What is a Transmedia Narrative? (Part 3 – Defining “Transmedia Narrative”)

The definition of “transmedia narrative” is still being hotly debated, with some defining it as a single story told across multiple media platforms, while others see it as many stories based in a single “story world” being told on multiple media platforms (Clarke, 2011).

Adding to the confusions is a proliferation of terms that describe many of the same elements that characterize a transmedia narrative. These terms include multi-platform storytelling, interactive storytelling, cross-platform, deep media, cross-media, multi-platform, genre-mash, new media storytelling, reading mashups, chaotic reading, format independent, immersive games, collaborative fiction, hybrid, media enhancements, participatory media… are all worlds associated with the multi-platform world (Lamb & Johnson, n.d.).

A broad definition of “transmedia narrative” is the “process of conveying messages, themes, or storylines to a mass audience through the artful and well-planned use of multimedia platforms” (Gomez, 2011). The term “transmedia storytelling” has been used synonymously with “transmedia narrative”. Henry Jenkins states that “transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally, each medium makes its own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story” (Fahle, 2011). Another definition of “transmedia storytelling” requires a story that can be told in a way that seamlessly blends technology and story (Krozser, 2010).

The number of stories told in a project involving multiple media has been used as the basis for some definitions of what constitutes a transmedia narrative. For example, the terms “multimedia”, “crossmedia”, and “transmedia” have been defined as (Holme, 2011):

  • Multimedia – a single story is told using different media, with the core narrative being supported by story elements spread across several types of media.
  • Crossmedia – a single story interpreted independently in different media.
  • Transmedia – multiple stories set in a single universe (or storyworld), with different stories being told via different media.

The Producers Guild of America (PGA) defines a transmedia narrative based on the number of narrative storylines the project involves:

A Transmedia Narrative project or franchise must consist of three (or more) narrative storylines existing within the same fictional universe on any of the following platforms: Film, Television, Short Film, Broadband, Publishing, Comics, Animation, Mobile, Special Venues, DVD/Blu-ray/CD-ROM, Narrative Commercial and Marketing rollouts, and other technologies that may or may not currently exist. These narrative extensions are NOT the same as repurposing material from one platform to be cut or repurposed to different platforms. (Kinke, 2011)

Transmedia narratives have been categorized as two fundamental types — intracompositional, which are works that use multiple media to create a single story, and intercompositional, which are works that create interrelationships between multiple narratives across multiple media (Dena, Transmedia Practice: Theorizing the Practice of Expressing a Fictional World Across Distinct Media and Environments, 2009, pp. 97-98).

I define a “transmedia narrative” relatively broadly as any intracompositional or intercompositional works that have one or more stories set in a single “storyworld” and told via at least two different media. In other words, when I’m talking about transmedia narratives, they consist of:

  • One or more stories
  • One storyworld
  • Two or more different media

This definition was deliberately developed so it is the broadest possible interpretation of what makes up this emerging artform. From this point forward, I’ll be talking about how to design transmedia narratives rather than arguing over what they are.

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References

Clarke, R. (2011, March 22). What’s Transmedia? Retrieved July 10, 2011, from Storify: http://storify.com/rachelclarkef1/whats-transmedia

Dena, C. (2009). Transmedia Practice: Theorizing the Practice of Expressing a Fictional World Across Distinct Media and Environments. PhD disseration . Sydney, Australia: University of Sydney.

Fahle, R. (2011, July 11). Are You Ready for the Transmedia Revolution? Retrieved July 12, 2011, from Video-Commerce.org: http://video-commerce.org/2011/07/are-you-ready-for-the-transmedia-revolution/

Gomez, J. (2011, February 22). Storyworlds: The New Transmedia Business Paradigm. Retrieved July 10, 2011, from Tools of Change for Publishing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81Ol6Tbjt5k&feature=player_embedded

Holme, P. (2011, April 17). The Differences Between Multimedia, Crossmedia, and Transmedia, Somewhat Explained. Retrieved July 10, 2011, from Tools of Change for Publishing: http://reasonpartners.com/2011/04/17/the-differences-between-multimedia-crossmedia-and-transmedia-somewhat-explained/

Kinke, N. (2011, April 5). Producers Guild Of America Agrees On New Credit: “Transmedia Producer”. Retrieved June 18, 2011, from Deadline|Hollywood: http://www.deadline.com/2010/04/producers-guild-of-america-vote-on-creation-of-new-credit-transmedia-producer/

Krozser, K. (2010, March 30). Thoughts on Transmedia Storytelling, or, Is It Right for Every Story? Retrieved July 7, 2011, from BookSquare: http://booksquare.com/thoughts-on-transmedia-storytelling-or-is-it-right-for-every-story/

Lamb, A., & Johnson, L. (n.d.). Fluid Environments for Life-Long Learning. Retrieved September 3, 2011, from Lamb Learning Group: http://eduscapes.com/fluid/index.html

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