Week 5, Lecture 1 We talked about the basic worldview of transmedia storytelling, how the plot that becomes the main stem, and about the main characters. In the past, narrative was also a very important part of story development. A linear form of narrative was critical, so the quality of the content was determined by a well-designed plot, the intriguing mental traits of the characters, and the author’s overall brilliance. But as media changed with the environment, creators became consumers. In such a context, the reliance on a single genius author became unnecessary as consumers generated interaction by being directly involved in the creative process. This shift brought about a greater degree of flexibility in developing plots.
In the past, plot points were planned meticulously in the interest of culminating a complete ending, but the transmedia content that prevails in the present allows much greater room for flexibility. In such a system, creators are instead engaged in several stages of the process, an essential feature of modern digital storytelling. This does not mean there is less focus on the narrative, but rather that media became more diversified and so did its creators. Stories that had previously only existed in writing were now transferred to images, with the reliance on voices or music, and then returned as images and written pieces again. What exists now is a crossover of media.
More specifically, at some point along the way the most fitting content and medium will be chosen based on how well they complement a character or an incident. This process has given birth to specialized content. For instance, let’s say we talk about first love. We can write a poem, a song, or even a short story about it, which is what we did in the past. In transmedia storytelling, “first love” is a motif, and it is expressed with different media that each possesses its own distinctive characteristics. Let’s say that my memory of my first love is a girl I saw everyday on my way to school, back when I was in middle school.
I can express this with a beautiful poem or a song. But because there is a limit to what each medium can express, I would have trouble conveying the entire memory. The emotions I would experience as I waited for her at the bus stop before school are related to senses that I have felt for years since that moment. They could be linked to the morning sunshine, or the smell of a bakery beside the bus stop. This is something that cannot be conveyed through literature or music. If there was a medium that could express smell, then perhaps that could present this story with adequate precision.
That particular medium would be specialized to deal with this portion of the story like no other medium could.
And this is what transmedia storytelling is about: being open to all possibilities. This is what I mean. Instead of a strictly linear story, transmedia stories express complexity, length, and breadth. Instead of the traditional narrative composed by a single author, there are many creators involved. Probability is an essential component of these connections, incorporated to emphasize the complexity of the work. Put simply, there is a higher chance of an open ending rather than a closed one. Rather than depending on one sense, multi-leveled senses are employed. That is what is required of the storytelling in the modern era. Andrea Phillips is a game designer and well-known transmedia writer who said that stories in transmedia storytelling must be the entrance to the entire story.
In other words, content created by each medium must function as an entrance to the stories of the whole worldview for specialized stories in games. Similarly, a story presented in a film must guide the entire story across multiple platforms. An independent completion will act as an entrance to guide to the entire worldview simultaneously. If the best-suited form of transmedia storytelling is selected, then the core story will be preserved. This can also prevent an unnecessary repetition of a medium. By this I mean that the story presented in another medium does not have to be approached in the same way in a different medium. In such a case, we would need to question whether the repetition is absolutely necessary.
This concept is actually a point where the difference is shown in cross-media or the One-Source Multi-Use model. The OSMU is about materializing one complete story using different kinds of platforms. This is quite similar to transmedia. The commercial effect of the OSMU model was similar as well, so a large amount of the transmedia content model relies on successful cases of the previous generation OSMU model. The critical difference, however, is that OSMU is heavily focused on transferring the core story in its original form. It’s built upon attempts to transfer a hugely successful franchise to another genre, for example, when a literary bestseller becomes a film or a musical because it was successful as a book.
You would have experienced something like this before, perhaps a time when a bestselling novel was made into a film, though some say that the book is better. People react in such a way because they feel uncomfortable when the setting, the worldview, the emotions, and the atmosphere of their imagination do not fit with what the film presents visually. When I read the novel I imagined this and that, but the film didn’t express it well enough. But in fact, it’s not about how poorly it was expressed; it’s about how differently it was expressed. We feel dissatisfied when that happens. That would be one of the limitations of OSMU.
When a hugely successful franchise is transferred to a different channel, unnecessary repetition becomes inevitable. Even if it becomes better than the original, people still feel as though the original was ruined. That is why OSMU must be based on what was originally an extremely successful franchise. Even then, many think that the effect of the original diminishes every time a new version is released. A successful film can be made into a musical, but that does not mean the musical will bring greater success. What’s different about transmedia storytelling is that the possibilities are open from the start, developing the story specialized for a certain medium. So, unlike OSMU, transmedia content can stand independently, acting as an introduction and guide without being repetitive.
An overall family tree can be drawn, which is described by Andrea Phillips as the archeology of a story. As such, each medium can result in a large forest, or an overall family tree? the structure of transmedia storytelling.