Transformative Transmedia for Saving the Planet

Posted on April 8, 2011

From original online mapping projects to Second Life, ITVS Interactive is constantly finding innovative and creative ways to draw new viewers to Public Media 2.0. Senior Content Producer Cathy Fischer reports on the subject and has the resources to back it up.

I recently moderated a panel at the San Francisco Green Film Festival entitled Transmedia in a Green Context, showing how media makers are using multiple touch points to extend story and create opportunities for participation, play, and activism. What exactly is transmedia? The term seems to be the buzzword of the year. Transmedia storyteller Jeff Gomez defines it as, "The art of conveying messages themes, or storylines to mass audiences through the artful and well planned use of multiple media platforms."

Historically, transmedia projects have been commercial endeavors. Fueled by big budgets, advertising agencies have launched puzzles, games, and scavenger hunts to promote cars, video games, and television shows. More recently transmedia has expanded its reach and purpose to include documentary and non-linear storytelling, to build awareness and inspire change. For over a decade ITVS has been working with storytellers using new forms. With Earth Day around the corner, we’re zeroing in on transmedia projects that bring attention to people and our environment. We think you’ll be inspired by their fresh approach. 

The Garbage Dreams Game 
On the outskirts of Cairo lies the world's largest garbage village, where 60,000 Zaballeen — Arabic for "garbage people" — have survived for centuries by recycling nearly 80 percent of Cairo's waste. Players take on the role of the Zaballeen and are challenged to build a recycling business as efficient as theirs. Corresponding lesson plans complement the game and further explore the issue of recycling and the globalized economy. 

Deep Down Virtual Mine 
Inspired by the documentary Deep Down, the Virtual Mine offers an educational 3D environment, game, and curriculum for teachers and students. Go deep into the virtual mine in Second Life to learn about mountain top removal, coal fired power production, alternative energies, and the music and culture of Appalachia. 

Children of the Amazon 
A Brazilian filmmaker travels a modern highway in search of the indigenous children she photographed 15 years ago. This enhanced website features blog posts from the Surui tribe who are working with Google Earth Outreach and the latest technologies—mobile phones, maps and data collection—to monitor illegal logging and preserve their forest home. 

World Without Oil 
World Without Oil… was the first massively scaled effort to engage ordinary individuals in creating an immersive forecast of the future.” —Participation Architect Jane McGonigal On April 30, 2007, the world entered a global oil shock. Or so it seemed at World Without Oil (WWO), an online alternate reality game that enlisted the world's collective imagination to document the oil crisis with blogs, videos, and images. The World Without Oil website has archived the game and offers designed lesson plans for teachers and independent students.

The Lexicon of Sustainability
This short film project, currently in production, asks the foremost practitioners of sustainability in food and farming to explain the terms and principles behind sustainability. By mixing animation, live action video, and still photographs, the shorts weave together an impressionistic vision of a transformative movement, one re-shaping the face of popular culture.

Learn more about ITVS and transmedia projects at

See more interactive games and features at Independent Lens on


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