Transmedia Alliance @ SXSW

SXSW 2013 featured at least a dozen transmedia sessions – more, depending upon the degree of elasticity you confer upon that very elastic term.

Among them, the first officially sanctioned meet-up of transmedia meet-ups from around the world, organized by Paris-based Karine Halpern, including folks from groups in New York, Paris, London, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, as well as producers, tools-makers, broadcasters, academics, and technologists interested in the transmedia movement — altogether about 50 attendees.

The session’s call to action announced the intention to form a Transmedia Alliance in order to formalize ties between transmedia groups under the umbrella of an international non-profit. Its goals would include : sustaining the global transmedia community, promoting best practices, helping newcomers enter the field, and sharing knowledge.

The idea of an alliance was stimulated by the upsurge of activity by local transmedia meetups since the first StoryWorld Conference in San Francisco in October 2011, when a similar meetup of meetups was held. Informal ties between groups have continued, including groups on Facebook and Linked In. For many activists like Halpern, something more structured is required. Her model is Transmedia Europe, which launched last January.

The session at SXSW lasted only an hour, barely enough time to get through introductions, so the hard work of organizational structure, governance, and operational process remains to be achieved. It’s hard to do that kind of work at a crazy conference like SXSW, that’s for sure. And harder still across thousands of miles.

On the other hand, the session relocated to the bar, which I skipped in favor of something I needed to do for a client. So I cannot report on what next steps may be contemplated, or whether incorporation, bilaws, membership eligibility or structure have yet been formalized for the Transmedia Alliance.

Thoughts on Organization

Groups like Transmedia Alliance face not only the inherent difficulties of launching and sustaining an organization, but also the challenge of moving from a movement to an institution. Its constituents are diverse (producers, academics, startups) and strewn across the globe. Groups are voluntary, with shifting membership, and often leaders burnout.

And yet, we have successful examples upon which to build. During the final panel of Story World 2012, I compared today’s transmedia movement to the independent film and video movement of the 1970’s, and called for organizations and resources that could help to sustain the artform as it grows. Here are some models from that era.

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