“Operation Eon” is a fictional television series that my friend Samantha and I created in Fall 2015 for our class presentation in Media Theory, based on the concept of transmedia storytelling from the book “Convergence Culture” by Henry Jenkins. Instead of writing a theoretical paper about it, Sam and I decided that we wanted to roll up our sleeves and create something different and unique that would incorporate our ideas (the theory) with the skills we already had and are developing (the practice). Ultimately, we created a website project together to demonstrate how transmedia storytelling works through the theory of convergence culture.
Visit: Operation Eon
“So,” you’re probably wondering, “what is ‘convergence culture’ and how does this theory relate to anything in today’s media practices?”
As Jenkins himself wrote:
By convergence, I mean the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behavior of media audiences who would go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they wanted. Convergence is a word that manages to describe technological, industrial, cultural, and social changes, depending on who’s speaking and what they think they are talking about. In the world of media convergence, every important story gets told, every brand gets sold, every consumer gets courted across multiple media platforms. Right now, convergence culture is getting defined top-down by decisions being made in corporate boardrooms and bottom-up by decisions made in teenagers’ bedrooms. It is shaped by the desires of media conglomerates to expand their empires across multiple platforms and by the desires of consumers to have the media they want where they want it, when they want it, and in the format they want….
Think of the DC and Marvel comics. Think of Star Wars. Harry Potter. The Hunger Games. Game of Thrones. Think of how the stories within each of these franchises inspire the fans, and how the fans start to create not only their own fan-fiction stories about the characters but also create their own communities—online and in-person—to fully immerse themselves in the experience of the story.
Television and film are no longer a one-way channel that transmits information and stories being enacted through actors or animation from the screen to the audience. Television and film continue to be mediums that encourage interactions between producers, screenwriters, and audiences to cultivate the continuity of a unique storytelling experience. This is the juncture at which content creation and social culture collide and converge to continue the path of storytelling for these different worlds.
As for building our own world, Sam and I developed the concept behind “Operation Eon” when we combined a variety of elements of our favorite television shows. Sam loves watching crime dramas and detective stories, while I was always fascinated about the theory of time travel and BBC’s “Doctor Who.” We both love science fiction, mystery, and watching crime shows, and we both possess a nerdy child-like enthusiasm when it comes to creating original stories and designing new content.
The next thing we knew, our brilliant idea was born: it was a story about time-traveling CIA detectives who solve cold cases and also serve as test subjects for a secret experiment carried out by the U.S. military. Sam wrote the plotlines and the premise for each of the television episodes (her dream is to work as a television producer one day) after our brainstorm sessions, and she also created the e-commerce page where we would sell the franchise’s merchandise and memorabilia for fans, such as t-shirts, sweatshirts, stickers, mugs, etc. Meanwhile, I got to work on designing the website’s visual theme and the brand for the story.
Below is a screenshot example of the “Latest News & Operation Updates” page, which Sam and I agreed to create not just as a “news” page for fans, but also as a fully immersive experience for viewers to feel like they’re also part of the team and have an active role in keeping in touch with the characters. One of the ideas I had was to have fans of the show attend an exciting and unique book talk with Dr. Edward Ledhouse (one of the main characters on the show) at Barnes & Noble about his latest theories in time and space travels, in much the same way that you would attend a meet & greet for your favorite author of your favorite franchise, except you’re meeting the actual character come to life. The website and the live events are all alternative mediums that are used to continue the path of storytelling—hence the idea behind transmedia storytelling. It’s all about bringing the story to live and letting audiences participate in the crafting and creation of content.
Although the animated background of the site was already pre-made by Wix, I decided to further embellish the site and add other visual elements to strengthen the brand for our fictional franchise. I worked on the graphic design of the show’s logo, and I made sure that the formatting (e.g. aligning icon symbols with menu items, font styles, font sizes, image loading time) was consistent as one clicks throughout the website. Visually, I thought that assigning symbols for each of the menu items and incorporating some additional animation effects would bring harmony and cohesiveness to the overall aesthetic and create an immersive user experience for the fans when they click on each item to explore the site.
As a designer, even if you decide to use a drag-and-drop web design platform such as Wix to create and launch your website, you still have to make decisions that will impact the way in which your target audience will experience the site (and the overall franchise, company, or organization itself). When we talk about design, it is a method for solving problems for a specific audience. For instance, consider our scenario:
Problem: incorporate the usage of a transmedia storytelling experience to enhance audience experience and participation.
Solution: design a website that updates audience of a television show about new episodes while also fostering community and maintaining their interest in the continuity of the story and the characters’ universe. It’s not always about aesthetic, but the form and function of the chosen medium can also inform how style is developed and executed in the finished product.
Design is not always about aesthetic alone; the form and function of the chosen medium can also inform how style is developed and executed in the finished product. It all circles back to what Marshall McLuhan describes as “the medium is the message.”
Sam and I only had a few weeks to work on this project prior to our in-class presentation about how to create content from scratch, build a website, and execute our ideas for convergence culture and transmedia storytelling. Although neither of us had any formal design training prior to working on this project, we managed to pull off so much work in so little time through our collaborative efforts and our teamwork.
“Operation Eon” is one of my favorite projects that I thoroughly enjoyed working on, from storyboarding and conceptualization to actually diving in and designing the website itself to create an immersive environment for fans who visit the site.