Trending: Transmedia

By HN Deeb

The February 23, 2012 capstone “Big Event” of Transmedia Days at Les Rendez-Vous du Cinéma Québécois will be a screening of KINOAUTOMAT, bringing the revolutionary choose-your-own-adventure style film full circle from its premiere at Expo 67 in Montreal forty-five years ago. It’s a nice reminder that transmedia is not only a surging trend but has a history, global reach, and diverse range of perspectives, purposes, and forms.

As Nick DeMartino observed a few months ago [1], you know “transmedia” has achieved critical mass because the term itself is now a topic of heated debate. I’ll stick to the safest ground possible and quote the well-known definition by Professor Henry Jenkins of the University of Southern California (formerly at MIT) [2]:
Transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally, each medium makes it own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story. [Thankfully, his recent update stuck with this core description. [3]]

Whereas the traditional model tells a story through one combination of medium and platform—printed book, filmed movie, etc.—that might then be adapted to others, transmedia starts with a holistic view of the storyworld. Any single piece captured in a particular form is just one slice of the whole. A common, though not necessary, corollary of this ex ante infiniteness is that many more people may be involved in creating (or perhaps merely uncovering) aspects of the storyworld, including those f/k/a mere consumers.

Our sun, at least, shines down on nothing totally new. The “traditional” model really describes the mass media or commercial modes of storytelling distribution that have dominated Western societies for a couple hundred years. People everywhere have always collaborated and taken advantage of different media to build worlds: some archaeologists suggest the ancient Lascaux cave paintings played a role in conveying experiences from excursions to a spiritual realm. Visionaries on a more mundane plane (if only slightly so: I’ve heard more than one transmedia expert invoke Walt Disney) arguably pioneered modern transmedia in the twentieth century with ever-expanding worlds encountered through criss-crossing layers of radio, television, cinema, books, records, theme parks, and so on.

What has changed in recent years, of course, is the spread and diversification of accessible technological tools for (co)creating, distributing, consuming, and reimagining content. These developments have not only spurred transmedia production, but also the growth of a worldwide community of transmedia storytellers. In that spirit, we hope to highlight a few transmedia projects here in coming weeks. In the meantime, check out the Quebec festival underway now if you can. The days before the KINOAUTOMAT screening were packed with a special series of transmedia panels and workshops, kicking off
with one featuring Lance Weiler on February 21. For more info, see http://www.rvcq.com/festival-30e/programmation/evenements?ajax=0&transmedia=1.

[1] http://www.tribecafilm.com/tribecaonline/future-of-film/Why-Transmedia-is-Catching-On-Part-1.html
[2] http://www.henryjenkins.org/2007/03/transmedia_storytelling_101.html
[3] http://henryjenkins.org/2011/08/defining_transmedia_further_re.html

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