Audience Personality Types in Transmedia Experiences

I had a bit of an a ha! moment while updating a presentation last night. When going through the section on audience engagement, I noticed an interesting pattern within the personality types. There were three pairs of attributes that kept showing up which loosely correlate to something akin to focus, motivation, and drive. The longer I sit on it, the more I think I’m on to something here but there are a few issues & I would love a touch of feedback before I pretty it up.

As you look through this, keep in mind that none of these are absolutes. People are complex beings and they are not going to neatly fit into a box. So when I distinguish between story & experience, I understand that someone who is focused on the experience may also be keenly interested in the story. It is not an either/or situation for the vast majority of the audience.

FOCUS:  Story & Experience
Is the focus of their participation based on the story or on the experience? So, someone who writes fanfic or creates some funny tribute video is, yes, inspired by the story but their focus is experiential in that they are creating something new that is inspired by the story.

DRIVE:  Proactive & Reactive
In addition to proactive & reactive are the Spectators – these are Bystanders who are interested in understanding what’s happening with the experience but may not want to be involved and Readers who may be deeply engaged with the story but not actively participating with it.

Proactive & Reactive refer to whether someone is trying move ahead with the story/experience or whether they are just reacting to what has already happened.  Entertainers & Information Specialists are both socially motivated and focused on the story. The Information Specialists are driven by what has been done – they’re interested in what has already happened with the story. The Entertainers, on the other hand, are actively attempting to drive the story forward. They’re pushing buttons and trying to create change.

MOTIVATION:  Social & Personal
Is their participation socially motivated or personally motivated? For example, Story Hackers want to touch & interact with the story. The social Story Hackers are Entertainers. They want to change and impact the story in a way that everyone can enjoy. Interactors, on the other hand, are the personally motivated Story Hackers. They just want to have a bit of a personal relationship with the story, not necessarily change it for everyone to see.

Here’s a chart that I whipped together to help visualize this – so much easier than writing it all out. It’s a bit busy, but the personality types are listed in bold. If you have trouble reading it, you can click on the image to get a bigger version.

So far I’m really happy with this revelation. It doesn’t really change anything for me – audience engagement comes naturally to me and while I consider personality types in my design process it’s not on an overly conscious level. It may, however, impact the way I talk about, analyze, and present stuff on audience engagement. The problem, really, and why I’m reaching out to y’all to see if I’m on to something is that there’s a missing personality and I feel like a few personalities that I’ve come to know & love after talking about them for five+ years seem a bit forced (here’s a link to my old audience types used in 2005-07 … not many changes).

You’ll notice in the chart that there wasn’t any personality type listed for personally motivated Story Specialists. Have I been ignoring this personality? Do any of you refer to type that might fit this description? Would any of you consider yourselves that sort of personality type?

A Jumbled Mess:
My current list of personality types include three types that feel forced into this setup: Explorers, Problem Solvers, & Collectors. They all seem to react to the experience and, I think, are personally motivated – but never felt that closely related to me.

Explorers derive satisfaction by working through the experience. They enjoy the story, sure, but they are focused on the experience. When they talk about the experience to others, they don’t tell them the story of the narrative, the tell the story of their exploring. So they talk about how they saw a url on a tv show that led them to this website where they found an email address.

Problem Solvers solve problems. When I was solely focused on ARGs, these were my Puzzlers. But they do more than just puzzles – they’ll solve any sorts of problems and find all sorts of patterns. For example, if there’s a series of live events, they’ll find out exactly when & where events are happening and post, link to, or create google maps of the locations. If the issue in the community is where folks can meetup before or after, they’ll probably be the ones to create a list of nearby places where meetups can happen – not because they want to organize the event, but because it’s a problem they can solve.

Collectors derive pleasure through collection – whether it’s SWAG (virtual or physical) or leaderboard accomplishments. This would be closely related to the Achievers/Diamonds if you’re familiar with the Bartle Test. Though, because most transmedia projects lack specifically attainable goals, achievers is a bit of a misnomer here. However, the desire to get it all and be on top is similar.

I made Explorers the the “parent” of Problem Solvers & Collectors, but I’m just not sure about that. I’m also not sure about Problem Solvers being socially motivated. Is this showing that the model is broken or are my descriptions of these personalities just off a bit? I do not know.

What do you think? Am I on to something here? Do you describe personality types? I’d love to know what they are, if you don’t mind sharing.