Transmedia Narratives

I’ve been greatly enjoying Henry Jenkins’ Convergence Culture, especially as it seems to attract fellow readers from everywhere. My friend Jacob came to it through his Media, Culture and Communications PhD program, and couches it in terms of cultural theory; brand marketers have talked about how it can change marketing; and I enjoy reading it as a primer on what the future of popular literature will look like. The early chapters on “Survivor” and “Lost” are compelling (if unsurprising) in their accounts of how TV producers engage their fan communities – some “Survivor” fans even enlist satellite tracking technology to pinpoint possible locations before the official announcement.

But what’s really fascinating, as you can guess, is the work on transmedia storytelling. As storytelling jumps from medium to medium, the line between books, games, ARGs and transmedia texts becomes vestigial. Jenkins points out film critics complained about the Matrix sequels’ formal qualities, since tertiary characters and subplots were inserted without introduction or resolution. But for fans of the total storytelling experience, engaged in the films, video games, comic books, and web content, there was no one totalizing, self-contained work. That was the point. These viewers, prepped with a shorthand understanding, watched the films with a deepened viewing experience. I don’t believe this divide between critics and fans aligns generationally, as some suggest. All of the creators (and theorists) mentioned here are older than 35.

I’ve been saying it all year: we experience current events across a variety of media (Twitter, TV, YouTube, blogs, books, newspapers, etc.). When will our fiction catch up?

(To be continued in my forthcoming post: Online Media Predictions for 2010)

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