Carson Conversations Forum | Sean Stewart
Sean Stewart, Creative Director at Magic Leap, speaks at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts. His talk: “Storytelling and Creative Technologies.”
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[00:00:00.733](upbeat instrumental music)
[00:00:08.495]I looked at my pamphlet last night and it said this
[00:00:10.368]is what my talk was about so I fixed the slide
[00:00:12.682]so it said that at the top.
[00:00:16.039]Something you need to understand about me,
[00:00:18.251]I started as a science fiction novelist.
[00:00:20.528]That's science fiction.
[00:00:25.041]I'm with the vaporized platform.
[00:00:28.874]I started working for this which is an interesting
[00:00:32.453]platform to work for.
[00:00:33.582]I published a bunch of books, so terribly, terribly
[00:00:37.306]important books like Galveston, which won the World
[00:00:39.711]Fantasy Award and Yoda, Dark Rendezvous,
[00:00:45.101]which did not.
[00:00:49.426]But in 2001 I was bitten by a radioactive Spielberg.
[00:00:57.394]They were making a movie called A.I.
[00:00:59.495]and a group at Microsoft wanted to make
[00:01:02.018]a strange, crazy interactive product.
[00:01:04.839]They wanted a very impressive science fiction writer
[00:01:09.837]to be the lead writer of that so they came and asked.
[00:01:13.415]He said no, but I have a broke friend.
[00:01:18.130]And I jumped into the breach and was the lead writer
[00:01:21.517]on the first of what is now called
[00:01:23.138]an alternate reality game.
[00:01:26.357]Alternate reality games are giant Dicken's novels
[00:01:28.477]that play out using every kind of media.
[00:01:31.757]To give you a very fast idea of how you would get
[00:01:34.439]into this sort of thing, that was the poster for the film.
[00:01:37.458]If you looked really hard on the poster,
[00:01:39.879]if you saw it in live form or online you would notice
[00:01:42.071]a couple of odd things.
[00:01:43.437]For instance in the credit block there was a credit
[00:01:46.055]for Jeanine Salla who is the Sentient Machine Therapist.
[00:01:49.815]If you thought to yourself, "What is a Sentient
[00:01:51.895]"Machine Therapist?" and you went and you entered
[00:01:54.018]it in Altavista,
[00:01:58.615]because it was 2001, you would find the webpage
[00:02:03.791]of Jeanine Salla who is the Sentient Machine Therapist
[00:02:06.338]who also had a practice at Bangalor World University's
[00:02:09.651]campus in New York in the year 2142.
[00:02:13.291]From there there were links to many other pages
[00:02:17.331]and people who also lived in the world of 2142
[00:02:19.974]and also had for instance, phone numbers like the one
[00:02:23.228]you might find if you notice that there were tiny
[00:02:25.371]little ticks in the word Summer 2001.
[00:02:28.210]And if you wrote out all the numbers of ticks
[00:02:30.550]it was a 10-digit number.
[00:02:32.310]And what the hell, you could try calling it
[00:02:34.454]and oh my God you'd be talking to someone who also lived
[00:02:39.830]So you would follow that, those trails into a story
[00:02:43.990]which then led to websites for corporations
[00:02:47.254]and individuals who are having bad marriages.
[00:02:50.672]There was a serial killer who was murdering Sentient houses.
[00:02:57.270]It's science fiction, right?
[00:02:59.094]If I tell you there was a kill geisha robot
[00:03:01.312]you are not surprised.
[00:03:06.310]One of the things that's interesting about the internet
[00:03:08.187]as a kind of a printing press is the internet
[00:03:10.809]doesn't care much about how the media is made.
[00:03:14.308]We tend to think about art as a series of nouns
[00:03:18.030]that are defined by their production process.
[00:03:20.387]A book is made of paper and is distributed
[00:03:22.888]and you buy it like shoes.
[00:03:24.488]A movie is another kind of product which you buy
[00:03:27.587]and you play in a machine.
[00:03:30.028]The internet doesn't care about that stuff.
[00:03:32.288]It'll do a website, it'll do text, it'll do video.
[00:03:34.488]What do you want, doesn't matter.
[00:03:36.307]What's important is you are the story
[00:03:37.811]to which everything vectors.
[00:03:40.787]We were asked to talk about it, me and the designer on it,
[00:03:45.470]Yolan Lee, we were asked to go to Intel and talk about it.
[00:03:47.950]They were saying so what is the more interesting thing
[00:03:49.608]about this project?
[00:03:50.611]What we ended up saying is the most interesting thing
[00:03:53.411]about this project is the audience.
[00:03:57.284]Most things we make when we grew up
[00:03:59.427]were singular activities.
[00:04:03.891]I read a book, I watched television.
[00:04:06.430]Maybe I sat in a theater with a bunch of other people,
[00:04:09.048]but each of us had an individual experience of movie
[00:04:11.170]and then we went home.
[00:04:13.491]The audience for the game thing story we had just made
[00:04:17.587]wasn't like that.
[00:04:19.688]It was distributed all over the world
[00:04:21.288]and it was participatory.
[00:04:22.611]They investigated clues, they went to physical places,
[00:04:25.608]they called phone numbers, they found bits of the story,
[00:04:28.211]and then they talked to one another about it.
[00:04:31.568]Susan and I worked together with a guy named
[00:04:33.310]Joe Denunzio who had a lovely coin for this
[00:04:35.710]called search operas because the basic thing
[00:04:39.091]is I look stuff up and then I gossip about it
[00:04:41.507]which sort of life now, right?
[00:04:46.531]So we said okay what makes this interesting
[00:04:50.723]is the audience.
[00:04:52.464]It made me think about science fiction but what I somewhat
[00:04:58.248]flippantly said to the Intel people is that what I mean
[00:05:01.550]by that in this case is that we recreated 19th
[00:05:03.587]century science as an entertainment modality.
[00:05:11.667]In the age of Darwin the way that science worked
[00:05:14.371]is a guy would say hey I found a funny looking tortoise
[00:05:17.546]here in Guyana and the next guy would say I'm in France
[00:05:20.728]and I did and experiment on oxygen.
[00:05:22.645]The next guy would say I found the bones of what seems
[00:05:25.585]to be some prehistoric thing on my visit
[00:05:28.547]to the Americas.
[00:05:30.248]Then they would write all this stuff up
[00:05:31.811]and they would send it into the Philosophical Transactions.
[00:05:34.826]That was the way science progressed.
[00:05:37.150]It was a worldwide collaboration of amateurs
[00:05:40.367]who were pooling their information and resources.
[00:05:45.046]Let me say that slightly differently.
[00:05:47.891]We're live tweeting the Oscars, right?
[00:05:51.809]We have entered the age in which we are all living life
[00:05:56.227]and culture the way that Darwin and his buddies lived
[00:06:01.907]Art, instead of being a noun, is in this sense
[00:06:06.851]also a verb.
[00:06:08.750]First there's content, there's the story.
[00:06:10.691]I made that bit, that's the book or the movie
[00:06:13.747]But then there's the experience of collecting
[00:06:18.430]or engaging with that art.
[00:06:21.465]Then there's the community that I share
[00:06:23.891]that experience with.
[00:06:25.127]Those two other things are really important.
[00:06:28.448]I mentioned earlier the best thing that ever happened to me
[00:06:30.448]when I wrote a book, because I won the World Fantasy Award
[00:06:32.147]and 11 months later they sent me a little thing.
[00:06:36.704]For each of the big ARG experiences I got invited
[00:06:39.011]to someone's wedding.
[00:06:41.827]Because during the course of the game
[00:06:43.528]people met, were passionately engaged, fell in love,
[00:06:48.691]and it was so important to them that they wanted the guys
[00:06:51.230]who had made the game to be there at their wedding.
[00:06:57.198]I have never yet had someone, oh my God, that's not true.
[00:07:00.787]I did get a wedding invite for Yoda, Dark Rendezvous.
[00:07:05.128]Story for another time, very fast segue.
[00:07:08.328]When a girl says he told me the story of the extended
[00:07:11.368]Star Wars Universe for six hours and right then
[00:07:13.987]I knew he was the one.
[00:07:18.942]Dude never let her go.
[00:07:22.798]There are not two of that woman.
[00:07:28.681]All right, so let me give you an example of the kind of art
[00:07:33.241]you can make, and I say this as a novelist.
[00:07:35.599]I read Henry James for fun, that's how old-school I am.
[00:07:39.640]But there are things that you can do inside this,
[00:07:41.865]oh as a graphic artist I'm a pretty good speller.
[00:07:47.822]Here's something you can do that you cannot do
[00:07:49.465]in a novel in the same way.
[00:07:52.302]Susan Barnes and I worked on a project called
[00:07:53.958]last called Poker.
[00:07:55.203]There was a character that you might interact with
[00:07:58.723]Lucky was the patriarch of a family.
[00:08:02.019]He was trying to make sure everything worked out well,
[00:08:05.236]and he was also dead.
[00:08:06.761]So you spent a lot of time talking to ghosts.
[00:08:11.259]One of the things that Lucky would do if he needed
[00:08:13.641]a little help was he'd ask for a favor from you.
[00:08:16.105]These things were called small favors.
[00:08:17.561]And an example of one of the favors he would ask
[00:08:19.822]is he would say I want you to go to a cemetery
[00:08:22.479]somewhere near you lived and I want you to find the grave
[00:08:26.350]of someone who died on the day you were born
[00:08:31.661]and just do something nice, clean it up,
[00:08:34.942]write a poem, take a picture, leave a gift.
[00:08:37.203]Whatever you choose to do that's okay.
[00:08:39.225]Then just tell me about it.
[00:08:42.921]Many people wrote in to say that was the most profound
[00:08:45.481]artistic experience they had had in their lives.
[00:08:49.498]I was doing a little research preparing for this talk
[00:08:52.985]and I found someone who wrote two years ago
[00:08:55.741]about the fact that he and his daughter went out
[00:08:57.742]to do this together and it's still and experience
[00:08:59.880]that resonate with the two of them that they talk about
[00:09:01.801]to this day.
[00:09:03.225]It is profoundly personal because the audience
[00:09:06.345]is bringing their whole selves into it.
[00:09:09.241]And yet it's inside a construction,
[00:09:11.742]I mean, you know I was writing the character of Lucky
[00:09:13.321]and all that sort of thing.
[00:09:14.862]It's this merge, collaboration between the initiating
[00:09:19.161]artist and the audience who are also participating
[00:09:21.464]artists in their own right.
[00:09:25.480]That leads to some interesting questions about
[00:09:28.361]where art is centered.
[00:09:30.119]A lot of people, Robert got to everything all of us
[00:09:33.022]are going to say.
[00:09:37.443]And it was awesome.
[00:09:40.105]In a sense we were kind of vaporized,
[00:09:42.505]but we remain as sort of dust trails.
[00:09:49.001]One of the things that happens is there is a different
[00:09:51.523]ownership over art now.
[00:09:54.461]I gave a keynote a few years ago at a thing
[00:09:57.098]called Power Pixel.
[00:09:58.185]My title was the Tyrant in Winter which is how can I pretend
[00:10:03.001]to share power with the audience while retaining
[00:10:05.382]as much as I humanly can, because I grew up writing novels
[00:10:08.880]and I like being the boss.
[00:10:11.102]But the fact is we are not the controllers in the way
[00:10:13.843]we used to be.
[00:10:15.140]Here are a couple of examples.
[00:10:19.305]Who owns Harry Potter?
[00:10:20.942]Okay, legal answer, J.K. Rowling owns Harry Potter.
[00:10:23.557]Other legal answer, Warner Brothers owns Harry Potter.
[00:10:26.183]Other legal answer, a bunch of lawyer who will sue your ass.
[00:10:31.225]But in metaphorical terms, in the first five novels
[00:10:34.540]you can see that there was a lot of work
[00:10:36.778]that J.K. Rowling put in.
[00:10:38.281]There's 717,000 words over those first five books.
[00:10:42.521]Here's fanfiction.net, that's one website yesterday.
[00:10:48.439]There are three-quarters of a million complete stories
[00:10:52.182]set in the Harry Potter universe on that one website.
[00:10:57.081]Among those stories, for instance, are the editions
[00:11:00.184]of Hermione, Queen of Witches, which are all seven novels
[00:11:04.262]rewritten from Hermione's point of view.
[00:11:06.846]That counts as seven of those three-quarter of a million.
[00:11:11.166]Not only has J.K. Rowling written less than one percent
[00:11:16.239]of all the Harry Potter material that has ever been written,
[00:11:20.402]J.K. Rowling has written less than 50%
[00:11:22.323]of all the Harry Potter material that's ever been read.
[00:11:26.446]She is the important.
[00:11:28.963]She's primus inter pares, it's academic so we use Latin.
[00:11:35.683]But she does not own it in the way that we used
[00:11:38.046]to own things as artists.
[00:11:40.766]This is a dance.
[00:11:43.182]I'm gonna do something slightly more Nebraska themed.
[00:11:47.821]Are you ready for some football?
[00:11:49.742]Last year the total revenues of the NFL
[00:11:51.523]were 13 billion dollars.
[00:11:53.199]That's advertising revenue, jersey sales, ticket sales,
[00:11:55.443]the whole shebang.
[00:11:58.461]Did I mention live tweeting the Oscars?
[00:12:00.905]Years and years ago a bunch of people made up a game
[00:12:04.062]called Rotisserie Baseball where you would pick players
[00:12:08.046]and then you'd see how they did over the season.
[00:12:10.779]Then you'd compare your list of players
[00:12:12.025]against other people's players.
[00:12:13.403]This has picked up and become very prevalent
[00:12:15.919]to now we have for instance Fantasy Football.
[00:12:18.563]How many people here have ever participated
[00:12:19.860]in a fantasy league?
[00:12:21.982]Right, there are a few of you.
[00:12:24.183]Last year the revenues of this game that the audience
[00:12:28.344]made up about football were 15 billion dollars.
[00:12:34.542]The audience game about the thing is worth more money
[00:12:37.961]than the thing.
[00:12:40.720]Welcome to the world we now live in.
[00:12:43.662]Sure wish I could remember what our next slide is.
[00:12:46.585]Oh hey that's easy.
[00:12:49.545]We're getting to the point of where storytelling is going
[00:12:51.721]and what the Carson Center can do.
[00:12:54.585]This spring I released an interactive comic book
[00:12:57.923]game platform thing on the App Store where just to add
[00:13:02.482]my version to Robert's number, we got picked as
[00:13:05.361]games we love and I was really excited.
[00:13:07.545]I wrote back and I said so how many games came out
[00:13:09.182]this week to be on notice?
[00:13:10.560]They said this week we released 4,000.
[00:13:15.065]There were 4,000 games to be released on the App Store
[00:13:18.462]So I thought okay I'm super pumped now.
[00:13:23.182]I was going to put this game out but I needed some help.
[00:13:25.283]I needed that help to be really smart,
[00:13:27.342]and really now, and fairly inexpensive, student.
[00:13:32.382]And I asked myself okay, what am I going to need
[00:13:36.563]from that person?
[00:13:40.745]I ended up hiring Althea and I'm going to tell you
[00:13:43.897]about Althea because Althea is one version of what you might
[00:13:47.646]want to be producing here.
[00:13:50.985]Content, remember that content, experience, community?
[00:13:54.883]Content, well Althea shoots and edits film.
[00:13:58.105]She's a USC graduate so thank you, Norm.
[00:14:02.024]She can work in Final Cut or she can fool around in Maya.
[00:14:05.363]She can make movie stuff and you need that
[00:14:08.585]because when you put stuff up in the App Store
[00:14:09.418]you have to have a little video of what happens
[00:14:10.301]in your game play as well as if you were making
[00:14:14.024]She can make graphics in Photoshop and inDesign
[00:14:16.200]and a whole bunch of other things so that you can get help
[00:14:19.205]making promotional material.
[00:14:20.920]Because this is my graphics skill.
[00:14:26.461]So you don't let a commercial product have that, right?
[00:14:30.098]She can write and she can edit.
[00:14:33.762]She also has a three-and-a-half octave singing range
[00:14:36.040]but I haven't found a way to make that part
[00:14:38.162]of the gig yet.
[00:14:40.258]The consumer experience, she also has game design background
[00:14:43.661]and some UX, UI design background so she understands
[00:14:47.021]how it is that people want to maneuver through a website
[00:14:51.021]or through an experience.
[00:14:53.202]If I say hey can you fix up the website,
[00:14:56.835]she's very good at HTML and Java.
[00:14:59.042]She has a little bit of Ruby script, a little bit
[00:15:00.861]of Python script.
[00:15:02.520]So she can actually make those adjustment.
[00:15:04.196]I'm a 51-year old who read Henry James for fun
[00:15:07.122]so I'm not gonna be writing the Python script.
[00:15:13.317]Community, she's a native user of the social media stuff
[00:15:16.258]that I don't always quite, I can't tell you about
[00:15:21.101]my Instagram, and otherwise I'm fairly quiet.
[00:15:25.581]She's a native users of those forums and she also knows
[00:15:28.996]a little bit, her way around the API's for how to
[00:15:32.978]embed stuff in Facebook.
[00:15:34.941]Then we've gone together on the journey of learning
[00:15:36.882]the advertising tie-ins for that sort of thing.
[00:15:41.016]And she is a fan herself and this matters
[00:15:43.181]because just as all those people are making
[00:15:47.661]Harry Potter fan fics, J.K. Rowling has to understand
[00:15:51.617]something about those people and treat them
[00:15:53.218]with some respect.
[00:15:54.495]You need people in your, as you cede power
[00:15:58.279]you have to treat those people nice.
[00:16:01.296]Just as in a brief experiment, in the room how many people
[00:16:06.418]have heard of shaw accounts?
[00:16:09.880]Pretty unanimous right?
[00:16:11.544]Okay how many people can do some degree of digital editing?
[00:16:16.264]You can make movies, it's a film school so good.
[00:16:18.561]Photoshop, that kind of thing?
[00:16:20.845]Yeah, okay how many people have game design experience?
[00:16:27.101]Fewer but some, like maybe a dozen.
[00:16:31.564]Scripting, I don't really care what.
[00:16:33.323]Write a little code of some kind.
[00:16:35.997]So more than the gamers, maybe twice as many
[00:16:38.238]as the gamers.
[00:16:39.341]And then how many are fairly active social media users?
[00:16:45.442]That's really interesting.
[00:16:47.202]Okay last question.
[00:16:48.562]Anyone who raised their hand every other time
[00:16:50.584]and can answer this question, if you're looking
[00:16:52.979]for a job come see me.
[00:16:55.565]How many people here know what JohnLocke/fic is?
[00:17:00.524]Okay, I'm not gonna tell anyone, but you ask them
[00:17:03.101]and they'll explain it.
[00:17:07.042]The reason it helps in this age of the world
[00:17:09.000]or just to actually get to a funny end of the slide
[00:17:11.944]because oh my God, I'm between you people and coffee,
[00:17:18.221]Star Wars Rogue One came out, that was a big thing
[00:17:22.045]with the fan communities in science fiction
[00:17:24.002]that I'm one of.
[00:17:25.202]We wanted to do a little something and we had this game
[00:17:29.119]Here's the sort of thing that a person like Althea
[00:17:31.784]can do in 10 minutes that I couldn't do in the rest
[00:17:33.243]of my life.
[00:17:35.538]Because did I mention I wrote Yoda, Dark Rendezvous?
[00:17:39.097]And see like.
[00:17:43.277]For my selfish opinion this is what I want
[00:17:45.234]the Carson Center to produce, that, that.
[00:17:48.539]Many, many times.
[00:17:51.245]I'm gonna stop and let you guys eat pastries.
[00:17:52.904](upbeat instrumental music)
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