Transmedia storytelling (also known as transmedia narrative or multiplatform storytelling) is the technique of telling a single story or story experience across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies. It is not to be confused with traditional cross-platform media franchises,sequels or adaptations.
From a production standpoint, it involves creating content that engages an audience using various techniques to permeate their daily lives. In order to achieve this engagement, a transmedia production will develop stories across multiple forms of media in order to deliver unique pieces of content in each channel. Importantly, these pieces of content are not only linked together (overtly or subtly), but are in narrative synchronization with each other.
By the 1970s and 1980s, pioneering artists of telematic art made experiments of collective narrative, mixing the ancestors of today's networks, and produced both visions and critical theories of what became transmedia. With the advent of mainstream Internet usage in the 1990s, numerous creators began to explore ways to tell stories and entertain audiences using new platforms. Many early examples took the form of what was to become known as alternate reality games (ARG), which took place in real-time with a mass audience. The term ARG was itself coined in 2001 to describe The Beast, a marketing campaign for the film A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. Some early works include, but are not limited to:
- Ong's Hat was most likely started sometime around 1993, and also included most of the aforementioned design principles. Ong's Hat also incorporated elements of legend tripping into its design, as chronicled in a scholarly work titled "Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong's Hat". Some scholars disagree on the classification of the Ong's Hat story, ARG versus Legend Tripping.
- Dreadnot, an early example of an ARG-style project, was published on sfgate.com in 1996. This ARG included working voice mail phone numbers for characters, clues in the source code, character email addresses, off-site websites, and real locations in San Francisco.
- FreakyLinks (link to archived project at end of article), 2000
- The Blair Witch Project - feature film, 1999
- On Line - feature film, 2001
- The Beast - game, 2001
- Majestic - video game, 2001
Many franchises have adopted this method to further enhance their products. Pokémon is a prime example of this. The franchise spans several different media platforms from a card game to a TV series, with movies, action figures, stuffed animals, merchandise, electronics, and video games all in between. It is all encompassed by one universal story that the participant takes part in. With the transmedia storytelling they are able to fully immerse themselves in the narrative on several different levels.
Recently the Macaulay Honors College in New York, part of CUNY established a New Media Lab focusing on Transmedia Storytelling and content. The lab is under the direction of Robert Small an established filmmaker and television producer. The New Media Lab operates out of NYC.
As of 2011, both traditional and dedicated transmedia entertainment studios are beginning to embrace transmedia storytelling techniques in search of a new storytelling form that is native to networked digital content and communication channels. Developing technologies have enabled projects to now begin to include single-player experiences in addition to real-time multiplayer experiences such as alternate reality games. While the list of current and recent projects is too extensive to list here, some notable examples of transmedia storytelling include:
- Copiii: The First Entry, a transmedia project directed by Gustavo Cooper.
- Conspiracy 365, a transmedia/multiplatform experience for The Movie Network TV in Australia.
- Slide, a native transmedia experience for Fox8 TV in Australia.
- Dirty Work, an interactive web series by Fourth Wall Studios.
- Skins, a transmedia extension of the Channel 4/Company Pictures TV show by Somethin' Else in the UK.
- Cathy's Book, a transmedia novel by Sean Stewart and Jordan Weisman.
- "Personal Effects: Dark Art", a transmedia project by JC Hutchins.
- Year Zero, a transmedia project by Nine Inch Nails.
- ReGenesis, a Canadian television series with a real-time transmedia (alternate reality game) extension that took place in sync with the episodes as they aired.
- The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a web series adaptation of Pride and Prejudice with Twitter and Tumblr accounts.
- Pandemic, an independent film and event created by Lance Weiler.
- MyMusic, transmedia sitcom by Fine Brothers Productions as part of YouTube's original channels initiative, one of the more robust transmedia experiences.
- Clockwork watch, an independent project, about a non-colonial Steampunk world, told across graphic novels, live events, online and a feature film created by Yomi Ayeni.
- ZED.TO, a crowdfunded Canadian ARG that simulates the rise and fall of a futuristic Toronto "lifestyle biotech" corporation.
- Wakfu, a MMORPG, an animated series and a trading card game by Ankama Games.
- Fallen Nation, a transmedia setting that currently includes 2 books, 1 graphic novel, and a collection of audio albums and audio theater released in podcast format.
- Defiance, a television show and video game paired to tell connective and separate stories.
- Assassin's Creed
In 'Digital State: How the internet is changing everything' (2013), author Simon Pont argues that transmedia storytelling is a theory that is at last starting to find its practical stride. Pont cites Ridley Scott's Alien prequel Prometheus (2012), and specifically the three viral films produced by 20th Century Fox as part of the advance global marketing campaign, as vivid executional examples of transmedia storytelling theory.
Where Robert McKee (Story, 1998) argues that back-story is a waste of time (because if the back-story is so good then this is surely the story worth telling), Pont proposes that storytellers like J. J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof have “pretty much lined McKee’s argument up against a wall and shot it”. Pont goes on to argue, “Parallel and non-linear timelines, ‘multi-verses’, grand narratives with crazy-rich character arcs, ‘back-story’ has become ‘more story’, the opportunity to add Byzantine layers of meaning and depth. You don’t create a story world by stripping away, but by layering”.
In 'Ball & Flint: transmedia in 90 seconds' (2013), Pont likens transmedia story-telling to "throwing a piece of flint at an old stone wall" and "delighting in the ricochet", making story something you can now "be hit by and cut by".
- ^ Jenkins, Henry (August 1, 2011). "Transmedia 202: Further Reflections". Confessions of an AcaFan.
- ^ Pratten, Robert (2011). Getting Started in Transmedia Storytelling: A Practical Guide for Beginners (Paperback). London, UK: CreateSpace. p. 106. ISBN 978-1-4565-6468-1.
- ^ Bernardo, Nuno (2011). The Producers Guide to Transmedia: How to Develop, Fund, Produce and Distribute Compelling Stories Across Multiple Platforms (Paperback). London, UK: beActive Books. p. 153. ISBN 978-0-9567500-0-6.
- ^ Kinsella,Michael. Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat University Press of Mississippi, 2011
- ^ "Dreadnot". SFGate. Archived from the original on 2000-02-29.
- ^ Pont, S. “Digital State: How the Internet is Changing Everything” (2013) Kogan Page 978-0749468859.
- ^ 'Ball & Flint: transmedia explained in 90 seconds' (2013) Simon Pont
- ^ a b c Jenkins, H. “Transmedia Storytelling and Entertainment: An Annotated Syllabus”, Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 24:6, 943-958 2010.
- ^ Wilson, M. E. (2004). Teaching, learning, and millennial students. New directions for student services (106). Summer 2004.
- ^ Warren, S., Wakefield, J.S., and Mills, L. “Learning and Teaching as Communicative Actions: Transmedia Storytelling, “in Laura A. Wankel, Patrick Blessinger (ed.) Increasing Student Engagement and Retention using Multimedia Technologies: Video Annotation, Multimedia Applications, Videoconferencing and Transmedia Storytelling (Cutting-edge Technologies in Higher Education, Volume 6), 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.67-94
- ^ Teske, Paul R. J. and Horstman, Theresa. "Transmedia in the classroom: breaking the fourth wall." Paper presented at the meeting of the MindTrek, 2012.
- ^ Pont, S. “The Better Mousetrap: Brand Invention in a Media Democracy” (2013) Kogan Page 978-0749466213.
- Azemard, Ghislaine (2013), 100 notions for crossmedia and transmedia, éditions de l’immatériel, p. 228
- Pont, Simon (2012) “The Better Mousetrap: Brand Invention in a Media Democracy”. Kogan Page. ISBN 978-0749466213
- Pont, Simon (2013) “Digital State: How the Internet is Changing Everything”. Kogan Page. ISBN 978-0749468859