Transmedia Activism - Ryerson Activism Exploring a new activism ecosystem using marketing-based strategies and transmedia storytelling JESSICA THOMSON @jessthomson16

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  • Transmedia Activism Exploring a new activism ecosystem using marketing-based strategies and transmedia storytelling


    Current Activism EcosystemActivism has found a venue in social media platforms, where it is easy to connect with and rally like minds. However, as illustrated by the #BeenRapedNeverReported Twitter campaign, these platforms are designed for a level of engagement that often works against the goals of social activism campaigns.

    This example shows that, for activism, Twitters terse and time-limited format is not conducive to the work that needs to be done to effect social change because:

    1. Activism on social media is fleeting. It neither requires nor promotes long-term commitment or change in offline behaviour;

    2. Social media unites like-minded people, which can result in bias confirmation. This can also result in clique behaviour, thus alienating other audiences and schools of thought;

    3. It values rapid production and consumption, which results in superficial discussion and engagement.

    #BeenRapedNeverReported briefly captured an audience of at least 7 million people but the goal to dismantle rape stigma and raise awareness was limited by the medium. The campaign was ineffective in two main areas:

    1. Encouraging continuous, long-term engagement;

    2. Engaging audiences beyond those with direct, personal experience.

    Gender-based violence is endemic - it is always relevant and it is relevant to everyone. Every audience has a role to play in driving change, but as illustrated by the #BeenRapedNeverReported campaign, using Twitter as the sole medium is not enough to engage multiple audiences continuously and inclusively.

    The campaign showcased the tremendous bravery and solidarity of those who have been raped; however, with a more strategic approach the results could have been significantly amplified. Unfortunately, there are few strategic models available to activist groups and the complexity of the digital environment only makes effective campaign development more difficult.

    A New Ecosystem for Activism:Marketing-based StrategiesWithin the marketing environment, there are proven solutions that address challenges in engaging audiences. Market segmentation is the process by which a homogeneous audience is divided into groups that can be easily identified and defined based on similar needs, wants and characteristics. A modern approach to this process is creating buyer personas, which allows a marketing team to imagine composite representations of the people who make up their target audiences in an effort to develop effective engagement strategies.

    #BeenRapedNeverReported called upon an audience of women who have been raped to share their experiences, but dismantling rape stigma and raising awareness requires participation from other audiences as well. For example, it requires the attention of an audience that is unaware of the number of unreported

    rape incidences; an audience that upholds rape stigma by avoiding the subject matter; a male audience that stands in solidarity with women who have been raped; and an audience that perpetuates rape. These audiences would not likely be motivated to engage with a campaign entitled #BeenRapedNeverReporteda name that is implicitly exclusive to those who have been raped and have not reported. Persona development of audiences required in effecting change may have demonstrated a need to use more appropriate and engaging ways for those audiences to contribute.

    Once a persona is conceptualized, it is important to provide value in order to motivate engagement. According to B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmores experience economy framework, the value is offering an experience that is inherently personal, existing only in the mind of an individual who has been engaged on an emotional, physical, intellectual or even spiritual level. This is likely what #BeenRapedNeverReported was for women who have been raped, and it is what should have been for other relevant audiences.

    Pine and Gilmore subdivide the ideal experience into four realms. There are two dimensions within this model:

    1. Audience participation, which encompasses passive participation on one end of the spectrum, such as observation or listening, and active participation in which the audience plays a key role in creating the event that yields the experience. A u d i e n c e participation within #BeenRapedNeverReported would be represented by the posts. Active participation would be posting content and passive would be reading content.

    2. Relationship with the environment, with absorption at the one end of the spectrum and immersion at the other end of the spectrum. The relationship with the environment for the #BeenRapedNeverReported campaign may represent discussion, whereby engaging in discussion and connecting with other audience members is immersive and not engaging is absorption.

    Considering the main audience of #BeenRapedNeverReported - women who had been raped - the campaign experience, to some degree, allowed for an experience in each realm.

    The entertainment realm consists of passive participation and absorption. #BeenRapedNeverReported consisted of user-generated narratives on Twitter. The platform affords audience spectatorship when stories are read but no contribution is made. Without any contribution, the audience member excludes themselves from the action of commenting, connecting, discussing and engaging, making this an entertainment experience.

    The educational realm consists of active participation and absorption. The campaign affords this audience the ability to actively participate by posting their story, thus altering the outcome of the event which yields the experience. Once posted, there is no obligation to engage in discussion or connect with other audiences.

    The esthetic realm consists of passive participation and immersion. It is difficult to conceptualize how this particular audience could be immersed in the action of the campaign without having made any active

    contribution. If discussing and connecting constitutes immersion in this example, then this audience would be doing so without self-identifying as someone who has been raped.

    The escapist realm consists of active participation and immersion. The campaigns escapist experience would be represented by the ability to post a story and discuss it with others.

    The campaign provided options for each experience but, due to the limitations of using one platform, could not provide all four experiences to one person within that audience. The ideal experience--the one that provides the most value--exists where the spectra meet and is referred to as the sweet spot. For #BeenRapedNeverReported, Twitter may provide a strong escapist experience for an audience member, while YouTube might provide an entertainment experience for that same audience member. Furthermore, Pine and Gilmore also advocate that, unlike an isolated event, staging a series of experiences achieves a lasting effect on an audience, which was one of the campaigns main weaknesses. A seemingly perfect ecosystem to further explore this point if the transmedia story ecosystem.

    Transmedia StorytellingStar Wars is a franchise that began in 1977 and maintains a committed fan following. It transcends film and occupies nearly all forms of media within what is known as The Star Wars Expanded Universe, which includes, but is not limited to, comics, games, mobile applications and fan-made wikis.

    Imagine what the activism ecosystem could accomplish if it could harness such audience captivation and devotion. This is not an illustration of how social issues correlate with Star Wars; rather, this is an exploration of how holistic storytelling using several types of media can result in continuous and meaningful engagement.

    Transmedia storytelling addresses three main challenges:

    1. The transmedia story is accessible in its offering of multiple entry points and varying types of media.

    2. It promotes continuous engagement by dissemination of narrative across multiple platforms over time. While this could be viewed as a disincentive, strong transmedia storytelling campaigns create valuable yet incomplete experiences on each platform. The narrative cannot be consumed in its entirety through a sole medium, thus motivating further consumption of the narrative through other platforms.

    3. It can offer different perspectives under one narrative, thus providing a more comprehensive understanding of the individual roles within the narrative.

    Most noteworthy transmedia storytelling examples feature fictional and entertaining narratives. How can activism explore this framework using non-fictional narrative, such as those found within the #BeenRapedNeverReported hashtag, without minimizing the severity of the issue by placing it within a context that is inherently entertaining?

    IntroductionWhen Antonia Zerbisias and Sue Montgomery started the#BeenRapedNeverReported campaign, they employed three key components: a story, a cause for change and a digital tool. Although the campaign resulted in global reach and over 7 million tweets within days, the true impact of their effort is difficult to determine. The story is over and the cause for change has succumbed to a hashtags ephemeral nature. The campaign, like many of its kind, missed an opportunity to drive social change - an opportunity afforded by the interconnectivity of the digital landscape and the affective power of storytelling. This projects explores the possibilities of borrowing and adapting existing frameworks in marketing and transmedia storytelling in order to maximize engagement in social change campaigns.


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