The language of transmedia storytelling

When telling a story, the desire to properly express a core set of ideas is always great—to communicate in a way that can be understood by all.

In ancient times, for example, when the Tower of Babel was being built, there was an attempt to unite humankind under a single language, comparable to Esperanto, yet the endeavor ended in failure. Images, however, offered a solution. Images could be understood by people of any country, and film took this language of universal imagery to a higher level.

Film offered a new solution to the primal human desire to tell stories, and thus provided incredible inspiration. A look at documentaries about the Soviet Revolution or the 1935 propaganda film Triumph of the Will (commissioned by Adolf Hitler) reveals military marches so in unison that they would be challenging to recreate even with CG technology—captivating symbolism, to say the least. The German example demonstrates Hitler’s acknowledgement of how powerful the language of film could be, likely why he took such great pains to mobilize his military and shoot the perfect scene. One of the consequences, however, was that the film racked up an immense debt just before the outbreak of World War II.

Back then, a movie camera was about the size of a wagon. Hitler, however, wanted a camera that was portable enough to properly capture the victory of his armies, and so he demanded that a lighter, smaller camera be developed, regardless of the cost. Additionally, his researchers also produce a high-powered lens, as well as film that could capture a scene in a single shot with no lighting, two incredible technological developments. These investments further illustrate Hitler’s awareness of the strength of film as a medium, conscious that it possessed an energy that was completely separate from his public readings of speeches. The digital devices that comprise today’s digital storytelling have incorporated many techniques developed through filmmaking, such as storing and editing images, as well as various special effects.

Digital mediums allow users to take content and alter it in a multitude of ways (ripping, mixing, burning, etc.). This is how changes in media technology can alter the social meaning of media itself. In other words, the technological trends of Transmedia have a direct relationship with the convergence culture of society. Convergence culture refers to distinct cultures that produce various divergent forms while remaining on the same integrative technological plane. Divergence and convergence may be opposing concepts, but various cultural diversions are what drive technological convergence. Convergence culture, then, is the practical combination of content and media, produces hybridity, trans-nes and multiplication in between.

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This article is from the free online course:

Transmedia Storytelling

Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU)