District 9 (Part One): Can a Bench Be a Transmedia Extension?

“In a good summer, there’s usually a movie that will come out of nowhere and completely wow us. This is a good summer, and that movie is District 9.” — Betsey Sharkey, Film Critic, LA Times.

Sharkey’s review of District 9 is typical of those that were published in newspapers around the country. Many film critics were taken almost totally by surprise by the commercial success of this low budget film, produced in South Africa, by a first time feature film director.

Make no mistake about it — District 9 is almost certainly the most impressive film released this summer and one of the best science fiction films to be released in recent years. It raises a high bar for Avatar, The Surrogates, and some of the other SF films which we are anticipating for Fall release.

Yet the film did not come out of “nowhere” either in the sense that those of us who follow the genre closely didn’t know it was coming or in the sense that it is a totally “original” work which shatters all of our expectations about what science fiction is. Some of the mainstream critics sound almost shocked that science fiction can be deployed as a genre for exploring serious and timely social issues, for example, overlooking more than a hundred years of such exploration in literary SF. As someone who has taught science fiction courses off and on for the past 20 years, I wanted to situate District 9 over the next two installments in two important conversations — one about transmedia branding and the other about race and science fiction.

The reason why the film wouldn’t have caught many who followed science fiction by surprise is that it has been the focus of a transmedia marketing campaign for well over a year in advance of the film’s release. Signs prohibiting nonhuman use of restrooms surfaced at Comic-Con a year ago. By the start of the summer, such signs were appearing on park benches, the sides of buses, and in a variety of other contexts around major cities. Here, the producers and promoters no doubt took some inspiration from the campaign which Campfire Media developed for the launch of True Blood last summer.

If you want to learn more about that campaign, check out Greg Hale’s presentation at Futures of Entertainment 3 at MIT last year. Hale shared a stunning video which traced the evolution of that promotion. You can see it here starting at 8:40. Hale, who worked on the campaign, was a veteran of the Blair Witch Project, the release that really has set the model for most subsequent efforts to use transmedia to expand cult audience awareness of forthcoming small budget films. (See Convergence Culture) Another example of this process would be the work that Lance Weiller did around his film, Head Trauma. Lance was also featured on this same session at Futures of Entertainment. (By the way, there will be a Futures of Entertainment conference this November and I will be sharing some details pretty soon. It is always the weekend before thanksgiving.)

Meanwhile, pseudo-documentary segments were surfacing on YouTube and across the web. Here are a few examples.

These films, and others like it, serve important expositional functionss. They situate the context of the film and establish some of its core premises. But they also suggest the debates sparked by the events of the film, showing us different sides of the story than are depicted on the screen. District 9, for example, constructed a site for supporters of the Prawn, MNU Spreads Lies. We see alien rights activists in the background in the feature film but here we get a better sense of what motivates them and how they are critiquing the MNU. We learn things about alien biology — including about the “Prawn”‘s sexual reproduction — which put the film’s depiction of parenthood in a different context. (I particularly love the way that the MNU Spreads Lies site repurposes a documentary from MNU on its blog, constructing its own alternative counter-reading, and thus creating space for ambiguity about how reliable the information it contains may be about the “Prawns.”)

This amateur video sought to stitch together some of the scattered pieces, drawing explicit analogy to Cloverfield, another film which “snuck” into the theaters, thanks to saavy deployment of transmedia branding and promotion strategies.

Of course, it makes sense that this film and filmmaker would embrace digital platforms as a means of expanding the fictional world given that District 9 was based on Neill Blomkamp’s short, Alive in Joberg, which has been widely available on YouTube for some time. It’s worth watching to see how the ideas and images in the current film took shape and how much he was able to achieve with a microscopic budget some of the same emotional impact that people have commented upon in District 9.

District 9 adopts a hyper-mediated style, framing the opening segments as a series of news reports, though it becomes harder as the film progresses to have a rational explanation for who is holding the shakey camera which follows the protagonist around the rubble of an increasingly militarized refuge compound. And the use of these various videos, depicted as coming from different sources, contributes to that aesthetic.

Given the filmmaker’s goal to blur the boundaries between our real world and the fictional world it depicts, creating a science fiction film that requires surprisingly little suspension of disbelief, it seems right that the film’s world would extend physically into our reality even before we step into the cinema.

The information value of the park bench is limited: it evokes a powerful history of racial segregation in this country and extends it into our understanding of the relations between humans and alien visitors. Yet, the shock value of seeing what amount to “Jim Crow” signs in contemporary Los Angeles reminds us that the story could indeed take place in our world and that we may be poorly prepared to deal with interplanetary diversity given how badly we have dealt with the very human diversity in our own midst.

So, can a park bench be a transmedia extension? I would vote yes — at least in this case. It may be a small piece of a larger system of information about the film but it moves beyond simple branding and already situates us emotionally and intellectually inside the fiction.


  1. Great article. I have not seen District 9 yer but saw Alive in Joburg a few years back.

  2. RE: Race and Science Fiction

    Check out “Space Refugees” where you play the role of the aliens from the classic arcade game “Space Invaders.”


  3. I watched District 9 and found it really good fiction movie. I had no idea it was such a low budget production! And at the end I was pretty scared! The signs they were putting everywhere with those aliens were such a teaser. I remember that I was very intrigued and curious to know what was the high availability of the various signs were about… a very interesting marketing concept!

  4. I had no idea it was such a low budget production! And at the end I was pretty scared! The signs they were putting everywhere with those aliens were such a teaser.

  5. This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing websites that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free. Thanks.

  6. I haven’t seen District 9 yet, but have been wanting to. I have heard mixed reviews but I think I will rent it soon. Thanks for the in-depth post.

  7. I haven’t seen District 9 yet, but have been wanting to. I have heard mixed reviews but I think I will rent it soon. Thanks for the in-depth post.

    Best regards, Sofia, CEO of iscsi boot windows 7

  8. Valuable information. Lucky me I found your web site by accident, and I’m shocked why this accident did not happened earlier! I bookmarked it.

    Icom IC-F33 Battery, Icom IC-F33 Two Way Radio Battery

    Icom IC-F34 Battery, Icom IC-F34 Two Way Radio Battery

  9. THis is so great informations. I will come back

    If you have free time, please visit Moto DroidHTC Android Smartphone.


  10. Digital Camera Battery, Battery Charger Online Store.

    Canon, Panasonic, Samsung battery and charger online store -http://www.batteries-charger.co.uk is a sincere, trustworthy E-Commerce website since 2006. Provide cheap high-quality replacement battery and charger for Canon, Panasonic, Samsung, like:




  11. Since natural supplements are not regulated, many

    manufacturers meclizine 125 mg

    are merely marketers hawking miracle products that either metformin 850 mg

    don’t contain the ingredients they claim to or metoclopramide 5 mg

    don’t offer any health benefits whatsoever. omeprazole 20 mg capsules

    Look over their web site for company information, side effects of simvastatin 20 mg

    product information, voltaren 75 mg manufacturing procedures, etc.

  12. One of the most popular questions cilostazol 100 mg

    we receive here is “Where do I buy health pills?” coq 10 200 mg

    Short and to the point. Well, estradiol 1 mg

    we’ve researched dozens of health supplement etodolac 200 mg

    providers and have discovered how you can find glucosamine sulfate 1500 mg

    the highest quality products you can buy. lamisil 250 mg

  13. So we set out to find a supplement that female viagra uk

    included ALL of these therapeutic nutrients fertomid 50 mg

    in one formula. That way we could get all of actos 15 mg

    the benefits we were getting from alendronate sodium 70 mg

    taking these nutrients separately without

    taking dozens of different cefixime 400 mg

    cefpodoxime 200 mg

    pills, tablets and powders.

  14. One of the most popular questions betagan we receive here is “Where do I buy health pills?” betoptic Short and to the point.

    Well, blopress we’ve researched dozens of health supplement cefaclor

    providers and have discovered how you can find colospa

    the highest quality products you can buy. combivir

  15. Since natural supplements are not regulated, many

    manufacturers clomid no prescription

    are merely marketers hawking miracle products that either clomid pills

    don’t contain the ingredients they claim to or clomid tablets

    don’t offer any health benefits whatsoever. evista online

    Look over their web site for company information, evista pills

    product information, evista tablets manufacturing procedures, etc.

  16. john manitak says:

    I have found some amazing posts here. please keep posting. i m fond of reading and i want to know about new things. there are lot of interesting and knowledgeable things for me. i will be a regular visitor of this site.

    spy on a cell phone

  17. I’d been obsessed with my free porn videos younger sister’s sex life for almost two years when I finally found the courage and mobile porn the means to take a part in it. In fact, my obsession had probably been developing for quite some time before that without my noticing it free porn tube, my teenage unconscious taking in the form of her developing body, her budding breasts, her pheromones and whatnot since the onset of her puber


  18. Louis Vuitton, the world-renowned brands, but also for muxury a consideration. For these replica louis vuitton,replica Louis Vuitton Handbags absolute comw of NPK’s high quality and fashion design, but also added the popular bags for sale. There are also many copies of replica louis vuitton Handbag to sell in the market, so when you choose not to pay attention to your luggage. In addition, all of these Louis Vuitton Handbags,also used the same material,designed by replica louis vuitton of these condescending, and large bags. In short, all of these replica Louis Vuitton Handbags to provide you with the replica louis vuitton Handbag and so on. Speaking of Louis Vuitton Handbags,people know, talk, and only those women who use this wealth of high-priced bags. In the winter, it is said, the work of louis vuitton travel luggage and louis vuitton men bags in these cities on the market very well.


  19. Post is nicely written and it contains many good things for me. I am glad to find your impressive way of writing the post. Now it become easy for me to understand and implement the concept.Electric Bicycles

  20. I think I must have missed the entire viral campaign for this movie, this is all new for me. Some great vids, thanks for sharing.

    electrical wholesalers | s172 road traffic act | caravan insurance

  21. Oh I see the campaign was a year prior to the film, isn’t that a bit pointless. A great film though..

    christening gifts | tattoo equipment

  22. designercoachhandbags says:
  23. designercoachhandbags says:
  24. Post is nicely written and it contains many good things for me. I am glad to find your impressive way of writing the post.

    Pittsburgh art

  25. Post is nicely written and it contains many good things for me. I am glad to find your impressive way of writing the post..Propane Scooters

  26. online class says:

    I’ve watched District 9 video and it’s kind of very amazing video.


    Horse barn floor plans

    Outdoor storage shed plans

  27. welcome great web for shopping text to speech and rolex replica

    Shop and find the lowest prices on products from louis vuitton outlet. Price comparison shopping, product reviews, and armani watch – all the tools to help make wow gold simple

  28. This is a very informative article.I was looking for these things and here I found it. I am doing a project and this information is very useful me. If you are interested, but this is my duty to inform you that virtual administrative assistant a very dedicated service and can be applied anywhere you want and get better results.Gas Scooters

  29. This is a very informative article.I was looking for these things and here I found it. I am doing a project and this information is very useful me.

  30. This is a very informative article.I was looking for these things and here I found it. I am doing a project and this information is very useful me.

  31. I am doing a project and this information is very useful me.

  32. I was looking for these things and here I found it. I am doing a project and this information is very useful me.

  33. This is a very informative article.I was looking for these things and here I found it. I am doing a project and this information is very useful me.Electric Scooters

  34. yangrui says:

    Shopping is a rayban sunglasses procedure in which goods and services offered by discount mbt shoes the retailers are examined with the intent to buy or shop. An activity of mac eyeshadows purchasing some goods after proper selection is termed as shopping. Basically, it is considered as a leisure activity. In this recreational activity, one visits a range of cheap christian louboutin shoes stores while shopping in search of a desired or a suitable produce to buy. Whereas the activity in which shoppers engage themselves in browsing different products through glass and windows of various shops just for cheap gucci handbags entertainment and enjoyment is window shopping. In this activity, the shoppers only imagine to buy these items without purchasing them in reality, probably to pass their time.

  35. mortgage refinance says:

    This is a very informative article.i like it post more on this topic.Heloc rates and bad credit mortgages

  36. karen01 says:

    Thank You for unique information!

    buy dissertation

  37. mediahuset says:

    You also know how to make people rally behind it, obviously from the responses taking time and real effort to make a good article !!

    facebook login

  38. mediahuset says:

    I absolutely adore your site! You aggressive me as able-bodied as all the others actuality and your broiled PS is absolutely nice. Thank you for afflatus and accumulate up the acceptable work thanks!


  39. I admire the valuable information you offer in your articles. I will bookmark your blog and have my children check up here often. I am quite sure they will learn lots of new stuff here than anybody else!Burberry Kid Clothes hen tips for weight lossfddfCoach Shoes goo ways to lose weight fast

  40. I have noticed this website about homeless world cup. Personally I have never heard about this event before so it was really interesting to read it and to know something attractive and new.lv women shoes de “make money online”dflv eyeglasses de sleep apnia

  41. The author has written an excellent article. You made your point and not much to discuss. It’s like this universal truth that you can not argue with the truth is not universal, everything has its exception. Thanks for this information.

    Plywood Sheets

  42. All about login to facebook in http://facebook-login.biz

  43. All about login to facebook in http://facebook-login.biz

  44. Facebook login proxy, You can login to facebook using facebook login

    the free proxy site lo surf in facebook anonymosly.

  45. Hotels in Ostend says:

    This is my first time I have visited this site. I found a lot of interesting information in your blog. From the volume of comments on your posts, I guess I am not the only one! keep up the impressive work.

    Hotels in Ostend

  46. These kind of post are always inspiring and I prefer to read quality content so I happy to find many good point here in the post, writing is simply great, thank you for the post.

    for more informations visite

    algerie news

  47. very informative post. thanks! make money

  48. Extremely frequently I go to this weblog. It incredibly very much is pleasant to me. Thank you the author!…

    31 day fat loss cure

  49. I love your blog 🙂 And District 9 the original movie seems to be better then the new one! call of duty aimbot

    cod:bo aibmot cod:bo

    black ops aimbot black ops

    wallhack cod wallhack

    cod:bo autoaim autoaim

    thanks, jeff

  50. cdnell123 says:

    I certainly enjoyed the way you explore your experience and knowledge of the subject! Keep up on it. Thanks for sharing the info

    seo sheffield

  51. housses en cuir très haut de gamme pour préserver vos téléphones portables et appareils mobiles avec style. D’une qualité exceptionnelle, les étuis en cuir, housse iphone4 et protections mobiles font l’objet d’un suivi régulier lors de leurs fabrications et respectent un ensemble de critères qualité très strictes. Découvrez un catalogue varié de étui téléphone et dédié à la préservation de vos smartphones et composé d’étuis verticaux et de étui portable, de housses à clapet, de fourreaux de protection horizontaux et de pochettes en cuir ouvrantes. Les housses de protection en cuir sont disponibles pour les modèles de smartphone iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad, Blackberry Torch, Curve, Bold, Nokia N8, Xperia X10, Samsung Galaxy S, Samsung Wave et HTC Desire. L’objectif de la housse telephone est de proposer aux possesseurs de téléphones dits “intelligents” des moyens de protection efficaces, robustes, durables et d’une qualité inégalée. Les étuis en cuir pour mobiles sont également très pratiques et simples d’utilisation. Les écrins proposés comme les housse portable assurent un confort de manipulation optimal et se révèlent indispensables au quotidien.

  52. Robinson says:

    I believe most people would agree with your post. I am going to bookmark this web site so I can come back and read more posts. Keep up the great work!

    Child Behavior Problems

    Potty Training Boys

    Potty Training Tips

    Potty Training Regression

  53. Brilliant films ,thanks so much cheap ugg boots

  54. servers Auckland says:

    MikiPro Ltd specializes in “Ex-Demo” and “Ex-Lease” IT equipment. We source, install and extensive almost all IT equipment. No issuepardon?On? Your IT needs are we engage inge in you covered. If you are looking in favor offavor of on-site hardware and software repairs/maintenance, servers pristinestine or nextfferr, attendantant parts, attendantant support, nextfferr laptops and desktops, or specificallyifically data backups and security we will be able to know your needs. Please visit our situateate and knowing many more in favor offavor of Miki pro.
    servers Auckland

  55. Truly satisfied! Things are really, precise along with open. You might have discussed lots of beneficial info.

  56. Highly helpful thank you, There's no doubt that your followers would possibly want significantly better afrika mangosu written articles like that maintain the excellent work.tütüne son klavis panax nanomatik orjin krem

  57. Andalusy2000 says:
  58. Thank you for that

  59. Do you think the world from D-9 will be realized somehow in the real life, next century, maybe?