November 11-12 will see the Futures Of Entertaintment 5event, held at MIT in Cambridge, MA. FoE tends to bring together a great mix of marketing/brand type people with some academics who bring a different perspective to the subject. The program includes discussions with titles like Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Society, and Here We Are Now (Entertain Us): Location, Mobile, and How Data Tells Stories.
Sam Ford, Director of Digital Strategy with Peppercom Strategic Communications, is one of the featured speakers and he was kind enough to share some of his thoughts about the futures of entertainment…
Rick Liebling: FoE seems very academic in nature, looking at many of the speakers. How does that affect the approach to the event and the dialogue that is created?
Sam Ford: Our goal with each conference is to have panels that are a mixture of academic and industry perspectives. We want to create an event that is as much an academic conference as it is an industry event and to reap the rewards of what happens when you bring the perspectives of academics from a variety of disciplines who study the media into conversation with one another and with representatives from a range of media and marketing companies. It creates a unique environment where the goal is neither to present a paper or research project (the focus of many academic conferences) nor it is a place to display a slide deck or present a corporate case study. We frown on presentations and don’t use PowerPoint or Keynote unless someone has something specific they need to show in order to further the discussion. And no one’s coming to read papers. We want to take advantage of one of these few opportunities to have the people who study media in a room with those who make media, and we want to put the focus on the dialogue that can happen when these groups come together and are willing to have a dialogue to one another, to listen to one another.
As a result, we have had research collaborations arise that came out of this event and the community surrounding it. We have had new businesses launch from people who have met at Futures of Entertainment. I believe it’s a unique event that draws an audience of academics interested in dialogue with industry representatives and marketing and media industries people who want to listen to and learn from those involved in media studies.
Rick Liebling: Crowdsourcing, gamification, social TV… Are these trends simply fads, or mainstays that content producers need to understand and incorporate?
Sam Ford: We try to stay away from focusing on fads and focus our panels and discussions around larger cultural patterns. I’d say that some things currently being called, or which have been labeled as, “crowdsourcing” could be trends that wax and wane, the purview of “trendspotters” who get people excited about a shiny new object, only for everyone to realize after the fact that it was hype. The same has happened with gamification and social TV. To define these patterns too narrowly and expect one small, gimmicked version of this to be “the way” this trend will take shape can be a mistake. That’s the purpose for our event. To step back, look at what’s developing, and discuss the larger cultural patterns underneath what we’re seeing. And that’s what we see as the role of the academy in this, as media studies academics are often trained to look at developments within their larger historical context.
Rick Liebling: Where is the most innovative storytelling happening right now?
Sam Ford: It’s perhaps not surprising to see indie media makers driving some of the most innovative storytelling. That’s why we have a large number of people speaking in this year’s panels who are indie musicians, filmmakers, journalists, serialized storytellers, etc., and people who are studying spaces like soap opera, where series are moving to the web. You’ll also notice that we have a greater number of panelists from outside the U.S. than ever before: Brazil, India, The Netherlands, Finland, Chile, Mexico, the United Kingdom…Our goal is to bring together media creators from Harry Potter to Christian music, from Mexican television to the U.S. journalism industry, to learn from people who are driving innovation. And it’s key to realize that, while some media markets outside the U.S. (like Brazil) might be fostering some of the most innovative forms of storytelling and while indie creators have more flexibility to try new models and methods, we have media and marketing industries more willing than ever to engage with audiences in new ways and find new ways to tell stories. That’s why we’re happy to collaborate with the likes of Viacom Media Networks, Petrobras, The Alchemists, and Samsung as our sponsors of the event and draw on a variety of speakers who are in, or who come from, more “traditional” media companies.
If you’re interested in checking out Futures of Entertainment 5, you can still register here.