What stories work best for mobile media?

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Developing a concept and a script for presentation on the small screen of a portable handheld device is perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of producing content for mobile media. Sure there are constraints that involve download costs, the parameters of the screen itself, and not to mention an audience that is often deemed to have the attention span of a toddler.

What I find most interesting about developing the episodic model for my mobile drama has been my initial efforts to adhere to the traditional 3 act structure of movie making. But let’s be honest here, mobisodes or mobile movies will never replace the cinema viewing experience, although they may adopt or adapt some principles and conventions of writing for the big screen.

Micro-narratives may pose many constraints, but they also offer potential opportunities for creatives to develop new models and modes of storytelling. Micro-narratives redefine and/or challenge existing notions of viewer immersion and interaction with screen based narratives. The mobile phone, unlike the plethora of devices that fill the modern home, is unique in the manner that it establishes a connection with its user. Content accessed via the mobile phone can range from personal to intimate, business and pleasure. So should writers and artists creating narratives for the mobile device acknowledge the role that the mobile phone plays in managing our daily lives? One may be far from the t.v.,the cinema, or perhaps without a computer; but one is rarely far away from their mobile phone.

The mobile phone is a conduit for a range of content, a management system that enables its user to systematically filter incoming information and store content, or should I say data, within a hierarchical structure. Information often remains intangible and illusive to others, apart from the mobile user. So why are we so determined to adopt the logic of the computer to manage our lives? No nasty surprises here, as long as we can keep everything at an arms length, stored safely within the plastic housing of the mobile device.

Okay, so when it comes to drafting a concept for a micro-drama, what kind of stories will resonate loudest with a mobile phone audience? It’s important to note that when I say audience, I am referring to individuals privately accessing and watching content. Rather than the conventional notion of the shared experience associated with an audience within a cinema space. Unlike the purpose built environment of the cinema, the small screen of the mobile phone has no fixed location to support what might be perceived as an ideal situation for the viewing of micro-narratives.

The traditional cinema experience arguably offers the viewer an immersive environment that is relatively free from outside world distractions. The mobile screen offers a portable viewing experience that enables the audience an opportunity to remain connected, allowing for potential communications with friends, family and business contacts. Viewers of micro-narratives for mobile devices must also compete with the external visual, and aural distractions that exist in non-fixed viewing environments.

I am curious to why so many people feel the need to be connected to the communication network 24 hours a day. Why is it so hard to switch off the mobile phone and take a break from the pressures of day to day living? How can we appear to be so connected, and at the same time, so disconnected from the self and the people around us? In my opinion, these are the core issues that need to be addressed in narratives designed for delivery on the mobile phone/ mobile media.

Should micro-narratives for the mobile phone address this issue of connection vs. disconnection? The fear of the unknown is perhaps a rich and fertile ground when it comes to developing a storyline for mobile media. In a world where we are able to prioritise, plan and manage our lives with the efficiency of a machine, perhaps it is a lack of control that poses the greatest threat to the mobile user. And seeing as it is the mobile user that is the target market, it is the sociology of the mobile phone and that will drive so much of the story development.

I believe it necessary to design narratives for the small screen that acknowledge the unique parameters of the mobile phone. Micro-narratives need to be specific to the mobile phone viewer experience. Re-purposing of existing television and cinema content does not acknowledge the complex constraints and demands of a mobile audience.

Over the past year I have developed a series of concepts for viewing on the mobile phone, and as I prepare to begin production in the next few weeks, I am particularly interested in what expectations mobile users have when it comes to dramatic content designed specifically for portable handheld media devices.

Is the mobile phone screen a mirror to our everyday experiences, or should it reflect the fantasies associated with a digital utopia that promises virtual escapism.

I would like to hear your thoughts on this matter.

Dean.

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~ by Dean on February 22, 2007.

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