There has been quite a bit of talk in recent years around the concept of transmedia storytelling. Few of these narratives have actually been implemented, but a select number of companies have chosen to satisfy consumer affinities, put great ideas on a pedestal, and think of creative ways to proliferate those ideas through carefully chosen channels.
On a deeper level, transmedia narratives strike an amazing balance between medium and message. In doing so, an exposition can carry out a story arc through application and dialogue that transcends all media execution. Whether you are a brand, an agency, a studio, or a publisher, transmedia storytelling is and will be an integral part of our future success as media entities and content providers.
So just what is transmedia storytelling, and why hasn't it been fully adopted?
For starters, it represents a process where integral elements of a fictional narrative get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience, as defined by Confessions of an Aca-Fan.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, the concept of transmedia storytelling was formally hatched by Henry Jenkins, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and author of the groundbreaking "Convergence Culture." In the book, Jenkins deftly deconstructs not only the inefficiencies of media influence and consumption (or what we might regard in this context as "confluence"), but also identifies most advertising outreach as communications streams that are significantly limited in what he describes as their "hypersociability."
Hypersociability is a term used to represent the conversational -- or what Faris Yakob has coined as the "spread" -- nature of content. So the idea is that if we can create a true story arc around or within an idea, the scalability of that currency (what we share) is virtually limitless. In effect, it takes us from passing along a piece of content, an application, or a widget (which may die on the proverbial vine), and allows us to engage and participate in a phenomenon, and do so indefinitely. Case in point: "The Matrix", along with many of its associated harbingers, will be the topic of discussion at cocktail parties and dinner tables for as long as the media world exists in its own vacuum.
Transmedia development emerged along with the advancement in digital storytelling, but as Ivan Askwith, senior director of strategy at Big Spaceship, points out, it was also partly cultivated as a means for solving the problem of marketing and licensing excess. This has been a particularly frequent issue with feature film franchises, but has reared its head across a variety of media.
Askwith actually studied with Jenkins and earned his masters at MIT. His thesis was an exploration of how television programs use transmedia extensions as part of a larger attempt to create audience engagement -- a means for allowing viewers to stay personally invested in a storyline. He also did work on alternate reality games (ARGs) as part of a separate research effort completed at the institute. Alternate reality solutions have been around for some time, but have only just begun to reveal themselves in a more seamless format.
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