Saturday, 9 January 2010

Media in the online age; Microseries on the web

A really interesting phenomenon which the web has enabled is the microseries or online little TV series either on dedicated websites or on channels within youtube or other video sites. Early examples were often single character, even pretending to be the webcams of real amateurs online, which in many cases were later 'outed' as actors, such as 'lonelygirl15', discussed in detail here in Wikipedia. An early episode can be viewed here.

Other examples include the tales of Kate Modern which ran for a year on Bebo and was from the same company as LG15, this time involving the audience in choices about the development of the story and making full use of the opportunities afforded by social networking. Again, Wikipedia is a good starting point for finding out about it.

Many microseries are built around comedy, frequently with an appeal to a niche audience, using lots of in-jokes, both visual and verbal. Online gamers are a particularly fruitful source, as can be seen in 'The Guild' much of which takes place in front of the computer screen. A whole set of characters has been developed , taking the programme through a number of series with quickfire wit and lots of gamer gags. As can be seen on the programme's main site, there is a range of merchandise for fans to buy and the programme has even been made available on DVD.

'Pure Pwnage' about the life of a pro-gamer, is another example; shot in handheld 'video diary' style, the programme again relies on in-jokes and the fan knowledge of its viewers. Again a look at the programme's website gives us a pretty clear idea of the audience and shows the interactive potential- there is even an opportunity (if you were in Toronto in November) to appear as an extra in the show.

Episode 1 can be viewed here

A lot of the comedy microseries are aimed at the male audience; 'We Need Girlfriends' tells the tale of three dumped males and their embarrassing efforts to get back into relationships. Their site provides a link to a behind the scenes blog about the making of the show, as well as T-shirt sales and the episodes in a variety of formats. Here is the very funny episode 1 on youtube.

Chad Vader: Day Shift Manager tells the story of the less charismatic younger brother of Darth, who works in a supermarket and can’t quite handle the difference between life in the store and the problems faced by the empire.

in the first episode, these difficulties become very apparent:

British short film makers have tried their hand at creating microseries too. Last year there was a lot of coverage of a controversial comedy set in Bradford about a cell of bungling potential Islamic terrorists. This time the comedy is around a mixture of popular myths about terror plots from the news and in-jokes from young muslims' own culture. The five episodes of 'Living with the Infidels' were released gradually over a period of weeks to a fairly small audience,given the controversy. The youtube channel figures show 14,000 for the first episode gradually slipping to 2,000 by the last one. Have a look and judge for yourself.

In this clip from one of the episodes, they argue over what should be the style of a suicide video.

Microseries would be a good focus for an answer on Media in the online age in the final exam. Have a look around to see whether you can find some more. You might even try making your own. Oh and look out for these two competing series which start over the next couple of weeks...

Detention Deficit

...if their makers get their acts together!

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