Recently, I was sitting on a lovely veranda enjoying some Okanagan wine and talking to my friend Bill Weaver about Transmedia and digital storytelling and I thought how exciting this new frontier is, where there is the convergence of story, digital media and traditional art forms. Along this same topic, I am also reading Henry Jenkins thesis The Cultural Logic of Media Convergence which is taking me quite a while to digest because it is incredibly rich with complex and fascinating content. Jenkins also wrote the book Convergence Culture and is likely the world’s leading specialist on Transmedia along with Christy Dena and only a handful of others.
The exciting opportunity of Transmedia is not only that it allows for a richer audience experience or user experience, it enriches the narrative in a way that allows for immersion and this I believe is the key differentiator between Transmedia and tradational media.
On his blog, Jenkins provides what I think is an excellent definition of Transmedia:
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 it ownunique contribution to the unfolding of the story.
Transmedia is the digital theatre of our time.
When I was an undergrad, I studied theatre direction with the Phoenix Theatre, at the University of Victoria. It was an amazing time to be there under the tutelage of Alan Hughes who was our Dean and who was in my mind, one of my most influential creative forces of my life. He pushed us to be innovative in telling stories–we never settled as theatre directors for simple proscenium delivery–our directing scenes were competitively creative and we sought to deliver an experience for the audience that would bring them into the story as much as possible. I remember one young director who used a dark stairwell as the setting for the infamous sword fight in Romeo and Juliet. It was immersive, dangerous, participatory and breathtaking.
Taking this idea of immersion further, we can deliver entertainment and story using film, photography, text, animation, gaming, social media, and traditional media to weave together a narrative that reaches all the senses and allows the viewer to become, in fact, part of the story. To stand in the stairwell so to speak, and immerse themselves right into the story.
In the future, our experiences of art will likely all have some Transmedia component, which we already see happening with music everywhere. As each of us become more adept at publishing on various platforms, so too will we be able to create our own ‘story-worlds’ and share them with one another. Google + is already all over this–we are our own curators of narrative, deftly offering film, photos, text, content every day to those who are in our digital world.
We are all actors, directors, writers, creators and to what degree our ability to converge these digital narratives and elevate everyday expression to the level of art will depend on our skill at producing digital theatre with an immersive, participatory experience that can transform the person who is consuming it.