Blog Post #5

Going Boldly Where Everyone Has Gone Before (sorrynotsorry)

The originator of the term ‘transmedia storytelling,’ Henry Jenkins, writes that it “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” (Jenkins 2007). Transmedia works, then, either tell multiple stories or follow one narrative thread across different media in such a way that all fit into the same universe and honor continuity. One of the most discussed examples we find of this type of narrative is the universe of Star Trek. Through multiple TV series, movies, video games, books, and more, storylines are developed using the same sets of characters.

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In examining what what transmedia storytelling is, it could be helpful to examine what it is not. Transmedia narratives are a departure from traditional narratives which were typically only given through one medium and were encapsulated. Because of this, transmedia works are usually more interactive, since they contain many components and encourage participation from viewers/readers as they attempt to piece together all parts of the story. Transmedia narratives are also not crossmedia, since the latter type is involved with spreading the same message or story across various media as opposed to advancing or contributing to story lines. As Harvey writes, “In other words, licensed tie-in media do not constitute examples of transmedia storytellng because they can’t affect the core narrative from which they’re derived (Harvey 24). He complicates this, in part, by examining fan reaction to tie-in and crossmedia artifacts; if fans accept it these contributions, shouldn’t they be considered valid to a certain degree? Going back to Star Trek, we see all types of tie-in novels that are enjoyed by casual and die-hard fans alike, which means that perhaps novelizations of movies and TV shows can be just as welcome a part of the transmedia experience since they drive fan interaction and appreciation.

Ultimately, it’s this fan engagement that the creators of transmedial works seek, since without fans, they wouldn’t have required budgets and interest to continue their fictional universes. Keeping fans interested in transmedial works is easier said than done, however. Scott writes that “it is expected that transmedia storytellers will ‘lead’ their partners in this narrative dance across media platforms. But transmedia auteurs must also remember to treat their audience as their partner and, if they aren’t willing to let them lead, they should be wary of treading too frequently on their toes or interpretations” (Scott 50). So, creators and auteurs must provide clues and stories that fans want to decipher and engage with but at the same time cannot blatantly dissect every nuance, which will turn fans off. Star Trek, again, has done a fairly good job with this over its long run. Despite its many iterations, it retains a sense of freshness as fans pursue discussion and try to tie together various threads (just look at how populated conventions tend to be), while those currently at the helm of the franchise release information but never too much (rumors and info surrounding the upcoming Star Trek Discovery is a good example).

Works Cited:

Harvey, Colin. Fantastic Transmedia: Narrative, Play and Memory Across Science Fiction and Fantasy Storyworlds. Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

Jenkins, Henry. “Transmedia Storytelling 101.” Confessions of an Aca-Fan: The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins. 22 March 2007, http://henryjenkins.org/2007/03/transmedia_storytelling_101.html.

Scott, Suzanne. “Who’s Steering the Mothership? The Role of the Fanboy Auteur in Transmedia Storytelling.” The Participatory Cultures Handbook, edited by Aaron Delwiche and Jennifer Jacobs Henderson, Routledge, 2013, pp. 43-52.

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3 thoughts on “Blog Post #5

  1. Great job! I was happy to see you point out the difference between crossmedia and transmedia spread. That’s something I failed to do in my blog post, and now wish I had. It adds an extra dimension of understanding for the reader — especially if your reader is someone who is not familiar with the topic as we are.

    I’m not a Star Trek fan, so after reading your post, I have to wonder what it is that makes a story like it catch fire and spread like this. It seems that there is some magic there, which makes so many so passionate about it. I wrote my blog about Harry Potter, and while I’ve read the books and seen the movies, I know there are fans much more passionate than me, who know which house they belong in, etc. It’s amazing how some things just capture our imagination.

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  2. Star Trek is a really interesting example for this, as there is such a push-pull between producers and fans, and fans themselves have done so much to expand the canonical universe – as have the non-canonical novels and other works. Most of the time (though it has its exceptions) it is a good example of how to balance control of the franchise with appreciation for what fans bring to the table. Contrast that with Star Wars, where the fandom tends to have a much different character because Lucasfilms did so much to put a lid on early fandom and was doing so well into the late 90s and probably beyond. It will be interesting to see how Disney navigates those waters, though they seem to be drawing a lot on noncanonical transmedial works already, something which should energize core fans.

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    1. I wish I knew more about the Star Wars universe because the ability to compare and contrast seems so great here. I know a couple of fans, and they seem really excited about what Disney might do!

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