Storytelling language goes far back in history, but its importance has become more prominent in the digital age. There have been attempts at this in the past as well. During the era of written text, many people tried to unify languages of the world. This can be seen in such examples as Tower of Babel from the Bible, or the invention of the Esperanto language. There have been several attempts to unify languages, all of which have failed. Before the era of script, however, it was the era of images. Images has the power what languages or scripts can’t have.
Images could have functioned as a universal language, but crossing over to the era of script made each language more complicated, increasing the level of accuracy seen in messages. That eventually led to the loss of a universal trait in language, as was evident when we touched upon the history of media in a past lesson. From a historical viewpoint, the invention of photography helped the image regain its once lost prominence. Photography was a tool used to materialize the desire of the past. With it came a unified language, a universal one. First photographs was invented, next came images of movement, and then came films digital storytelling had finally become possible.
Dissecting how sound pictures, color pictures, and film techniques came about would be similar to examining the history of the expansion of the digital storytelling. Lev Manovich ’s work provides remarkably useful evidence for this. His work offers an incredibly in-depth study on how silent films would convey scenes using only images in the absence of verbal sounds. With spoken words unavailable due to the rudimentary nature of the technology, filmmakers were forced to develop creative strategies for communicating their messages.
Filmologists say that silent films marked the beginning of movies and carry a great deal of significance in the history of film, while also being very useful By that if film media had started out with sound pictures, then it would rely on the audio component too heavy for the film language to develop. Because silent films were made first, they triggered people’s desire to tell stories using film images without sound. The use of images on their own satisfied the deficient aspects that had emerged in the era of written language, resulting in the images regaining their power. Once spoken dialogue started being added to films, the genre of sound film was born, and color were also added.
Editing techniques aided in the development of “film language,” or the language with which motion pictures create meaning. When combined, these elements make up the complete language of digital storytelling. That language constructed by films has had a wide array of effects. One person who understood these effects was Hitler and military parties in Germany and the Soviet Union. Film was deemed the perfect media for political propaganda, with each party well aware of the enormous impact it had on audiences. This is a scene from a documentary called Triumph of the Will, 1935. Hitler knew that showing the incredible size of his army would be much more powerful in terms of expressing the “triumph of the will” than describing it in speech.
As a result, he fully invested in videos such as this. In the era that followed, films possessed a range of expressions incomparable to that of scripts, and were solidly positioned as a powerful media form. For this reason, the foundation of transmedia storytelling is based on the founding of film as a medium. The latter eventually developed further, and now film editing has become much easier with the invention of digital video cameras such as compact DSLRs. Now anyone can be involved in creating the dramatic film effects that caught Hitler’s attention in the past, all possible due to technological advancement.
In the past, extensive knowledge was required to make content such as films, but now the average university student is capable of making a simple video clip and uploading it on to their blog. This phenomenon is described as User-Created Content. Like past processes, the first step is that a simple story must be written. Next, however, the story needs to be filmed, edited, and uploaded, all of which were not required in the old form of storytelling. This process may not sound so difficult, but a whole new concept has been born.
When previous generations only had a pen, some paper, and a typewriter to tell a story, a literary imagination and the ability to write a story were the key components of becoming a good storyteller. These days, however, you have to be equipped with the technology to film and the ability to edit with an artistic mind. You also need the ability to communicate with people while acquiring a social nature to share the work. One’s literary imagination, artistic talent, and access to technology are equally important elements of transmedia storytelling. In other words, for the process of creation to occur, a convergence of different elements must take place, and do so without external force or pressure.
This process is not limited to convergence within the sphere of media, but the content producer witnesses it during the process of production. These days, individuals can possess the technology and the ability to write a story and add artistic, musical, and other talents to one’s technological and narrative skills simultaneously, which makes it possible for anyone to create something that could have met the standards of the experts in the old days. In the past, every individual’s artistic ability varied from skill to skill, but we now have the capacity to handle all of them at once. In other words, we are now able to do transmedia storytelling.
As transmedia storytelling requires hybridity and cultural diversity, individuals are involved in the entire process of creation and consumption. Henry Jenkins, who explained the concept of transmedia storytelling in his book Convergence Culture, defines transmedia storytelling as “integral elements of a fiction dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience.” In other words, it is a story told through multiple media platforms. When reviewing this explanation, the word “multiple” holds a great deal of importance. Once a story extends beyond a single medium, it is continued on in different media such as gaming platforms, movies, webtoons, novels, and performances.
Put simply, transmedia is a form of storytelling that has one worldview and one central story, but only when the story can be “handled through different media platforms” can hybridity be preserved. Moreover, a story can be categorized as transmedia when it is powerful enough that it can be told through different media platforms, maintaining its independence. It is a single story, and you can enjoy the film without necessarily having to know the game. When you play the game, you don’t need to have had read the novel. The content in each medium can stand on its own. Despite this, all incarnations of the content share a common story or a worldview, which Henry Jenkins defines as transmedia storytelling and links to media convergence.
He divides media convergence into four aspects. The first is technological convergence. This is a concept we’ve discussed in the context of media history, where different types of devices are used together. In the technology of film, there is music and art, among others, along with optical technology and other types of devices used to enhance the film. This is why technological convergence is a basic requirement of transmedia content. The second is social convergence. Consumers no longer seek out access a single medium to consume a single story, but rather sit in front of the computer and surf the web to collect a range of data. They use various devices to collect information they are looking for and mix and match the accumulated data.
This practice reflects a use of convergence by consumers and creators alike, something we call social convergence. Another important form of convergence is cultural, in which consumers equipped with technology become the agent of creation and production. In the past, there was a division between those who purchased content and those who sold it, but now consumers are also capable of selling. Any individual can create a website or an app to sell a product, or can distribute their own content to the world. This has all become possible thanks to the ease with which transmedia content can be distributed in this era.
Through cultural convergence, the creator is no longer confined to creating, and consumers become a part of the creative process while also getting involved in distribution. All of this is done while still fulfilling their roles as consumers. The final type is global convergence. Using the Internet, information can be shared simultaneously all across the world. The sharing and consumption of content naturally led to cultural hybridity, a phenomenon that surpasses genre, music, literature and arts to connect with different cultures. In the past, information transmission was a time-consuming process. For instance, if you wanted to learn about travelling you had to read travelogues. But now these things happen simultaneously. Jenkins diagnoses this phenomenon as moving beyond cultural multiplicity and crossing over to complexity.
In fact, we no longer need to fly to Europe or America to consume international content. Language barriers have been broken down to some degree with the help of interpreting devices, and since we now share a common language the language of film youngsters around the world can communicate with ease and partake in the consumption of international content. The barrier between consumers and creators is being broken down, and cultural differences that once existed due to geographical distance are diminishing. The division that used to separate one medium from another is disappearing, leading to a closed convergence. As such, transmedia storytelling presents one core story that can be adapted to a different culture in various forms through different media, just like a wild plant.
It can also be duplicated and expanded in unexpected ways before returning to the original position at some point. For example, someone in a different country could adapt a story I started, and it might come back to me in a different medium, meaning that I am now the consumer of the story.