A Definition of Transmedia – Part 1

The emergence of a new field inevitably brings with it an argument about how to define it. The emegence of “transmedia narratives” has certainly provoked such an argument. In order to write about transmedia narratives, it is necessary to define what they are and are not. Let’s start with the transmedia definition by looking at the “transmedia” part of the term.

The term “transmedia practice” encompasses a variety of theories, concepts, methodologies, techniques, and tools drawn from transmedia storytelling (Jenkins, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, 2006), distributed narratives (Walker, 2004), cross-sited narratives (Ruppel, 2005), pervasive games (Montola, 2009), ubiquitous gaming (McGonigal, 2006), networked narrative environments (Zapp, 2004), superfiction (Hill, 2001), very distributed storytelling (Davenport, 1998), and augmented reality games (Szulborski, 2005).

“Transmedia” as a term is used in a number of research areas but describes different phenomena (Dena, Transmedia Practice: Theorizing the Practice of Expressing a Fictional World Across Distinct Media and Environments, 2009, p. 16). For this thesis, the terms “transmedia” and “transmedial” use the definition provided by Werner Wolf:

Transmedia phenomena are phenomena that are non-specific to individual media. (Wolf, 2005)

Carol Handler Miller notes that because the field is so new, a number of different names, including “multiplatforming”, “cross-media producing”, and “integrated media” have been used to describe what she calls transmedia. Miller adds that no matter what the terminology, transmedia works adhere to the same principles (Miller, 2008, p. 151):

  • The project exists over more than a single medium.
  • It is at least partially interactive.
  • The different components are used to expand the core material.
  • The components are closely integrated.

Miller specifically states that transmedia productions “must combine at least two media (Miller, 2008, p. 151). This is the definition of “transmedia” that I will use.

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Books Mentioned

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References

Davenport, G. (1998). Very Distributed Media Stories: Presence, Time, Imagination. Proceedings 4th International Euro-Par Conference on Parallel Processing , pp. 47-54.

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York, NY: New York University Press.

Hill, P. (2001). Superfictions: The Creation of Fictional Situations in International Contemporary Art Practice. PhD dissertation . RMIT.

Miller, C. H. (2008). Digital Storytelling: A Creator’s Guide to Interactive Entertainment (2nd Edition). Amsterdam: Elsevier.

McGonigal, J. (2006). This Might Be a Game: Ubiquitous Play and Performance at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century. PhD dissertation . University of California.

Montola, M. (2009). Games and Pervasive Games. In J. S. Markus Montola, Pervasive Games: Theory and Design (pp. 7-23). San Francisco, CA: Elsevier Science & Technology.

Ruppel, M. (2005, November 22). Learning to Speak Braille: Convergence, Divergence and Cross-Sited Narratives. Paper presented at PhD Qualifying Exam presentation . Maryland, USA.

Szulborski, D. (2005). This Is Not a Game: A Guide to Alternate Reality Gaming. New-Fiction Publishing.

Walker, J. (2004). Distributed Narrative: Telling Stories Across Networks. Internet Research Annual , pp. 91-103.

Wolf, W. (2005). Intermediality. In D. Herman, M. Jahn, & M.-L. Ryan, Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory (pp. 252-253). Oxfordshire: Routledge.

Zapp, A. (2004). ‘A Fracture in Reality’: Networked Narratives as Imaginary Fields of Action. Networked Narrative Environments: As Imaginary Spaces of Being , pp. 62-81.

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