Transmedia means telling a story via several different media platforms.
However, this does not mean that the story is just ‘displaced’ from one platform to the next, such as simply adapting a novel into movie. True transmedia stories use each platform to add something new to the overall narrative, be it by offering background stories, changing the perspective on an event or character through different viewpoints, or continuing a story arch that was left off in another medium.
For example, Jeff Gomez likes to cite Star Wars as a great transmedia example: A multitude of characters and events within the grand narrative are explored not only through movies, but also through official (‘canon’) books, video games, graphic novels, and a TV show, amongst other things. And even 24 years after the release of the first installment of the saga, the Star Wars universe continues to expand, spanning several character generations and their worlds.
While the definitions of transmedia continue to vary, the one that I find most poignant is the one by Henry Jenkins:
“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 own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story.”
I couldn’t say it any better. What I would like to add, however, is this:
True transmedia narratives deliberately use the unique properties of each media platform to help the consumer experience the different parts and perspectives of a story in the most meaningful way possible.
None of the transmedia definitions I have read to date mentioned this at all, but I do think that such “platform potency” as I call it can be crucial for the success of a transmedia narrative. We know books are great at conveying feelings, thoughts, and motivations. Movies, on the other hand, are best at visualizing entire worlds, and at playing out scenes fueled by action, comedy, or drama. Computer games have the unique ability to bring the audience into the story, and to let them take part in the unfolding of a particular storyline. And so on. Now that we have such diverse media, choosing how to incorporate each platform into a transmedia narrative becomes a key element of the narrative’s entertainment value for consumers. To read more about what I mean, please click here.
If you’d like to dig even deeper into the mechanics and definitions of transmedia storytelling, why don’t you have a look at my online and offline reading list?