Mar 19

Transmedia storytelling

Category: Linux,Screenwriting   — Published by tengo on March 19, 2012 at 2:07 pm

While reading David Bordwell's blog, I came across a post (about Obama's campaign being a narration) that relit my interest in a topic that I am from time to time investigating into: transmedia storytelling. As it appears, transmedia storytelling (ts) is the latest hype in the industry, as it caters to the business aspects of the film and entertainment industry, and besides the fact that ts opens up new channels to generate revenue, it is also an interesting technique, or more a state-of-mind that you can take when telling your stories. But let's start from the beginning:

If you dive into the excellent Storytelling branch on Wikipedia, you will also find an article that covers the fascinating approach to storytelling that is Transmedia Storytelling. The basic idea behind ts is that instead of creating a single original text (text here is a source, which can be an actual text or a film, a video game, etc.) you create a patchwork of sources that help to tell the kernel of your story via diverse media, to diverse audiences (i.e. a children's book vs. a novel) in different ways. Besides extending the limits of your narration drastically, the approach of ts will lead to a more completely immersed audience, your listeners (viewers, gamers) will be able to more actively participate in the experiences created by your narration's environment and in an ideal situation will be invited (and inclined) to not only become truly active elements in the perception of your narration (like co-authors) but also actively extrapolate your narration, by means of writing fan fiction, doing fan art or participating in online communities and fan pages on the Internet.

Actually, looking at the books already published on the topic, there seems to be confusion about what transmedia storytelling actually is and for what the term "transmedia storytelling" should be used - at least in Germany. A brand new book (2007) by Nicole Mahne is titled Transmediale Erzähltheorie (Transmedia Narratology). Quite a match, but a glimpse inside reveals that the book just tells us about narratology in various media, like comics, film and texts. The book tells us little about a unified approach which tries to serve all these "channels" at once, the idea of transmedia storytelling as a concept.

Another problem is to distiguish between transmedia storytelling as a unique artform, an approach of its own - and transmedia storytelling as a marketing necessity. Today, you will barely find a major studio film that does not leak it's marketing, franchise and merchandise into many channels at once. The latest Disney aniamted feature will lead to toys sold at Toys'R'Us and McDonald's, a slew of comic-book adaptations, stuffed animals  and broadway musical adaptations. Every major action flick will get a novelization, action figures and even a TV series in some cases - all to proof that the 80s idea of High Concept is alive and kickin'. Diversified products (not so much transmedia storytelling here) as the secret weapon in a world where the Box-Office gross of the first few weekends is important to refinance the show, just before DVD bootlegs and pirated downloads begin to rain in, the last chance to get money back. You can't rely on the long tail of foreign sales, DVD aftermarket and TV sales alone.

book in wikipedia article

links in wikipedia article

Related reading:


  • Mahne, Nicole: Transmediale Erzähltheorie
  • Mahne, Nicole: Mediale Bedingungen des Erzählens im digitalen Raum