The properties of transmedia storytelling

First, transmedia storytelling represents an instance of multi-platforming. Multi-platforming refers to content and media users shifting in between multiple media platforms (Lee Jae-hyeon, 2006), and storytelling is connected to this phenomenon.

Multi-platforming can be divided into transmedia and cross-media, with transmedia embodying the dispersion of various different stories, while cross-media is the dissemination of a single story through various platforms. As the process of convergence progresses, cultural content is spread through multiple platforms, as opposed to a single box, a process also known as divergence—a point worth noting.

Second, while transmedia storytelling refers to multiple independent stories spreading through numerous platforms, the individual stories aggregate to form one narrative universe. The connectivity and gaps between each story depend on the type of story being told, but offshoot stories that are added on to the main story make positive contributions to the general narrative. In this way, transmedia differs from cross-media branding—namely, a single story transmitted through multiple platforms—which is achieved through platform expansion. For this reason, transmedia can be seen as a form of adaptation that considers the medium specificity of each platform (Smith, 2009).

Third, rather than being limited to the actions of content producers, transmedia storytelling includes the interpretations and experiences of users. As illustrated in the diagram above, users who access different individual stories through multiple platforms ultimately experience an integrative narrative. This means that the “trans” element of production that is maintained consistently through various platforms is not enacted by the content producer but by the users who consume content through such platforms. Obviously, the multiple entry points through which users access mainstream content are not all individual domains, but through proper promotion, content producers can encourage users to access content through various narrative gaps.

Fourth, transmedia storytelling is also an instance of commercial fandom. Generally, fandom can be categorized as a subculture formed by fans who share the same interest in certain content or celebrity, and is a typical target for transmedia storytelling. As evidenced by television series such as Star Trek or past Hollywood films, content distributed through a single platform is capable of spawning fandom phenomena, but by allowing users to engage with various platforms, transmedia storytelling creates an environment that is much more conducive to fandom.

Finally, Jenkins claims that transmedia storytelling holds the potential to spawn participatory culture (Jenkins, 2003; 2006). The process of cultivating several individual stories through a single main narrative is not limited to content producers; users are also responsible for creating individual adaptations or parodies based on the main story, thus producing “smaller” stories based on the main content. This process is indebted to relatively inexpensive and easy-to-use digital equipment, thus generating a base of consumers of who also produce, or users known as prosumers. Jenkins considers this process to be a revival of folk culture, though this type of user activity does not necessarily benefit content producers, and as such cannot be viewed in a strictly positively light.

Lev Manovich claims that user-generated content is already being incorporated by commercial strategies (Manovich, 2008). Despite such claims, however, Göran Bolin argues that transmedia storytelling will continue to expand as an instance of convergence he calls “text convergence” (Bolin, 2008).

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This article is from the free online course:

Transmedia Storytelling

Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU)