Individual vs. Shared Participation in Transmedia Stories

Designers will need to deal with a broad range of issues when addressing the deceptively simple question of whether the transmedia narrative focuses on individual versus shared participation. At one time, individual participation with a medium meant taking one’s book and retiring to a favorite spot, while shared participation involved joining group events or attending a performance at a theater. Now, however, the range of individual versus shared options is much larger. Individual participation may still involve retreating to a private spot with a book, but it could just as readily describe the behavior of a gamer playing alone or a transmedia narrative user reading and viewing elements of the narrative but not participating in any other way. Shared participation covers a similarly broad range, involving attendance at gatherings and performances in the real world, dropping in on assemblies in a virtual world, attending webinars and online conferences, or participating in a social media like Twitter or Facebook.

In looking at the question of individual versus shared participation, the designer needs to clearly think through why one approach versus the other should be used. Unless there is a compelling reason to use shared participation to advance the narrative or significantly improve the user’s level of engagement, designing for individual participation is probably better (see Points 4 and 5 about the limitations of shared participation and related time and location issues).

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