Understand what Transmedia Storytelling is

A mobile app is launched from a video game created from a movie adapted from a book… Well, this could sum up what Transmedia Storytelling is. Already lost? Don’t worry, I will explain the term in more depth. But first, let me introduce you to its inventor, Henry Jenkins.

Henry who?

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Henry Jenkins is the Provost’s Professor of Communication, Journalism and Cinematic Arts at the U.S.C. (wait a minute… at the University of the Sunshine Coast? Try again! U.S.C. is for ‘University of Southern California’… and for those who are struggling with the word ‘Provost’ and think there is any connection with Frank Provost’s hair salons, please forget it, it just means ‘a university administrator of high rank’). Let’s move on. Before teaching, he was the Director of the M.I.T. Comparative Media Studies Program. He has also written and edited a dozen books dealing with various features of media and popular culture.

Definition of Transmedia Storytelling

Here is how Henry Jenkins defines Transmedia Storytelling and here is how I understand the concept:

Transmedia Storytelling is a technique in which several parts of a fiction are told across a range of media platforms.

A bit further on ‘Transmedia’

In his definition of Transmedia Storytelling, Henry Jenkins goes a bit further and specifies that ‘ideally, each medium makes its own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story.’ Thus, each piece and each platform are essential and add richness to the overall story, like a puzzle. Easy, right?

N.B. Do not confuse with Crossmedia, which presents only a single aspect of a story across several communication channels.

Kind of media platforms

As mentioned above, Transmedia Storytelling uses a multitude of media platforms: audio (music), visual (comics, artwork), audiovisual (films, TV shows), interactive (social media), gaming (video games, mobile apps), literary (novels, comics) and tactile (directives). Through these communication channels, the audience is truly involved and can contribute to the story.

Principles of Transmedia Storytelling

Still according to Henry Jenkins, there are several principles of Transmedia Storytelling. To sum them up:

  • Spreadability: an active distribution of a story through social media;
  • Drillability: a deep penetration of a story into the target public;
  • Continuity: maintaining the coherence of a story;
  • Multiplicity: keeping a coherence through various story pieces;
  • Immersion: when the audience truly enters into the world of the story told;
  • Extractability: bringing elements out of that world to the audience’s real life;
  • Worldbuilding: providing details so that the audience can believe in the story;
  • Seriality: dispersing a story across multiple media;
  • Subjectivity: when a story is given through the views of several characters;
  • Performance: giving to the audience the opportunity to contribute to the story.

So, I hope you have now a good understanding of what Transmedia Storytelling is.

Any thoughts or questions? Please share in the comments.

Coming soon: Why companies should use Transmedia Storytelling?


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