Skip main navigation

£199.99 £139.99 for one year of Unlimited learning. Offer ends on 28 February 2023 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply

Find out more

What is transmedia?

If we summarise the unifying idea of definitions we could say that transmedia is a phenomenon or system of different forms of media converging
Week 1 Lecture 1 Today, 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 thereof, 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 differentmedia 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.

In truth, the concepts and breadth associated with the word transmedia vary according to the scholar discussing it, so it is difficult to simply say, “Transmedia is this or that.”

However, if we summarise the unifying idea of definitions we could say that transmedia is “a phenomenon or system of different forms of media converging.” A perfect example is the smartphone.

When did transmedia take place?

Transmedia occurred through the digitalisation of media that had been reproduced through machinery. Mass media content, newspaper articles, and television broadcasts were transferred to a digital format and distributed through the Internet.

While the cross-hybridisation of various mediums consolidates the whole of media and culture into a single collection pool, it also divides media into various forms while giving life to new ones.

As different mediums coexist, transform, overlap, and converge, an evolving media environment is created. In this sense, transmedia refers to the interaction between different forms of media leading to convergence, as well as to the transfer of the contents of one form of media to another.

In other words, transmedia refers to the relationship between different forms of media.

Where is transmedia found?

Transmedia can be found in both old media’s mainstream conventions and new media’s online world. Transmedia phenomena have been already occurred in conventional media for some time. They include the act of broadcasting LP records over radio or feature films through a television network.

Another transmedia phenomenon is when songs on a CD are transferred to MP3 files, which are then shared on the Internet, where they duplicate.

Transmedia also applies to books and print media; the process of turning a story into a book that is then published can be described as transmedia.

This article is from the free online

Transmedia Storytelling

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education