Transmedia Pirate Treasure Map

twitter: kulturvulturz

Authorless Arthur: Whereby I start out by giving you the impression I may be a communist BUT prove I’m a rampant capitalist and cover a lot of ground YOU ALREADY KNOW (but I say it sooooo well)

Please read Andrea Phillips and Scott Walker’s takes to see much better articulated opinions on the topic than mine.

The problem regarding “value co-creation” isn’t at all about monetization as some have commented (and I do agree with Andrea Phillips that I think part of the problem is terminology – sorry, Scott). The problem or rather the confusion arises from exclusively Western ideas about intellectual property: the fundamental idea being that ideas can be owned as a form of capital and therefore monetized. It is important to understand that this notion came out of the modernist era, which triumphed the individual artist as an author of ideas (and therefore owner of ideas). This is a very heady statement that is doesn’t exist in many cultures, including much of Europe’s own pre-modernist culture.

Largely in the West, one subscribes to the idea that someone can be an author of a work and therefore profit (as J.K. Rowling does with Harry Potter) or ideas can’t be owned as it is in the public domain (as in the authorless King Arthur) and anyone is free to create “original” works based on public domain ideas that can then be monetized for their specificity apart from the original work (such as this forgettable addition). Fan fiction that is created as “an expression of love” to extend the storyworld that the fans do not wish to see the borders of, as Andrea Phillips notes, is traditionally not monetized. However, to hint it is not monetized because it is simply the product of a fan’s expression of love is not accurate. Fan fiction is often not monetized because the fans do not have permission to monetize it (that is assuming it is good enough for anyone to be willing to pay for it). Fan fiction is only allowed to be created in the West with the expressed (or inexpressed) permission of the original author (unless in the public domain). Fans get this permission by the author’s reputation of not suing the fans. This is where vibrant fan communities coalesce. Harry Potter has a huge fan fiction community because J.K. Rowling hasn’t rattled its cage. Whereas other properties such as the Archie Comics property are notorious for cease and desist actions and that is why one is hard-pressed to find Archie Comic fan fiction (especially when it comes to slash). This is where Andrea Phillip’s take on fan fiction being “expressions of love” is much more romantic and altruistic and a lot less seedy than mine is, likely because I obviously have much more perverted tastes in fan fiction. (I can almost hear the collective “Ew,” as your read my last sentence).

But back to the whole idea regarding the ownership/authorship of ideas. This is strictly the paradigm of the West – one that took several hundred years to develop to the point where it is now. In other cultures, this paradigm is non-existent: such as in China, which drives Western companies crazy when they try to import the Western paradigm inside the borders of China. In China, anyone can open a Starbucks across the corner of a “legitimate” Starbucks (owned by Starbucks) where even the irony is full of lead. In China: there is no counterfeit. And just why should a Louis Vuitton purse made in one factory be any different from a Louis Vuitton purse made in a factory twenty steps over by the same process and materials and often by the same workers be considered illegitimate? Because someone, Louis Vuitton (presumably???), designed it and therefore OWNS THE IDEA of it: Louis Vuitton who has *likely* never stepped foot, and by stepping foot I mean placing his foot on the peddle of the sewing machine, in one of the factories in China that makes his purses, *counterfeit* or otherwise. We refer to knock-offs, the reproduction of a stolen ideas, as fakes.  Even when the fakes are work of fiction such as a black market Harry Potter DVD, it is called a fake not fan fiction. It is only fan fiction if the work has been adapted and changed, where original content that the fan has worked hard to produce has been asserted into the mix. But what most people don’t know is that while China may lead in piracy it also leads in Harry Potter fan fiction, which may or may not be monetized. I tried desperately to illegally download a copy of Lena Henningsen’s chapter, The Politics of Fakery: Harry Potter between Fake and Fan Fiction" to erudite more on the matter but sadly NO ONE has bothered to try to illegally profit from it by hosting free but ad-supported copies online. Quelle surprise.

This is where there is some legitimate confusion about value co-creation. Legitimizing and monetizing fan fiction may seem a bit like communism where the *workers* (fans) collectively own a piece of the intellectual property pie. But in this other paradigm, other paradigms: no one owns ideas — one can only monetize the material object (or immaterial object in the case of digital) that they produced/re-produced, never having to give a cut to the original IP owner because the owner doesn’t own the idea. No one can monetize the idea of Harry Potter, not even J. K. Rowling herself, in order to get a royalty or cut of each and every black market and grey market and market market copy of Harry Potter out there. I’m not saying Western companies and artists don’t try. They try and fail precisely because they are up against a culture with a huge population that does not give one entity control on monetizing ideas. Starbucks may win a few legal battles in China here and there regarding the intellectual property of their logos but they have failed to stop counterfeit Starbucks opening across the nation.

Back to our authorless King Arthur. Who is the original author of King Arthur? We don’t know. Why? Because the culture in which King Arthur sprouted from didn’t care to grant sole authorship to a single individual so that person could monetize the shit out of it (and their heirs or the corporations who became their future stake holders) for several generations to come. If our current paradigm existed then in the location that is now England, we would be damned sure to know about who that was now because OUR CULTURE cares about whose name it is that is scrawled across the first work of King Arthur as The Author. Never we mind the fact that the legend of Author is a centuries old conglomerated co-created work of “fan fiction” where anywhere between dozens and thousands anonymous and unanonymous people contributed to our current notions of King Author. And back in the day, canon was not determined by the original author but was determined by the demands of public taste. (Of course, I am ignoring the slim chance King Author was based on a real public figure and therefore already in the public domain. I could have easily have used any numerous fictional deities I will not name on risk of offending anyone but then I couldn’t have used my play on words in the title).

The idea of value co-creation is very much rooted in this notion of owning ideas where the owner of the intellectual property is simply granting permission to the fans to own a PORTION of the production of the work the FAN himself/herself has done. The fan, who puts his/her soul, into this expression of love will never own the 100% of the WORK. They will only own a cut with the expressed permission of the original IP owner.

So how is it seedy when the original IP owner INCORPORATES the fan’s production, with the fan’s expressed permission, into the canon and then gives that fan wages/interest/royalty for the fruits of their hard-earned labour? What if the original IP owner just started culling ideas from fan fiction and incorporating that into the canon to be monetized and the fan got nothing? Would that be less seedy?

What about the other scenario? The one in which the original IP owner grants the fan permission to produce “expressions of love” as long as they never seek profit for the fruits of their labour by NOT suing them. Is it less seedy to for an author to say (expressed or inexpressed): “I own original IP and any labour a fan puts into an expression of love based on my storyworld, whose boundaries have been enlarged by said fan fiction, cannot be monetized because I have the right to sue them if I see fit. They don’t get a cut and I don’t get a cut because I myself can’t profit off of the fans production because they have produced original content based on my ideas which I cannot sell myself”?

Is this less seedy? Or is that just bad business sense?  This seems like a strange perversion to the ultimatum game where everyone walks away a loser.

Value co-creation isn’t monetizing fan’s expressions of love. It is legitimizing the fan’s production as having some monetary value. Let me rephrase that: it is legitimizing some fan’s production as having monetary value because the original IP owner knows THEY CAN SELL it to someone ELSE who puts monetary value on it the moment that buyer demonstrates a willingness to pay for it.

Aye, but that is the rub. Someone has to be willing to pay for it. While Mike Monello makes a great point when he says: “Tell me, how much “value” did Star Wars fan fiction add to the release of the Star Wars Blu-Ray set in dollars? How much less would it have made if fans were not making fan art and mash-ups? What’s the split there? And where is the break between riffing on a pop culture landmark and adding actual creative value?” I would argue this point further: how much value does fan fiction take away from original IP by flooding the market with free content. Piracy or the fake is not only the problem original IP creators needs to contend with although it is often the strawman. Much of the problem is the free or next to free content, fan fiction and otherwise, is flooding the market and now everyone is competing for eyeballs. I would argue the problem is not monetizing fan fiction it is a whole bunch of people devaluing the market through fan fiction, free “professionally” produced content, or near free or near professional. Blogs killed the newspaper industry and now a lot of people are realizing that this notion that information needs to be free is unsustainable. Add to Andrea’s point “Wikipedia doesn’t look like it would work on paper, either, and somehow it does”. That being said: Wikipedia is going to collapse if it doesn’t get money. And if you don’t believe me: look into Jimmy Wales dead eyes on every page of the site.

So then let’s get back to the concept of fan fiction as works of passion and therefore monetizing works of passion is somehow seedy. I want to inverse Andrea’s argument regarding love and money. Is money inherently sordid? Or is it the fact of “bringing” love “into the equation of” money that “suddenly transforms it into something sordid and cheap”?

As a creator of intellectual property myself, are my works cheapened because I want my labour weighted with monetary value? Are we really adverse to the notion that the work going into producing intellectual property, whether it is made with love or devoid of love, has monetary value? Or is it only cheapened if I am a fan? The moment I stop being a fan and creating work only out of love am I simply looking to cash in? Or are my hands clean if I only profit from intellectual profit if I wrote devoid of passion and love for my characters? Does J. K Rowling not love Harry Potter because she accepts millions from fans who also adore him? Or as we read Harry Potter are we, unsure of Rowling’s intent because now “money is involved,” and in the back of our minds we are now wondering if she is merely a “corporate shill”?

If somehow legitimizing fan fiction will open the floodgates to those simply trying to “cash in” by producing works based on original IP then there are ways that are far more profitable: such as the Disney model where they produce well-established “brands” based in the public domain where they can own 100% of the profit. Why would any fan with an intent of raking it in go through all the labour of producing a work they will never 100% own when there are MUCH MUCH easier ways of making money? Such as ripping DVD’s and selling them for profit in Chinatown. Producing fakes are demonstrably much more profitable than hours labouring to create fan fiction.

As far as exploitation goes, I don’t find value co-creation any more lecherous or toxic than the good old garden-variety standard publishing industry where legitimate “authors” get a penance percentage of the profits for their work. Or the literary magazine model where writers work on spec and get the privileged to be paid in copies of a literary magazine that and the honour of being selected to be in a esoteric magazine with a distinguished and small readership in order that they may hold onto tenure positions in Masters of Literature departments. I mean…if you want to talk about toxic communities…

But doesn’t this all come down to fair terms? Fair value? Fair percentages? Fair legitimacy? For all content producers, including fans, becoming responsible in seeing monetary value in not only fruits of their labour but OTHERS as well by paying for content, and that making money from an expression of love is not a bad or sordid thing at all?

That being said I am going to finish fleshing out my future webseries It’s so Niche it’s Nietzsche, a portfolio piece I’m distributing for free on twitter to build my personal fan base. And then I will entertain myself for hours in the sandbox called Facebook.


Where I Correct the Rumors Regarding Transmedia Money in Canada (Including the Rumours I Started)

Image from

For a great nuanced rebuttal to this post, please read Jill Golick’s post Canada: Transmedia Heaven?

I decided to write this post about Canadian Funding for transmedia professionals because, as Ian Ginn pointed out to me, I am being equally unfair by glibly ranting there is no money in Canada as those who glibly comment that the streets of Canada are paved with transmedia gold.

Yes, there is money in Canada for transmedia, for new media, for filmmakers, for artists etc. It is a country rich in opportunity for those who understand how the system works and have the business and street smarts to navigate the layers of bureaucracies well. Those industry professionals who understand the system and who have a sophisticated understanding of transmedia production or ancillary industries will best be poised to potentially have access to those funds. Especially so, if that professional promises to create jobs in Canada. Frankly, American film and TV production companies do really well working with the maquila film communities Canada has established. If you have a money-making production company, you may want to skip to the end for links to the resources you want (or better yet, pay someone on your team to do it for you). But please read the rest of what I have to say.

The problem that I have with industry professionals spreading rumours that Canada is the place where funds are for transmedia productions is that it is a gross oversimplification. I am constantly having transmedia creatives telling me they want to move to Canada to have access to our funding system. Many of these creatives are the same people who do not even have an understanding of how even the funding system operates in their own countries. Even after my rant during the conference, I still had America creatives come to me saying that during the speed mentoring they were told: go to Canada. Many creatives who are frankly not in a position to spend the time and energy learning how to navigate these fund agencies without putting their own local creative productivity at risk.

These kinds of rumours that lack nuance are akin to expressions of “I hear there is tons of money to fund your film from Kickstarter and Indiegogo. That is where the money is at.”

Worse. It’s akin to such rumours as: "I hear transmedia is where the money’s at."

Yes. There are funds in Kickstarter but I’m sure all would agree: It’s not that easy. You need to understand how it works and how much effort a campaign takes. And how much street cred you need for fans to be ready to jump to the plate.

The funding system in Canada is vastly more complex than throwing a Kickstarter/Indiegogo campaign. And I’m not really recommending one over the other. What I am saying is: it takes a lot of time and resources to understand how to access those funds proficiently. And even when you do there is still no guarantee you will get access to those funds. That is the simple reality. And the simple reality is many of the Canadian citizens who live in Canada in media production still have to fall back on their day jobs.

So if you are a transmedia creative who really understands the complexity of the funding and business and has the time, energy and resources to navigate all the layers of bureaucracies, by all means study the system. Partner with savvy Canadian production companies and bodies and make grand wonderful things. But please don’t send the wrong message to creatives who are naive, just starting out, those who haven’t really established themselves and their craft from where they already are to make bold moves to a foreign country to try to get access to funds that most Canadian media professionals themselves can’t make a go at, knowing also that the majority of the most financially successful media producers from Canada are the ones who have emigrated to Hollywood, New York, the U.K. and elsewhere.

I teased people at the conference I would charge $9.99 for a guide to Canada’s funding system but here I what I have on hand *free of charge*. I know there is a lot more stuff out there but here is just a start of links I have on hand on the top of my head to get you started. And remember: the rules are constantly changing.

Quick Tips

There are many different options for funding. First, funds operate on a local level, regional level and national level. Then there are the options for the various media components, access for funds to produce the web series component or the film component, etc. If you understand your own business first, it will make navigation easier. Many transmedia professionals would fall under the umbrellas for film production, other the arts, others still new media/technology. Know where you fit.  And, as always, if your production company promises to create jobs, you will be best poised for access to funds.

If you are an independent creative (and maybe even not-so-indie), I cannot recommend enough getting connected to non-profit organizations like Raindance, which has offices around the world including the UK and several in Canada. They understand the funding system (mostly for film/tv but also beyond) and can help you digest the system much better than you by yourself wandering through my plethora of links.

Some of these links of funds you will find are strictly for Canadian citizens, but since some have expressed the desire to immigrate, I have included them. This is by no means an exhaustive list and I will add more resources as I remember them. If you noticed any I missed, feel free to comment below.

And if you are a seasoned Canadian professional: please share your experiences of the reality of working in transmedia in Canada with the global community at large. I would love to hear your comments.


 My list off the top of my head: 

SMPI has a good overview here of some funds available for digital media funding sources but there is a few dead links.

Another one with some dead links but useful info:

Also read what Lucas Johnson (Silverstring Media) had to say on the matter:


Also read my two-part interview series on IPF Funding in Canada where I interviewed past and current recipients:

 FILM/BROADCASTING (some overlap with new media, etc):


 CULTURAL (A wide net that encompasses a lot of transmedia platforms):



Look for access for funds in new media, interactive digital, travel grants, publishing, film, etc.




It would be too exhaustive for me to names each council in every city and region so be prepared to research this on your own. But here is a start for Ontario at least.

THE KARADA (a new transmedia horror series)

I think it is hilarious that Jim refers to me as “young”…ahahah.

I <3 working with him so much…he is the best. He takes whatever you write and turns it into MAGIC. And his own contributions are fucking ACE.

The only downside is the production is so international we can’t get smashed together after a hard days work. :P


I’m writing / producing on this along with some amazing people at Tea 4 Two in Sweden, Furnace Fighter Studios and a brilliant young lady Carrie Cutforth-Young. 

Go like us on facebook and watch our awesome trailer HERE (please, i love you, it’s free)

Transmedia Schmansmedia

There has been a lot of discussion about the term transmedia since the SXSW conference. This is my (edited) response to Steven Peters’ post, The Transmedia Hijack or How Transmedia is the New Dihydrogen Monoxide, that turned out to be as long as a blog post, so I made it into one.

My biggest issue with transmedia is ultimately it is an academic word first, an industry word second. Ask yourself: who are these people who are so familiar with the term? Are they industry people? (And I’m also including in amongst industry people anyone who is casually related including social media managers as well as anyone from the media who covers transmedia). Are they already of the small number of hardcore fans of transmedia? Or are they of the general public that has yet to be converted? Yeah, all those people who would rather play Farmville than any number of the stellar transmedia projects that fell far far far far short of that demographic?

I feel like right now there is a lot of preaching to the choir and not enough proselytizing to the people we need to embrace transmedia: “the people formerly known as the audience” (to quote Jay Rosen). This issue of not-walking-through-the-player’s-perspective is a systemic problem I find in general, but I digress. My point is, few are looking at this term from a mainstream audience’s perspective.

And because the word came out of academia, and frankly sounds very academic, it stands as a barrier to said “audience”. We have to start imagining how a non-industry person will utilize the term to, say, a friend. Whereas someone might say: “Hey, do you wanna go to a movie?” and the person instantly understand the meaning, no one is saying: “Hey, do you want to become immersed in a transmedia storytelling universe?” or, “On the weekend, I took part in an immersive transmedia experience.” We need to stop using hybrid long explanatory expressions and hit upon that key word that sums it up and carries a bright red bow on it.

All the alternatives to transmedia that are being bandied about present the EXACT same problem. Talking about one’s personal experience with a transmedia project to another person should be as easy as pressing the share button on Facebook and as transparent as inviting a friend to play the Wii.

Frankly, we have to stop concentrating on how we explain what it is we “do” amongst ourselves, and start looking at how we get the public to proselytize to each other easily and efficiently.

We need a shorthand that is as instantly communicative as “movie”, “video game”, or “MMORPG”. One that can easily fit into a sentence such as: “Let’s go to a ____” or “Let’s play a ____”. We need a single easy to grasp noun. Is that really beyond this industry’s scope of capability?

Transmedia just simply does not translate into a fun shorthand word. I mean, we could say, “Let’s play a tranny/trannie” but that won’t work for obvious reasons. As it stands, when I tell Joe Public I work in transmedia, I already get comments like: “Is that like media that likes to wear women’s clothing?” Which, in itself, is a lot of fun, but doesn’t really communicate WHAT we want them to take away.

I’m not saying it will be easy to change the language, but I do know that any expression won’t catch on until we start including the perspective of people who matter most in the discussion.

And once we have that issue tackled, then let’s tackle the new term for the “people formerly known as the audience”.