Jun 13

Print this Post

What is Transmedia Storytelling?

What is Transmedia Storytelling?  Well, first you might want to check out this video by Henry Jenkins, the Provost's Professor of Communication, Journalism and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, to find out what “Transmedia” is…


Transmedia Storytelling means different things to different people…so much so that the term's use is now murky and even contradictory.   One blogger (who was fed up with all the confusion) made a list of all the definitions he could find.  You can view his enlightening post here.  And it you need some additional insight on the headaches this is causing, here's another post you might want to read.

Why is defining this word so difficult?  The term first appeared in Transmedia Storytelling, an article written for MIT’s Technology Review, by Henry Jenkins:

This past month, I attended a gathering of top creatives from Hollywood and the games industry, hosted by Electronic Arts; they were discussing how to collaboratively develop content that would play well across media. This meeting reflected a growing realization within the media industries that what is variously called transmedia, multiplatform, or enhanced storytelling represents the future of entertainment.

This is one of the best definitions of all the definitions presently on the internet, and clearly shows the nuances of it's meaning with tables and charts.  With so much overlap, you can see why a single definition is elusive; especially when that word means different things to advertisers, storytellers, and consumers…

Transmedia is…

  • a media project comprised of multiple media formats
  • distributed on multiple platforms (and where)
  • the platforms interact with each other in a complex relationship

…in order to create a larger and more complete whole.

Essentially, Transmedia storytelling is the presentation of a story across multiple forms of media that do not need to rely on each other to tell the story. But a person who wants to understand the deeper nuances of the story…can search out the different media to achieve a richer experience.

Why we need a transmedia standard…

When you can’t agree on what it is you are talking about, communication is impossible.  As transmedia creator, Kevin Shocky clearly explains…we need a standard because:

  1. Nearly everyone admits this is nothing new, but still, the debate on what transmedia IS will not die down. This dissent points to fundamental disagreements. Disagreements that need resolution.
  2. Most of the conferences and speeches on transmedia are still centered on individual perspectives on what transmedia IS. 
  3. While process oriented documentation and speeches are beginning to emerge, they are still the minority and vary wildly in depth and scope.
  4. Since Dr. Henry Jenkins' call to action in the Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, there has been little progress and sparse adoption of the fundamental elements of transmedia.
  5. Very little scholarly research has been written since Jenkins' CC was published.


Until an agreement is reached about the definition of what transmedia, and transmedia storytelling really is…a definition of transmedia will be the new transmedia.

Next post…why transmedia storytelling is important, and what it has to do with anthropology.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Permanent link to this article: http://peterusagi.com/2011/06/13/what-is-transmedia-storytelling/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>