST TYPE: ${event.request.type}`)
  } catch(error) { context.fail(`Exception: ${error}`) }
// Helpers
buildSpeechletResponse = (outputText, shouldEndSession) => {
  return {
    outputSpeech: {
      type: “PlainText”,
      text: outputText
    shouldEndSession: shouldEndSession
generateResponse = (speechletResponse, sessionAttributes) => {
  return {
    version: “1.0″,
    sessionAttributes: sessionAttributes,
    response: speechletResponse

How Pokemon Go and the DNC hack are related.

robert | July 29, 2016  ‐  No Comments


The Democratic party hack and Pokemon Go are both battles for the mind. They both demonstrate that there is no reality, only multiple perceptions of the world that we in turn perceive as a reality.

Pokemon Go is a location-based game that overlays onto the physical world a fictional world populated by cute monsters. While our mobile phones act as a portal into this parallel world – allowing us to see the previously unseen –  it’s our imaginations that allow us to believe monsters are out there.

Of course many will proclaim that they know the monsters aren’t real but large parts of the population are acting as if they were real – maybe hundreds leaving the safety of the couch to venture outside to enslave virtual pets.

So do players believe those monsters are really real? It actually doesn’t matter too much if players are acting as if they do. Physically real or virtually real we are all becoming more accepting of worlds that can’t be seen. Worlds that are uncovered and revealed to us through technology. Sometimes we are more trusting of technology than what we observe first hand in physical space – such as when we witness a conflict between Google maps/streetview and a city block that’s found to be unexpectedly demolished. We double-check the technology-offered reality with our physical reality and at first don’t believe what we see in front of us.

The DNC hackers and those responding to it also want us to believe that there are monsters out there: Monsters that can’t be seen but are revealed to us through technology. Regardless of whether the hackers are State-sponsored or not, this hack is an example of an aspect of cyber warfare to influence negative opinion towards an adversary. Opinions and actions are driven by beliefs and beliefs come from interpretations of the world. If someone can change the interpretation of the world – to overlay or replace the old reality with a new reality, then they can get others to act through this “soft power” without ever physically coercing them.

This is why storytelling matters and why transmedia storytelling matters most. We make sense of the world through stories – connecting this event with another and imagining the relationships between them and the implications. Positive stories influence us in positive ways, giving us self-belief and adherence to behaviours that may have otherwise faded sooner. Negative stories hurt – even if they’re not based on fact because there are no facts, no reality, there are only beliefs.

Storytelling is about controlling information – who has it, who doesn’t, when it’s released or when it’s withheld. The DNC hack is a beat, a plot point in an adversary’s story – a “counter-narrative” to  combat the Democratic party narrative. Pokemon Go is both a framework for player-driven narratives born of their scavenging activities and a mechanism to re-see the world and it’s stories via points of interest.

Storytelling is powerful and transmedia storytelling is more powerful still, because it’s about building a story around the audience so that it fits into their world, around their world such that our narrative becomes pervasive, unavoidable, multifaceted and reinforcing.

When you’re next creating a training exercise or health programme or entertainment experience, consider how you might influence someone’s perception of reality through transmedia storytelling and the benefits it might bring, the behaviours it might change and the outcomes it could deliver. Let your story become the seeds for someone else’s story because the only reality is the story we write for ourselves.

Exercise Control and Performance Assessment

robert | April 28, 2016  ‐  No Comments

Yesterday we delivered to the UK Ministry of Defence our “personal assistant for instructors” or, in the military acronym, CUARATT (connected universal assessment and real-time analysis training tool).

The video below shows the technology in operation in an instrumented battlefield scenario on private land.

Adaptive Training

So what’s going on?

Conducttr is operating from the cloud as an intelligent training platform: it holds the exercise scenario and listens to wearables and IoT devices  to track trainee performance and progress.

The exercise instructor is able to make real-time inquiries and Conducttr sends “intelligent prompts” and activity alerts – bothering the instructor only for events that s/he may wish to investigate further.  Should the exercise need changing (made more difficult or easier), the instructor is able to branch the scenario without breaking immersion.

Throughout the exercise, Conducttr receives real-time data from the trainees and the instrumented battlefield. It compares performance against benchmarks and expected performance (for example time, between two locations, pulse rate at a certain time, pulse rate compared to other trainees at that time and so on) and determines if it should intervene or alert the instructor.

Note that intervention might mean interacting with synthetic environments which in turn are interpreted by the trainees and the scenario branched.

Activity Tracking

Today, it’s our contention that only enough data is collected to ensure that training is proceeding as desired. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg –  the “expected actions”. As the pyramid diagram below shows, there is much more data to be collected that would provide context for the exercise.

Conducttr maintains detailed activity tracking that contains all this collected data so that exercises can be mined for insights and improvement opportunities.


Completely customizable

CUARATT is a universal tool meaning that it is completely customizable to only show information relevant to that particular exercise.


In the diagram above, the instructional designer creates the scenario (either from scratch or copying a previous project) and the CUARATT configuration file – none of which requires coding although connecting into operational systems does require knowledge of APIs.

On the right of the diagram, the instructor and observer team is able to send injects (including audio injects that play on a trainee’s mobile or operational equipment) and make qualitative assessments while receiving real-time data about performance and exercise progress.


Conducttr is now unique in its ability to connect live physical environments, sythentic virtual environments and social media, email, text messaging, phone calls etc. so that it’s the perfect system for counter-insurgency training, crisis management and civil defense/emergency exercises.


To try a demo, check out http://market.conducttr.com/experiences/hostage-rescue


Working in Transmedia

robert | March 2, 2016  ‐  No Comments

We were lucky enough to be covered by El Pais in their documentary series about jobs of the future!

Please checkout the video:

Si te gusta contar historias, tienes que saber de transmedia, el ingrediente secreto que convierte cualquier narración en una experiencia única.

Se acabaron las historias que sólo se escuchan o se ven. Ahora las historias se viven. En Londres y de la mano del gurú transmedia Robert Pratten, conoceremos los nuevos recursos que han revolucionado la narración, convirtiendo a cada cliente en el protagonista de su propia aventura.

Connected Museums and Connected Learning

robert | February 7, 2016  ‐  No Comments

connected learning

The presentation below was originally given as a keynote in Taiwwan to the Chinese Association of Museums.

Our belief is that the technology like Conducttr can create “intelligent interpretation” – personalized connected experiences that see the museum as part of a deeper ecosystem that includes informal and formal learning.

In the diagram presented here, a cloud-based intelligence understands the learner’s current interest and tailors physical and digital environments to suit.

Note that a common problem for major museums is traffic flow. That is, most visitors want to see the museum’s top attraction. Using Conducttr connected to traffic sensors, guides and screens can be adapted and tweaks to direct visitors to less busy parts of the musuem.

Serious Games about Cyber Warfare

robert | February 4, 2016  ‐  No Comments


We started work today with Al Jazeera on a serious game about cyber warfare. The work is for the People and Power programme and will leverage existing video footage taken in the Middle East and Europe.

In the game, players assume the role of an investigative journalist creating a report for Al Jazeera. They must manage a travel budget and pending deadline to complete the assignment without getting hacked themselves.

The immersive experience will run across our Communicator web app, social media and email.

Grab Rob’s book: Getting Started in Transmedia Storytelling!

robert | August 22, 2015  ‐  No Comments

This is the second edition of Robert Pratten’s massively popular Getting Started in Transmedia Storytelling. It’s a practical guide to developing cross-platform and pervasive entertainment written by a thought-leader and early practitioner. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a complete newbie, this book is filled with tips and insights gained from years of work in multi-platform interactive storytelling.

Buy a hardcopy
From Amazon

On Kindle

The three C’s of transmedia storytelling

robert | June 30, 2015  ‐  No Comments

the three Cs of transmedia storytelling

I created the diagram above in preparation for my talk at Neuchâtel film festival next week.  It probably needs a little explaining.

In the diagram I’m trying to create an easy-to-remember transmedia strategy guide for TV and web series. The three Cs are:

  • Characters – the importance of story
  • Convenience – the importance of getting the right content to the right people at the right time
  • Community – the importance of connecting fans and rewarding them.

At the intersections we see the actions and functions we must support:

  • Characters+Convenience – the personalization of the story experience for each person based on their relationship to the world
  • Convenience+Community – the continued “personalization” but in a broader sense as applied to audience segments. For example an audience team collaborates to unlock content that only they can see. Also at this intersection is the ability to share content and refer friends to the world
  • Community+Characters – this is the relationship between the community and the world. Creators should provide opportunities to strengthen the relationship through procedures and technology to allow fan contributions, character interactions and such like.

Why not create your own awesome transmedia project with Conducttr?


Transmedia for Change

robert | June 2, 2015  ‐  No Comments


Transmedia for Change (T4C) is an umbrella term that encompasses transmedia activism (change in society or community) and personal growth (change in lifestyle, personal development). Underlying T4C is the belief that stories matter, that those stories need to be told to the right people at the right time and most importantly that projects should offer a pathway to success.

As I stated in my early post, Where Next for Reality, nothing is real: the reality we experience is grounded in the stories we tell ourselves. So T4C advocates for storytellers to a. engage audiences with positive messages that inspire and motivate better choices and b. provide solutions.

Creating impact ought to be the factual storyteller’s overriding goal. It’s too easy to say a project’s goal is to “create awareness” without articulating what change that awareness should bring about nor how the aware should take action. Take for example projects that say they want to raise awareness about privacy. How many provide a real debate about the trade-offs between privacy and security or privacy and convenience or privacy and price? And many of these privacy projects on the one hand attack Facebook while on the other use the player’s Facebook information there to create the wow effect of the experience to supposedly “highlight the dangers”. Isn’t that contradictory? Like explaining to someone the danger of gunpowder while getting them to light a firework. Where’s the wow in these privacy projects without the privacy invasion? My point here is only that the makers should go beyond awareness as a goal and think how their projects can deliver solutions. Telling forgotten people’s stories or allowing people to tell their stories isn’t enough – it’s still just telling and not doing.

We should use our stories to engage and our technology to empower. Rather than imagine the interactive documentary (idoc) project as a beacon, it ought to be a solution.

No Website Should be an Island

A problem I see with many webdocs is that they are beautiful works of art to be admired but likely have little impact. Although they’re online and clickable many feel like gallery pieces that showcase the integration of art and technology – amazing data visualizations and smooth flowing, storytelling user interfaces but they kind of just leave me admiring the craft while disengaged with the issue. I never feel like I really enter the story because the prowess of the design draws attention to itself and away from the message.

So what if someone spends a prolonged amount of time on a website if really what you want them to do is go into the streets? How can they take the message with them? And importantly how can they take that message to others?

If future projects are to create greater impact, they need to connect to people where the people are – they’re mobile, they’re in the real world and of course they’re across platforms.

In Rude Health

In our project for the Mexican health authority, we’re connecting a mobile and desktop game to patient visits to HIV clinics. There is no typical hub website, it’s the patient at the center of the experience (i.e. their life!) and orbiting them are the platforms they use. When players visit a clinic, they have a “VIP pass” on their phone (a reward and incentive for taking part) that enables them to jump the line and doctors send an SMS to receive a single-use 5-character code that is given to the player to “check-in” at the clinic (which must be completed within 10 mins before the code is deactivated).

Far from being an “awareness campaign”, this is a project intended to change the behavior of men – encouraging them to negotiate better with sexual partners and track their attitudes and behaviors against three sets of game mechanics so that we can see which mechanics are the most effective in increasing the frequency of clinic visits.

Note that everything plays out anonymously – safeguarding the privacy of participants – while still providing a referral mechanism for players to invite friends and allow us to track the biggest referrers and which mechanic inspires the most referrals.

All this is created with Conducttr from off-the-shelf functions – massively reducing the cost of deployment and instantly being massively scalable and secure.

Join us to discuss these ideas or present your own at this year’s Conducttr Conference on October 16th in London, UK.


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