How has media convergence influenced my approach to designing and marketing digital narratives?
It’s a really interesting time to be creating projects that engage with one or more media platforms as this provides the potential to develop a concept, build user engagement and expand story out of its traditional linear format. For fiction content transmedia has had a large impact allowing creators to think across platforms in surprising and exciting ways. Henry Jenkins defined transmedia in 2006 as:
“A transmedia story unfolds across multiple media platforms, with each new text making a distinct and valuable contribution to the whole” (Jenkins, 2006: p.97)
Around this time the idea of transmedia was taking hold and projects such as District 9 by director Neill Blomkamp were really revelling in the idea of allowing the story to unfold across a range of platforms.
Jenkins reviewed this film in 2009 noting how transmedia practice had been used to build a sense of the world of District 9 a year out from the film’s release with real signs being posted defining where “non-humans” could sit and congregate.
Since then many fiction works have used transmedia practice including Dark Knight, The Matrix, MadMen, Prometheus and organisations such as Screen Australia have developed funding streams and really useful ‘how to” guides for creators interested in building their story across a range of platforms.
For me, creating documentary content, non-fiction content, an interesting area lies in the comment by Matthias Baarspul in his 2012 paper ‘Where Transmedia Storytelling Goes Wrong”. In this paper Baarspul queries Jenkin’s assumption that each new text delivered on any platform contributes meaningfully to the whole work. Baarspul argues that:
‘…the definition implies that every part cannot be consumed separately … it is part of a larger whole and thus meaning can only be created when all parts are consumed in connection with each other’ (Baarspul, M, 2012: p.5)
As a storytelling and filmmaker I am really interested in working across a range of platforms but I think that working in 2015 it is far more pertinent to my work that the content does not have to be part of a meaningful whole. Rather I feel that non-fiction work can be told in small, self-contained pieces that tell their own story, connect to other stories and contribute to meaning but are not necessary units fitting in to make a whole piece.
An example of this approach is the approach film maker Darius Devas is bringing to his work. Devas works from a YouTube channel Being Here where all his work is located. Here he has playlists that provide access to his numerous works including the transmedia project Goa Hippy Tribe. This project started its life on Facebook, became an SBS interactive documentary and can now be viewed through on Devas’s YouTube channel.
I find this model a really exciting one as it allows each component to stand on its own, to be viewed on its own but to contribute to the whole work. Another example is of this approach is the short documentary made for Canada’s leading organisation to support homlessness Raise the Roof. Their campaign Change the Conversation had a dedicated website as well as a YouTube channel where all the videos could be viewed in whatever order that a viewer chooses. Users finding one video can easily find their way to them all and to the dedicated website.
This is a model that doesn’t fit into Jenkins’s definition of transmedia but it is cross-platform and it does engage users in an ‘anytime, anywhere, any platform’ approach to engaging with content.
Baarspul, M. P. (2012). Where Transmedia Storytelling Goes Wrong: a Preliminary Exploration of the issues of Transmedia Storytelling, Bachelor Thesis, TFT, retrieved from Utrecht University Repository, http://dspace.library.uu.nl/handle/1874/253186 on 22 September 2015
Jenkins, H. (2006) Convergence Culture, Where Old and New Media Collide, New York University Press, New York.
Jenkins, H. (2009) District Nine (Part One): Can a bench be a Transmedia Extension, Confessions of an Aca-Fan: The Official Blog of Henry Jenkins, August 25, 2009, viewed 22 Sept, http://henryjenkins.org/2009/08/district_9.html