When Stars Wars was originally released in 1977, audiences were reported to have left the cinemas ducking and running from imaginary laser beams. It seems frankly ridiculous now, but that was how groundbreaking and immersive the film was in its use of special effects at that time.
Fast forward to 2013 and Gravity has masterfully allowed modern day audiences to truly suspend disbelief and create that almost retro feeling of big screen awe. The 3D zero-gravity teardrop from Sandra Bullock may be one of those iconic scenes that rank alongside that the vibrating cup of water in Jurassic Park and the stomach scene in Aliens. Jaw-dropping.
In a clever piece of cross-media storytelling, a seven minute spinoff film has been released featuring the other side of a conversation of a mayday call character somewhere on earth that is contacted as a mayday call from Bullock whilst trapped in a Russian pod.
By showing the other side of the conversation and explaining who the character on the side of that distress call is, we get an extra emotional dimension to the main feature extending out the cinema experience onto our tablets and laptops.
The idea of transmedia or multiplatform storytelling across multiple platforms and formats using digital technologies has been around for a while in both the brand and entertainment space.
Pushing the boundaries of how elegantly campaigns can be played out across multiple devices with individual strands of content, whilst maintaining a coherent story might be the final frontier for communication strategy.
12.12.13, Mo Saha, Senior Creative Planner at Livity
The passing of Nelson Mandela last night has left South Africa in a state of mourning as well as reflection on the impact this man had on our country and its people.
I was born to white parents midway through Mandela’s 27-year sentence. I clearly remember the cold, hard threat of civil war as his release date loomed 15 years later in 1990. Families in our suburban neighbourhood filled their bath tubs with water and stocked up on tinned food. They wanted to be prepared should they need to bunker down and fend off the vengeance and violence which was expected in retaliation at the injustices Mandela and his fellow strugglers had endured, fought and died for.
But the enlightenment, forgiveness and reconciliation that poured over the country at his lead was one that saved South Africa from bloodshed and violence. And one that, I believe, has put every single South African in a better position to live a successful life in this world than if the country had been thrown into a war zone, further handicapping itself on a global scale.
I realise he did not do it single-handedly – there was an army of freedom fighters alongside him, but ‘Mandela’ is the name that was behind the vision to lead a different strategy of dialogue and negotiation over military violence. I also realise some South Africans feel this path was a sell-out to The Struggle and The People and their freedom. I just have to question whether South Africa – as a nation, an economy, a people – would be in a better place had the need for retaliation and justice played out.
Madiba had the ability to inspire and lead a nation to choose love and respect in a very tumultuous time. The significance he placed on real dialogue as a means to resolve conflict peacefully and his capacity to forgive his personal injustices for the ultimate good, elevates him above typical human nature.
I work for Livity Africa an organisation involved in engaging, mentoring and motivating young people in South Africa. Some of who are very disillusioned and fatigued with ‘the Rainbow nation’ promise, ‘don’t get why he’s such a celebrity’ and are yet to see true democracy being untangled and delivered by the post-Mandela ANC.
Madiba’s passing has drilled home the fact that South Africa needs to acknowledge the challenge we face in instilling Madiba’s vision and values in a new generation that is still feeling the hangover of prejudice, who are getting increasingly impatient for a true democracy to be realised and who lack leaders and role models of his magnitude at their helm.
May the grace and humility Madiba has come to epitomise live on in each of us beyond his death – but my ultimate prayer is that his ability for dialogue, sense of responsibility and self-empowerment gets ignited in our youth. Because South Africa’s future is ultimately in their hands now.
Rest how you lived, Tata – in peace.
06.12.13, Claire Conroy, Business Director at Livity Africa
A study which made all the headlines today looking at the brains of young people aged 8 – 24 concluded that men and women’s brains are ‘hard wired’ differently, explaining why women are ‘more emotional’ but ‘better at multitasking’ whilst men are ‘more logical’ and ‘better coordinated’. Livity Senior Account manager Florence writes about why this makes her so angry, and the hugely damaging effects that studies like this can have on the opportunities and life chances of our young people.
Let me begin with the caveat that I am not a neuroscientist – far from it – but I have read a very brilliant book on neuroscience called Delusions of Gender by the academic Cordelia Fine. And you don’t have to be a neuroscientist to spot the problems with this study.
First off, I think that we can reasonably assert that we know very little about the ways in which our brains work. Secondly, we can agree that brain-scanning techniques are extremely expensive, and that therefore the sample size within neurological studies is rarely of a large enough size to allow for the sweeping generalisations scientists sometimes see fit to make.
The study that was published today was not the first of its kind – in fact, similar studies have emerged for hundreds of years – science has moved on, but our thinking, it seems, has not.
Importantly, the sample for this particular study was young people, aged 8 – 24. The study asserts that ‘Male and female brains showed few differences in connectivity up to the age of 13, but became more differentiated in 14 – to 17-year-olds’. At Livity we devote our time to working for and with young people, but you don’t have to be an expert in young people to know that teenagers are undergoing a number of changes – physical, hormonal, but also in terms of their relationship with society, the world around them and their belief systems. And as young people grow up, their environments become more and more gendered, rather than less so. It seems therefore, quite the coincidence that it is at the age of 13 that young people’s brains supposedly become more gendered too.
We know very little about the effects of nurture vs. nature on the brain – but we do know that our brains are forever responding to new environments (especially as children and young people) and have the power to constantly create new pathways.
This leads me to my real fear about scientists producing studies like this one, and about the media jumping on such studies with what, quite frankly, can only be described as lazy journalism. Because stereotypes are self-perpetuating. Present us with constant and unremitting generalisations, such as ‘men are better at reading maps’ or ‘women are more emotional’, and it will become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Tell young girls that it is scientifically proven that they are hardwired not to be good at logic, but they are great multi-taskers, and this will become the case, because of the power of self-belief and the demoralising effect such generalisations have on our psyches. Tell young men that they are great map readers, but not good with all that emotional-type stuff, and they’ll keep things bottled up.
Let’s not forget that as society has progressed, women have proved themselves to be brilliant scientists, mathematicians, politicians and business people – when given the strength, self-belief and the role models – and there are plenty of men out there who are superb multi-taskers (my boyfriend for one!), who are compassionate, deeply emotionally intelligent and great at working with people. In fact, it seems ridiculous that I am having to re-state this over-worn point.
Scientists need to take responsibility for the assertions that they make, and the studies that they undertake. A study comparing the brains of people of different races to identify differences would, thank goodness, be hugely frowned upon, but why is it perfectly acceptable to constantly try and draw such spurious comparisons between the brains of men and women?
We should be encouraging our young people to do the things that they love, not telling them what they can or cannot do because of their physical characteristics and the anatomy they may or may not possess. We should be giving young people a sense of purpose, and empowering them with as many opportunities and experiences as we can possibly offer. Unfortunately, I fear, right now the odds aren’t stacked in their favour.
03.12.13, Florence Wilkinson, Senior Account Manager.
Last week brought us Pharrell’s interactive music video 24hoursofhappy.com. A neat content marketing idea that will no doubt complete Pharrell’s hat trick of no 1 hits to close out 2013. The video stretches out the internet canvas to 24 hours of continuous footage featuring cameos of Kelly Osbourne, Jamie Foxx and others sprinkled throughout. This is the flip-side of the short-lived 3 second animated gif or Vine in the world of digital moving image.
Outside of music, Pharrell’s creative output looks almost superhuman. He seems to effortlessly flip between disciplines and his job title could vary anything from rapper, furniture designer, architect and sculptor amongst others. How does he do it all and maintain credibility with such disparate audiences?
The trick is collaboration. He takes the ‘featuring Pharrell Williams’ credit used in his music projects with artists such as Daft Punk and spins it out into every creative realm you could think of. His hook up with artist Takashi Murakami resulted in the resulting sculpture selling for $2mn at the high profile, Art Basel in Miami and is rumoured to be working with Stirling Prize winning architect Dame Zaha Hadid. The result is Pharrell’s influence spreading across multiple creative territories and audiences, one project at a time.
2014: Pharrell X ?
Mo Saha, Senior Creative Planner at Livity
Livity work experiencer Allister offers up some thoughtful meditations on the impact of technology on our reading habits…
Every now and then we hear in the news that young people don’t read as much as they use to do, due to all the technology that is propelled in their faces as they grow up. The only time for some young people when they read a book is when its compulsory for their English lessons. Even then when they are told to read a chapter at home they ‘forget’ to do so and would rather play on their games console instead.
If we look at those born in the 90’s and onwards and compare them to those born before the mid 80’s, we can see a huge gap in what was available for young people to be entertained by. Technology advanced rapidly in the 20thcentury, with each decade getting more and more techie. By the late 90’s, homes were welcoming desktop PC’s to their living rooms for casual use and the variety of TV shows and channels was on the increase. New and exciting cartoons were being made to capture young people’s minds, thanks to the improvements in animation and visual effects. Young people had no desire to stare at ink blots on paper but rather see a multitude of colours, environments and characters come to life through the TV or even computer screen. Stories that could once only be visualised in ones own mind could now be perceived with the eye through the use of new animation techniques.
At first glance, I am sure that the advancement in technology would have dragged anybody away from their most prised books but after a few years, maybe a bit more, all this new tech that continuously comes out year on year becomes normal to everyone. It’s fair to say that there wasn’t much out there for readers in terms of technology that is until recently when tablets and Kindles become the new talk of the town. Devices that could access a wide range of book titles and store them on one device without having to go out and buy individual books and then find a place for them to stay within your home. It was a brilliant idea. Even smart phones have the ability to access libraries of books and read them. Many people who would turn down reading because of trivial reasons such as not wanting to carry a book with them, not having the space for them or probably one of the worst of them all “I always forget the page I was on and it puts me of from continuing to read,” can not longer use these as excuses.
Tablets and Kindles have led to a lot more people reading or reading even more, both young and old, due to how easy they are to use and carry with you in comparison to traditional books, traditional books are still favoured by many, however. Film adaptations of best selling books for young people have also helped in getting fans of the film to pick up the original story and get a true feel of what the story should be and this can usually lead young people to go on and read different books by the same author or from the same genre.
Personally, I believe the advancement in technology has helped, or at least sustained, the amount of young people that read books. However, there are still many, many young people who would prefer to play a video game or watch TV than read a book but this doesn’t mean that all young people like this don’t also read.
25.11.13 Allister Flanders, work experiencer at Livity