Transmedia refers to a convergence of different media, technologies and culture that dynamically recreates and remediates each other and the ecosystem they reside in. In other words, the changes that each new media gives birth to, impacts people and the system that produced it, and by that very act of changing its ecosystem, it is also changing itself. Media — the means to communicate and socialise with the world — mediates the ones who use it, and by virtue of that act, is remediated as well.
What does this ‘convergence culture’ hold for the world of entertainment, advertising and marketing? It reinforces and validates the necessity of stories and the importance of how stories are told. A brand, product or service is faced with multiple and cross-media channels that they can utilise and leverage in the creation and telling of their stories. We’ve seen both good and bad practices of this. Some companies spread themselves thin by using all channels even if not all are relevant for the story they are telling. By the same token, others ignore the existence of newer media or don’t wish to invest in smaller conversations. Still others do all the story-telling, afraid to let consumers co-create the message. And of course there are still a lot who don’t really know what story to tell.
Henry Jenkins, director of Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT, cites ‘The Matrix’ as one example of many successful brand stories that began with a single film that branched out to three, and evolved into games, comics, fan fiction, and even became a cultural and iconinc reference for other films. There are lot more examples of successful transmedia stories, especially with the onset of social media, which has provided even greater impetus to share and co-create stories.
But according to Jenkins — and I wholeheartedly agree —what’s more exciting about the renewed passion for storytelling is not just the creative output yielded by the entertainment infrastructure, but transmedia’s radical potential in championing social justice and change. These two are not always mutually exclusive, but the need to highlight media’s role in social change is greater than ever.
Transmedia provides storytellers the tools to (re)create new images of their realities and express their stories in diverse forms. The bigger challenge, though, is that in this process of recreating stories, we must also make sure that the disenfranchised and the dispossessed are given the chance to tell their own. In this convergence culture, transmedia offers us the potential to create new stories and those should include the voices and images that were not heard or seen before in the time of more non-participatory media forms. This is the responsibility every storyteller faces amidst such technological developments. It is one I consider necessary for all media practitioners to undertake as we tread the charged terrain of our ever-changing media landscape.