Creating Transmedia Narratives: The Structure & Design of Stories Told Across Multiple Media

This copy of my thesis on transmedia storytelling is on Slideshare. You can download a copy from there or by clicking this link.


The Structure and Design of Stories Told Across Multiple Media

Transmedia narratives are a rapidly emerging form of communication in which stories are told across multiple media. Transmedia narratives are being developed for a wide variety of applications including entertainment, education, marketing, advertising, organizational change, and activism. The integration of several different media into a cohesive and coherent narrative is a major challenge for the creators of transmedia narrative. Among those challenges are keeping readers/viewers interested in a narrative scattered across multiple media and providing a comprehensive framework to guide transmedia project design and development teams.

The research question of this thesis focuses on how transmedia narrative designers and developers can tell effective stories across multiple media. An effective transmedia narrative is more than a collection of story elements or stories scattered across a number of different media and the process of creating them is a relatively uncharted area.

Six online projects that use transmedia techniques were reviewed in order to develop a list of questions that identified key areas of transmedia narrative design. This preliminary list of questions was used to develop a framework for transmedia narrative design. Concept mapping–a graphical tool used to organize and represent knowledge–was employed to identify the concepts embedded within the questions and the relationships between those concepts and develop a hierarchical structure of transmedia concepts and their associated properties. The final round of data collection consisted of a set of online interviews with three professionals experienced in the creation of transmedia narratives. They were asked to review these materials and provide feedback that was used to validate the set of concepts identified and determine if the design-related questions sufficient for creating a transmedia narrative design framework.

This thesis develops an ontology for transmedia narrative design that defines the objects, entities, and concepts and their interrelationships. This ontology provides a framework that links together the diverse elements of narrative, user engagement, and interaction design. The ontology provides a common set of concepts and interrelationships that will allow the members of a multi-disciplinary team to “speak a common language” while working on various aspects of transmedia narrative design and development.

A four-level process (transmedia project, storyworld, story, and scene/sequence levels) is also developed to document the steps involved in designing a transmedia narrative. The four-level process provides a structured framework that will help teams standardize their design and development approaches to transmedia narrative projects. This should help improve quality and efficiency and reduce costs associated with the development of transmedia projects.

A comprehensive set of key design questions, when used in conjunction with the four-level process identified, provides a detailed framework for the design of transmedia narratives.