Spellbinding- The Magic of Transmedia Storytelling

One can only dream

Our dreams may not be so farfetched with transmedia storytelling

The day of the 20th March 2005 was awaited with eager anticipation. My 11th birthday. The preceding night passed slowly as time ticked by to the beat of a recurring dream. Over and over I would run down to the mailbox, wrench open the lid and there it would be- my acceptance letter, the wax Hogwarts insignia sealing my fate. Come September my life as a witch would begin. Gryffindor, quidditch and Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans awaited me.  Alas, 8 years later that letter must still be lost in transit.

Humans have an interest in fiction that spans the ages. As American philosopher Henry David Thoreau said- “the world is but a canvas to the imagination”. Fiction provides an alternate reality, a world without restrictions that are imposed by the real world. The introduction of the arts, including theatre and cinema, provided a conduit for this imagination. However the growth of transmedia storytelling, defined in Transmedia 101 as “telling MUTLIPLE stories over MULTIPLE mediums that fit together to tell ONE story” is meaning that traditional art forms, such as cinema, no longer solely provide the ‘ultimate’ fiction experience. Jenkins explains that modern media companies are becoming “horizontally integrated”, expanding their franchises across a multitude of mediums (e.g. video games, comic books, interactive websites) to create an experience that is “unified and coordinated”.

Feeding human desire for fantasy with “encyclopaedic ambitions”, transmedia storytelling fleshes out a fictional world to its maximum potential. Recently the popular teen novel trilogy the Hunger Games has started to follow this trend.

A partnership between Lionsgate and Microsoft has resulted in the creation of the Hunger Games Explorer– an interactive browser created as “not only a place for fans to spark conversation around Catching Fire (the second film instalment in the trilogy), it is also a destination for us to continue to provide fans with new content, experiences and unprecedented behind the scenes access” as Danielle DePalma, senior vice president of Lionsgate digital marketing states.

It can be seen that transmedia storytelling is encapsulating many of the components of a convergent society, allowing dialogic flow of content across multiple mediums and the active participation of  ‘prosumers’.

Transmedia storytelling is complementing a world of constant connectivity. Although devastated to not receive my acceptance letter, my Harry Potter fixation is fed by other means- the computer and board game, lego set, and recently by the online addition of the interactive website Pottermore. As long our dreams continue to be fulfilled by this wholesome approach to fiction, transmedia storytelling will always hold an important place in society. As famous fiction author George G.R. Martin says – “We read fantasy to find the colours again”. What started as one colour has blossomed into a rainbow.  

Picture sourced from http://www.orlandounited.com/forums/showthread.php?4613-quot-You-re-a-Wizard-People!-quot-Pt-1-(Ep-8-WWoHP) (edited by Stephanie Allman)

Snap, Click and Share- A Drop in the Ocean of Content

A pang of nostalgia is felt when one considers the evolution of the camera. Gone are the days where a jar of hard-earned pennies was cracked open to buy ONE precious Evolution of the Cameraroll of camera film. The ensuing months were defined by a harsh selection process, only those golden moments were admitted to the red carpet roll, an exclusive VIP list devoted to the ‘top shots’. The result? Memories, locked in time, to be placed in a photo album and left to collect dust as the years progressed.

One of the greatest ongoing evolutions of today’s convergent society is the shift from locked to generative platforms. Locked platforms, just like the cameras that used film, could be compared to an autocratic system. Producers dictated how, where, and when the platform could be used and with what limitations.

When we consider the capabilities of modern cameras, it’s easy to see the dramatic change in this ideology.

Smart cameras, just like the smart phone, have evolved to be “bigger than the sum of their parts”, facilitating instant editing and global sharing of those ‘Kodak moments’.  The camera has become a generative platform, empowering users by allowing active engagement.

Furthermore, a democratic technological society has been created as consumers are able to mould the platform to suit their individual needs.

For example, Twitter’s original purpose was to simply share “the momentous and the mundane”, as Evan William’s (co-founder) points out in Ted Talks. Unforseen were its further uses in business, politics and news broadcasting that evolved in reaction to consumer needs. Users also shaped their own way of replying to each other, inventing the integral @ symbol.  In the same way Pinterest, initially an image sharing social network, now accommodates marketing, educational, political and charitable practices as consumers ‘pin’ relevant material from around the web to form boards tailored to their personal needs.

These new generative platforms are flexible and adaptable, allowing individual personalisation and, as seen with smart cameras, constant connectivity.

However, constant connectivity has transported the image from an exclusive red carpet into a sweatshop of mass production. As Clay Shirky points out in an interview on The Communicators, we are “constantly online”- 3, 000 photos are uploaded to Facebook every second. Has the shift to generative platforms reduced the overall quality of content or just made it harder to find? Perhaps it is this vast increase in content that has catalysed the creation of platforms such as Pinterest in an attempt to navigate the chaos of the internet.  Within this chaos, the nostalgic simplicity of the old camera can be oddly comforting.

Picture sourced from http://blog.lafraise.com/en/tag/the-evolution-of-camera/