Transmedia: Fear of the Lexicon Goblins

“Transmedia”: just another word for the bulging digital media lexicon?  Is it replacing ‘multi-channel’ or ‘multi-platform’ or even ‘cross-media’ or that old dinosaur ‘multi-media’?  The Wikipedia entry for ‘transmedia storytelling‘ tells us:

A transmedia project develops storytelling across multiple forms of media in order to have different “entry points” in the story; entry-points with a unique and independent lifespan but with a definite role in the big narrative scheme. One of the first documented uses of the term comes from Henry Jenkins in his 2003 MIT Technology Review article, “Transmedia Storytelling,” where he argues via analysis of past entertainment franchises that the coordinated use of storytelling across platforms can make the characters more compelling… unlike cross-media projects of the past, in which IP crosses the media divide for purely product line diversification (merchandising), true transmedia is designed with intent in preproduction, rather than simply rehashing IP in post for maximum exploitation and ROI.

Although it’s easy to confuse transmedia with a lot of the other terms used to describe how  content can be pushed out on different platforms there is a real distinction being made about the way the platforms are used within the narrative framework. The unique environment offered by each available or selected platform provides an opportunity to build a unique part of the narrative around it. Not a question of pushing the same story out onto various platforms but of constructing different parts of the narrative around the platforms. That would offer a fascinating (if rather complex) environment for both the storyteller and those who experience the narrative. It also throws up a lot of interesting questions about narrative structure and how integrity of structure could be maintained within that complex model – if, for example, one part of the narrative (e.g. delivered on a specific platform like a mobile device) is unavailable to the ‘reader’ – does the narrative collapse? does the narrative actually make allowance for these gaps? is this what the quote above suggests with the statement that it offers ‘different “entry points” in the story; entry-points with a unique and independent lifespan’? how are these ‘lifespans tied in with the larger narrative and how do the ‘unique entry points’ support the overall narrative?  is the idea of traditional narrative structure so challenged by this approach that the question is actually redundant?

Just as a starting point though, you’d think, amidst all of that incredible and innovative creative thought they could have come up with something a bit better and less flabby than ‘transmedia‘. Any suggestions?

Something else to look at: Henry Jenkins’s Transmedia Storytelling 101 … may make you hunger for the days of pen and paper and linear narrative structure!

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