I realize as I delve more into Transmedia research that I’ve been practicing Transmedia in my head all my life. When I was growing up, I was simply obsessed with writing, directing, and acting in plays. I made my two neighbours, John and Neil, dress up as cowboys, Broadway dancers, thieves, and even women–we had a small cast, we had to make do, what can I say? Both of them went on to be actors at Stratford and I like to think their early experiences on West 11th had something to do with that.
I went on to a career in theatre as well, and during those years worked on classic plays like Death of a Salesman, but also had the chance to work on a lot of young playwright’s work who used images projected onto scrims, lighting, film, and sound design in ways that had never been thought of before and I was spellbound as the 3D quality of the story came alive. It seemed to reflect what was already in my mind’s eye, a multi-layered approach to storytelling that put the audience into the heart of the story, to hear, smell, feel, and watch the playwright’s words morph into the character’s world, with the audience no longer beyond the 4th wall but rather, within the drama, the story and participating in it.
This is Transmedia to me. Storytelling that engages the senses, brings you into the world of the narrative through many doors, at many different entry points along the narrative, using mulit-media on multiple channels that give you a depth of experience that goes beyond entertainment, leaving you with the feeling that you have been a part of the creation of the story in some way. So in essence, it should be co-creative, while feeling personally relevant.
I think the fact that there is a conference called Storyworld is testament to the power of storytelling and how it has gone into overdrive as we cross over from the stage to the ether of online and globally shared experiences; from experiences that were once regional, produced by a small handful of practitioners that told transformational stories in a theatre, shared by 100 people, to micro-stories being shared by 100,000 million or in Facebook’s case, 500,000 million.
Cross media, digital narrative, experiential branding all come together under Transmedia. One such online experimemt is Conspiracy for Good by Nokia. It is described by its creator, Tim Kring, as ‘Social Benefit Storytelling.’ Of course, the budget of this kind of multi-platform production is stunning, but I love the double-duty of the campaign in that it actualized some truly social goodness. Well done. There’s just so much good that can be done with leveraging Transmedia campaigns for important social causes, I hope Nokia is an example other large corporations follow.
As an instructor, I am always looking for innovative ways to communicate with the digital natives in my classroom and one way is to try to keep the social media channels healthy and alive between us. One educator that is using Transmedia storytelling in the classroom is Laura Fleming. In a recent blog post, she posits that you should “create a learning culture through story that allows students to feel invested in the curricular content.” So cool! She also goes on to talk about experiential education and learning beyond the borders of the traditional classroom and that when students are “…invested in the narrative they are, the closer they will feel to the content.” Yes! Love it, what a genius educator and one to watch on the Transmedia front for sure. I know I will be reading everything she writes and hopefully bringing some of it into the classroom.
If you want to immerse yourself in Transmedia awesomeness, just check out the SXSW Interactive Award Winners, because these will (hopefully) knock your digital socks off. I especially adore the project The Tiziano Project | 360° Kurdistan because it is storytelling for awareness, and is a gold-standard for activism which is what it won for. Pour some tea, sit down, and immerse yourself into this story and I think you’ll see how story-activism can be a powerful catalyst.
Another winner, I think should be for cool, but was for Art, is the Johnny Cash Project. Participatory, elegantly sparse, packed full of emotion, with a gritty underbelly of heartbreak and sorrow. True Cash style. Watch the community created video and be inspired. For a really long time.
So, that’s my thinking on Transmedia. I am excited to see how it grows and I am saving my dollars for some equipment that is going to allow me to mobilize my stories to many more platforms. Stay tuned.