Transmedia & Smarter Cities

New Ways of Telling the Story

The media landscape and the way we tell and consume stories is constantly changing, like Smarter Cities, both advances owe thanks to cutting edge technologies.

For a company like Helter Skelter Media that combines a deep understanding of digital technologies and are also seasoned producers of broadcast factual content – this technological driven revolution is creating some new and exciting opportunities.


Smarter cities is a buzz word we are all familiar with but if we say Transmedia, what springs to mind?   For us, innovative ways in which we produce and present the stories we like to tell.

The traditional ways of consuming content have changed forever – more of us than ever read our news online, download our favourite TV shows. Who can say no to multiple episodes of Mad Men on a Saturday night? Who buys their news on paper?

We’re seeing a proliferation of self publishing channels emerging too – YouTube, Vimeo, WordPress, Facebook, Google+, Vine, Flickr, 500px, Tumblr, Twitter and a dozen more.

Consumers aren’t just mindlessly consuming, the digital revolution has made us curators of the content we consume. The problem for the consumer is ‘curatng’ what they want to read/watch or listen to can be time consuming. The explosion of content on the internet is like an endless digital suburb that just keeps on growing.

If you google just one topical Smarter City story – IBM’s building of the Rio de Janeiro Command Centre, 20 pages of content comes up. There are articles, pod casts, videos and forums devoted to the subject.  The IT Pro’s say that breakthough tecnologies have already made the city run more smoothly (traffic flow) and the surveillance saved countless lives by reducing street crime. Others say it’s turned the city into a dystopia – surveillance culture in the extreme – where citizens are always ‘on grid’ like some Matrix nightmare.

Transmedia – Telling the Story

Enter into this debate Transmedia – the telling of the same story (or topic) in different ways using multiple media formats.   It’s not a new genre of storytelling – its been around since the 60’s. What is new is the technologies with which we bring these stories together has just got a whole lot more sophisticated and the access to the stories themselves has got a whole lot easier. Instead of these stories existing on a plethora of web and social media sites they can be aggregated under one roof – whatever the form; video, audio, photography, articles, forums etc.

More of this technology later, we are excited by the fact that as producers we have the opportunity to create and curate exciting new content around Smarter Cities.

Smarter Cities

Smart Cities are not a new idea. The definition in wikipedia is amusingly annotated “This article may be confusing or unclear to readers.” The concept is of a city that uses technology to achieve a number of things, usually efficiencies by optimising many aspects of city life. Rick Robinson of Amey writes very eloquently on the topic in his blog The Urban Technologist, his thesis is that Cities can be designed for the benefit of people. It’s an idea that resonates.

Recently we were contacted by a PhD student from Aston University with a questionnaire on the topic. From the questions I inferred that there are only a couple of stakeholders in the concept of Smart Cities – Business and Government. This seems to me to be wide of the mark. The question has to be: “For whose benefit are cities made smarter?” The answer of course should be “For everyone’s benefit”! Technology has the potential to change lives for the better.

What interests us at HelterSkelter as technologists and film-makers is the potential to tell the story of Smarter Cities using transmedia techniques. The fact is that Cities will become smarter. This will involve a number of potentially controversial subjects such as surveillance and data privacy and a number of very large stakeholders whose presence could be a genuinely benevolent force.

We’d like to see more people involved in the conversation. Not just technologists and government, but shopkeepers, hoteliers, tourists. entrepreneurs and unemployed…technologists and artisans. We are all stakeholders and we’re on the tipping point of a future that there will be no turning back from. That makes it an interesting proposition for us.

Curation – Smarter Lives

Helter Skelter Media have just launched an electronic magazine aggregating the best content on the subject, Smarter Lives, but this is just a taster of what’s to come.   Behind the scenes we are creating a Transmedia Smarter Lives Archive – a single “Go To” place – to find interesting and diverse content dedicated to following the on-going developments of Smarter Cities worldwide.

Just as we have done with our online magazine we will aggregate and curate content, producing a rich repository for visitors to curate their own experience – be they technologists, town planners, academics, journalists and of course members of the public. Anyone in fact with an interest in Smarter Lives.

On the site you’ll find Ted Talks, Articles, Podcasts, Videos & Photography. There will be Sponsored Content by companies who have an interest in getting their point of view about some aspect of smarter cities across. These can be in the form of any media (video, photography, article etc) And finally there’ll be a forum where people can link up, discuss, argue, debate and form collaborations.

So, how does this differ from a normal website? Let’s just say it will look like a website but the cloud-based technology behind it means the project will be future proofed. It has an infinite memory so more and more materials can be added and archived. It is an exciting project, a living archive with a real legacy as we map out the changing face of our cities.

We’ll be developing the site over the next few months. We would like to hear from anyone who has an interest in contributing content. If you’ve got something to say about Smarter cities and are interested in sponsoring content or providing editorial for the magazine drop us a line. Just click the button and introduce yourself…


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Ring by Sara Preisler