We start our series of lectures on understanding transmedia storytelling. Let’s take a moment and think about what “transmedia storytelling” means. Storytelling involves conveying a narrative to another party. In this case, we need to consider how this narrative is shared? That is, through what media platforms? In order for this story to be considered as transmedia. Transmedia storytelling is a relatively new term. In fact, the word storytelling itself doesn’t have a very long history. Even though the concept of story is age-old,academic interest in defining storytelling is relatively new. Let’s first examine the notion of transmedia. The word transmedia actually consists of two words. The second word, media, is prefixed with the Latin word trans that implies “to transcend” or “to transfer.”
As such, we could interpret transmedia as a phenomenon that transcends media or the boundaries there of, something that transfers media content, or perhaps a system that crosses the borders of media. As much as this sounds novel, it actually isn’t. The idea of different forms of media coexisting, transforming, and converging to create a new media environment has been around for some time, albeit in less complex and less common forms In the past stories jotted down on paper and later being turned into a stage script, or a song recording at a concert becoming a track on a CD or LP and later on, played over the air and heard by radio audiences at home.
These are some common and conventional examples of transmedia phenomena. The reason for the ongoing attention on transmedia is because of its current complexity, as well as the broadened scope of these platforms and potential for enriched user experience while consuming them, as compared to what was available in the past. The most representative example is the ubiquitous hand phone, or what is now commonly referred to as the smartphone. My smartphone handles the basic phone functions of telecommunication and SMS (short messaging service) texting well enough. However, when I think about it, more often than not my daily smartphone usage is based around searching for information, taking photos, and using media storage. Media was different in the past.
In order to read, one might go to a library to listen to music,one went to a music room. Life is much more convenient now with transmedia, to the extent that instead of sourcing different media outlets, a single machine with multiple integrated functions has the ability to provide the user or consumer with all of the content that was once only available through “old” media. This is the key feature of transmedia. In addition, the user can actively participate in the creation of media content.
In the past, we had to embrace media content as it was in the form laid down by the artist or creator, but now, media proliferation and dissemination allow any individual to have more opportunities to be involved in the creative process to shape the media output. As a result of this possibility, the concepts of art and creative process have also taken on different definitions. Through this course, We will seek to understand the concept of transmedia storytelling, after which point we will apply this understanding to explore the concept’s role in the media industry of today.
Regarding transmedia storytelling, we need to consider specifically the kind of media utilized, whether a particular story is involved in this telling, or in the event that the same story is used across multiple platforms, whether the manner of telling is special. There seem to be several things that are important to note here. We have to touch on what a story is, what the techniques of storytelling are, and also which of these are used in transmedia storytelling. There is also another crucial concept we need to know, and that is convergence. This word is not only used in media industries, but also in other areas such as culture and society. In a way, our present era is defined by this one word.
To understand why I say this, we have to briefly go over the history of media. An understanding of the meaning, characteristics, and advantages of transmedia will not be possible without first knowing this history. Some terminologies to highlight are cross-media,multimedia, and one that we would have seen many times since the 1990s, One-Source Multi-Use (OSMU). In the past, a particular story would be tailored for a particular book, or a certain picture drawn with a specific place in mind to hang and display. Nowadays, the media sources that once served a single purpose now have multiple and varied usages, thus making usability an important issue.
Some examples often seen in our daily lives are stories that later get adapted into movies, or games and animation that get transformed into a series of webtoons. These were pretty rare in the past. So what are these varied media that we entertain ourselves with nowadays, and are transmedia stories unique? What are the strategies used in developing transmedia stories? These are the key points I want to address over the coming sessions.
Our starting point needs to be language: why transmedia is receiving attention now, and what its history is. We will touch on that history in the next session.