Textuality and multi-modality
There are two central elements necessary for properly understanding the concepts of transmedia and transmedia storytelling: textuality and multi-modality (Kim and Kang, 2013).
Radical textuality refers to instances where multiple texts exist within a single medium, or when a text’s structure is more fluid in organization than texts of the past. For example, when a novel or movie can form multiple interactive narratives that vary according to the character or perspective, the story can be said to exhibit radical textuality. When such a story transcends its original medium and travels across mediums, such as novels, films, television series, and games, we it can be described as a transmedia story.
Another key element to transmedia storytelling is multi-modality. Multi-modality refers to the utility displayed by different forms of media—in other words, how each medium is best suited for a specific style of storytelling, which shapes the type of content it can be used to communicate. For instance, a narrative, story, or even a group of characters will transmit a different kind of message and user experience when realized through the format of a comic book versus that of a video game. Moreover, the relationship between a user’s experiences of a game and a text are going to be different from that between a book and movie.
Therefore, when initiating transmedia storytelling, the influence that each medium selected will have on the overall world of the story is an important consideration for producers.
Jenkins maintains that simply focusing on one of the two elements mentioned above is insufficient. He emphasizes that they must form a balanced amalgamation. When considering Jenkins’ definition of a transmedia story, it is evident that common concepts such as one-source and multi-source, or general definitions such as the dispersion of a single story through multiple media platforms, are insufficient. Often confused with transmedia storytelling, these concepts are more similar to franchises or brands that take a basic story’s elements and reproduce them through multiple forms of media.
For Jenkins, such storytelling is a part of digital content strategy that is centralized around content producers and media executives, markedly different from genuine transmedia storytelling. The transmedia storytelling, he argues, is a combination of the critical elements of radical textualization and multi-modality, where the fans, or users, partake creatively in a process of both consumption and production, a process made possible only when users go beyond simply reading or taking in content and instead elect to either adapt existing materials or use aspects of the universe to create new content—and spread it publicly. In the context of Jenkins’ definition, greater emphasis is placed on the amalgamation of radical textualization and multi-modality. As such, a form of transmedia storytelling that focuses on only one of such elements cannot be genuine.