Transmedia: Composing Symphanies of Narrative

30 07 2009

Once upon a time, storytellers tended to limit their craft to one medium such as a book or a film. If their stories underwent a “transmedia” transformation – if a novel were turned into a movie or a movie turned into a novel – the new form simply repeated the story from the original medium. It did not extend the universe of the story, amplify sub-themes from the original work, or provide useful background on main or secondary characters. For most fans, the closer the “remake” clung to the original, the better.

But those days are coming to an end. Transmedia storytelling – using multiple media platforms to tell various parts of a large and complex story – is quickly gaining stature and credibility. The new form, pioneered by the Wachowski brothers through the Matrix series, often includes movies, video games, comic books, and animated features. Every medium tells its own part of the story while maintaining full fidelity to original “universe.”

Henry Jenkins, who popularized the term transmedia in his book Convergence Culture, notes that some stories can become too large for any individual to master.  To work properly, transmedia storytelling depends on a collective intelligence generated by the people who experience the stories (and even those who create them). That’s why the rise of the Internet, and particularly the host of Web 2.0 platforms, has been vital to the rise of the new narrative form.

Jeff Gomez, another pioneer of the form, explains the creative and economic elements of transmedia storytelling in the clip blow: