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What Is Transmedia?

The Dark Knight. Lost. A.I. Nine Inch Nails. The Matrix. These are all examples of Transmedia Storytelling. Not sure how they’re all related? Keep reading.

According to Henry Jenkins, he describes Transmedia storytelling as, “the technique of telling a single story or story experience across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies.” 

This is not the same as branding or franchising (having toys, t-shirts made, etc). This is also not the same as having one story told again in another medium (The Harry Potter books turned into films).

There are typically two kinds of Transmedia stories: One story that is told over multiple platforms (The Lost Franchise that had a television show and books published that were intertwined, or the Matrix movies and their animated counterparts) and taking the story from one interpretation (movies, comic books, games, etc.) and adding in other media to expand the world that was created (the Marvel universe that has stories across multiple platforms).

World building is an extremely important aspect of Transmedia, as that is what typically holds the experience together,  along with great story telling.

Most of the time, Transmedia stories  cover one or more of these aspects: 

  1. Extends backstory
  2. Maps out the World
  3. Provides a perspective from different characters
  4. Deepens audience engagement and connection with the story

Not every media platform should necessarily be used. According to Tom Ellard, “Transmedia really should be thought of as using the right tool for the job.” 

When looking into Transmedia for the first time, the amount of resources and moving parts to this form of storytelling can feel overwhelming. It can be hard to know where to start and how to wrap your head around this sometimes complex idea. However, there are many inspiring projects that have been created that you may not have even caught onto or maybe even have been a part of yourself. Here are some resources to keep learning and some inspiring examples below.

Why So Serious: Dark Knight

An immersive alternate reality experience leading up to the release of Dark Knight that had fans running all over different cities searching for clues, including ordering a cake from a bakery that actually had a ringing cellphone in it.

Year Zero: Nine Inch Nails

An alternate reality game created leading up to the release of the high concept album Year Zero: a world full of war and environmental catastrophe. Clues were left for fans to follow and discover one piece of the story after another. 

The Beast: A.I. (Directed by Steven Spielberg) 

Another alternate reality game hidden in the details of movie posters where fans followed fictional Jeanine and her investigation of a string of murdered humans and artificial intelligences.

Resource One        Resource Two       Resource Three   

Have you seen/been a part of any Transmedia projects? Would you like to learn more about this topic?

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