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Energy Education for a New Generation

You’ve probably heard the classic proverb: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Collapsus, a new transmedia story-game directed by Tommy Pallotta, takes that maxim into its lungs and breathes new life into the issue of peak oil. With rumors of new electric cars and $5 gas in 2012 swirling, the message couldn’t be more timely.

What’s transmedia? It’s a storytelling technique that utilizes several kinds of media and gets the viewer/reader involved in creating the story. Henry Jenkins, author of A Convergence Culture, makes two key observations:

“A transmedia text does not simply disperse information: it provides a set of roles and goals which readers can assume as they enact aspects of the story through their everyday life. Transmedia storytelling is the ideal aesthetic form for an era of collective intelligence… Participants pool information and tap each others expertise as they work together to solve problems.”

I believe innovative integration of multi-media like this into the green space is pivotal to engaging people and staying relevant. You can see the power of multi-media storytelling of approaches through videos for good, online/offline integrations like Carrotmob, or the growing use of the iPad.

As Pallotta says, “We crafted a multitasking and multi-linear experience and we blended genres like animation, documentary, fiction and interactivity all together in one story. This hybrid approach allows us to look at a serious documentary subject, but also to shift from the usual talking head approach to something that better reflects our time.”

Collapsus utilizes animation, fiction, real documentary footage, mini-games and movie fragments to examine “how the imminent energy transition affects a group of ten young people, who appear to be caught up in an energy conspiracy.” It gets you involved and forces you to make decisions, confronting you with the potential consequences of a variety of peak oil scenarios.

Collapsus Walkthrough from SubmarineChannel on Vimeo.

Indeed, Pallotta is using transmedia to speak to people through the media we use, and in doing so is setting forth “roles and goals” for people in a format that requires them to “pool information and tap each others expertise as they work together to solve problems.” People get bored hearing endless statistics and projections or being told that the solution is to carpool more. Collapsus hits a sweet spot by tapping into the reality that we are a multi-media society, engaging the viewer in the narrative, and creating a fresh, proactive-oriented take on a problem that isn’t going away. And with Collapsus, you don’t just see and remember, you do and you understand.

Image Credit: Collapsus Press Kit [pdf]

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Scott James

Scott James is a new media storyteller living and working in San Francisco. He writes, edits and manages projects in the green and social media spaces. In his free time you'll find him hunting down good coffee, camping along the coast, and spending time with his wife and their dog. You can read more of what he's thinking about on his blog.


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10:39PM PST on Jan 29, 2011

great article.when i was insurance selling man we used to draw quite a lot pictures(simple ones) at the same time we talked about the project. I understood that there was scientific proof that if you just talked, it didnt make so lasting print to the brains.Drawing and speaking worked quite nicely together

2:49PM PST on Jan 15, 2011

good one!

9:05AM PST on Jan 15, 2011

Would be nice to have an 'active education' course. Let people do, see and find out not just teach or drop a book.

7:32PM PST on Jan 12, 2011


5:39PM PST on Jan 9, 2011

Thanks for the article.

3:52PM PST on Jan 9, 2011

"I do and I understand" works best for me as over time I may hear of something but eventually forget, unless it was stimulating. My husband works extremely well with "I see and I remember", and when he does something , very seldom forgets.Only when he wants a certain tool that he placed somewhere, I always get asked...where is my...!

11:42AM PST on Jan 9, 2011

Thank you!

6:49AM PST on Jan 9, 2011


12:23AM PST on Jan 9, 2011

Thank you

9:16AM PST on Jan 8, 2011

sounds interesting,love the proverb, have always learned best by doing, thanks

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