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Transmedia As Pretext

Transmedia storytelling, as defined by Henry Jenkins in his 2006 book Convergence Culture, is storytelling across multiple forms of media with each element making distinctive contributions to a viewer/user/player’s understanding of the story world. By using different media formats, it attempts to create “entrypoints” through which consumers can become immersed in a story world. The aim of this immersion is decentralized authorship, or transmedial play as defined by Stephen Dinehart in his 2006 transmedia thesis project “Journey of Jin” at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

There are two prominent factors driving the growth of transmedia storytelling. The first is the proliferation of new media forms like video games, the internet, and mobile platforms and the demand for content in each. The second is an economic incentive for media creators to lower production costs by sharing assets. Transmedia storytelling often uses the principle of hypersociability. Transmedia storytelling is also sometimes referred to as multi modality, referring to using multi-modal representations to convey a complex story through numerous media sources.

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.” Jeff furthers this explanation stating the following: “Most of us flow naturally from one medium to the next. Unfortunately most of our content doesn’t. Instead the stories are repurposed and repeated. They do not extend the franchise nor do they build brand equity. With transmedia, each part of story is unique and plays to the strengths of the medium. The result is a new kind of narrative where story flows across each platform forming a rich narrative tapestry that manifests in an array of products and multiple revenue streams. The audience is both validated and celebrated for participating in the story world through the medium of their choice.”

I lifted those three paragraphs directly from Wikipedia in order to riff on “bible” as the name for the masterplanning document that ties together all of the various media that constitute the continguous, immersive storyworld of a gargantuan transmedia narrative.  I think “score” is a significantly better word for at least the following reasons:
1.  A bible is a holy book that is not meant to be modified by anybody but God.  Ask anybody at FOX News, the Jerusalem of divisiveness.

2.  The unifying basis for hypersocial behavior is significantly less important than the act of unification.

3.  The conductor of a symphony orchestra leads dozens of musicians (with the aid of a score which documents the intended sequence of performance for players who are engaged with a wide variety of instrumentalities across variations in key, meter, mode and ambiance) to invoke the wholehearted and selfless participation of an otherwise passive audience; from auteur to superconductor.

If the evolution of transmedia entertainment relies on a biblical metaphor it will probably neglect or underserve the contribution of the audience to change a narrative course that’s set in stone.  I think it’s significantly more visionary to regard the narrative as plastic, even dispensible, when the masterplan is introduced to the vagaries of audience participation; the urtext is only a pretext for hypersocial interaction.  Symphonic orchestras rarely encourage members of the audience to rise in the aisles for inspired choruses of air-guitar virtuosity, but that’s exactly the kind of participation transmedia entertainments are designed to facilitate and nurture…unless the bible metaphor persists, which makes this new media model especially vulnerable to mercenary exploitation, literalist misinterpretation and irrational stumbling blocks of Biblical proportions.

The two-hour video at the other end of this link:

http://mitworld.mit.edu/video/538

is introduced by Dr. David Thorburn who reappears 106minutes into the lively discussion with skeptical observations and invaluable advice about reinventing media.

The Milch/Thorburn conversation is here now:

http://techtv.mit.edu/videos/16086-television-s-great-writer-david-milch-mit-communications-forum

01 Nov 09 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 6 Comments