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Monthly Archives: September 2013

How to Make Transmedia Stories (briefing paper)

how to make transmedia stories_2013

Transmedia Narratives – a briefing:

What is Transmedia? (answer: the end of mono media)

This is a phenomenon that, while it has been emerging for most of the history of modern mass media (eg since the early 20th century), has not only become more broadly feasible, but technically very sophisticated only in the last couple of decades. It is an approach to multimedia storytelling in the digital age. It is a media-strategy that can be both top-down and bottom-up. It can encourage multiple authorship or collaborative authorship and participation. It can encompass social media, broadcast media, print, video, performance, photography, illustration, typography, comic-strip, animation. Importantly the consideration of how your otherwise linear programme (be it a documentary, a dramatic play, a television series) is situated and optimised within a transmedia environment is now an essential part of the commissioning consideration for broadcasters like the BBC and Channel 4. They encourage the planning for a multi-channel or transmedia approach to programme-making and programme delivery – encouraging a broad spread of media to encourage audience-participation, the creation of fanzines, blogs etc, and the general ‘viral’ (word-of-mouth/audience-led marketing. It is based upon the belief that the broadcast media, while still immensely powerful, have to be seen in the context of the interactive media they are packaged within – whether its the red button on a DTV set, a hyperlink, a media-player, tablet, phone or a games console. Implicit in this is the conjecture that different media attract a wider spread of audience, and that different media can be optimised for the most successful communication, (Consider the synergy between a map and a guidebook, then consider how a tablet or smart phone app integrates the two with GPS position-finding).

The project: 

Learning Objectives: By the end of this project you should be able to analyse a narrative and construct a transmedia presentation from the narrative. You should be more aware of transmedia narrative, to be able to cite successful examples of this kind of narrative; be able to develop a strategy for the further construction of transmedia narratives; be aware of the history of transmedia, intermedia, multiple-media, mixed media (etc) in performance art, curatorial design, installation art, and its roots in DADA performance, in Cabaret, at Experiments in Art and Technology (EAT), in Happenings, and in art movements and groups  like Fluxus, Situationist International, Archigram, Independent Group, Oulippo, EAT, (etc).

Methodology: Pre-Project research: Please make sure that you have read my briefing paper/pdf. Read at least one book from the bibliography below. I want you to be ready to present your preliminary research (i) your chosen example of transmedia narrative could be historical or contemporary), (ii) prepare the components you will need to develop your own ransmedia narrative based on your personal story – your career and life so far; (iii) prepare ideas for a map or diagram of the transmedia ‘opportunity-space’ or ‘media environment’.

Project methodology (see The Brief-Main Project below):  introductory talks and pdf scoping documents, individual tutorials and group seminars. Short overview illustrated lectures on aspects of transmedia art.

a major project – the preparation, production and presentation of a transmedia narrative of your own devising; a group critique of the presentations with defence by each student; post-project tutorials.

Post-Project: Document your research and your practical work (your personal transmedia story) as a case study, identifying your aims, methods, results, reflection on the presentation of your work, feedback from lecturers, colleagues, etc.

The Brief: Main Project – in three parts:

1, present an example of a transmedia narrative that most impresses you from your historical research – show us the components how they ‘link’ or how they could link (1).

Produce a transmedia narrative based upon your own personal story – we want to know your history, your aspirations, your tastes and preferences, your career, your skillset, and your plans. We want to know more about you, and we want this presented to us in a set of transmedia inter-related and interlinked sub-narratives.

research, design and produce a Transmedia map – a map of the ‘opportunity-space’ of this interesting narrative strategy – produce this as a concept-map, a Prezi, an information-graphic – or in any form you want as long as it indicates the main and peripheral media and media-technologies that can be surveyed when planning a transmedia event.

Criteria: Your work will be judged by:

(1) how well you present your research on your chosen narrative

(2) how well it communicates its main aim (to communicate your story to your peers)

how well you have chosen appropriate media to tell your story

How the narrative is ‘branded’ or otherwise stylistically connected

How a linear story works in this non-linear treatment

(3) the transmedia map should indicate as much as you can of the entire possibility-space open to transmedia directors.

Issues to address:

the construction and analysis of your story

which media in the entire new/old media-mix are suitable for presentation of your narrative?

How will the story segments be branded, linked or fused into a coherent aesthetic whole or seamless user-experience?

Will the narrative rely on a central video/television programme, a website, a central text/pdf?


Consider that many transmedia narratives existed before hyper-linking: examples include the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ short stories and novellas about Tarzan of the Apes, Jerry Siegel and Bud Shuster’s Superman (countless iterations). These were then remediated through comics and comic books, television serials, radio plays and serials,  computer gamesand eventually though several feature films. Consider how you mioght plan a transmedia narrative based upon these extant media elements – how would you pull these together into a hyperlinked whole – a coherent transmedia narrative? What else might you need to add to the available media components?

Consider your choice for the first part of this project – most of the fictional heroes and villains of the past 200 years  or more would lend themselves to transmediation. Consider – Dracula, Frankenstein, Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde, Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, Conan the Barbarian, The Lone Ranger, Superman, Batman, the Marvel comic heroes, Mickey Mouse and other Disney cartoon characters, Popeye, TinTin, etc…

(2) I have suggested constructing a transmedia narrative based upon your own life and your aspirations, as you already have the research as it were. An interesting example of how to construct a layered narrative using html5 is Chris Milk’s The Wilderness Downtown

( take a look. Milk does something very interesting here – constructing a personalised generic life story.

consider how far fanzines, parody and homage play in the bottom-up expansion of the transmedia central theme. How do criticism, endorsement and marketing extend the transmedia environment?

One of the earliest examples of transmedia storytelling is Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland

Importantly, please consider how more recent extensions of the digital media ecology affect the transmedia story space. For example: how do CCTV, bio-sensors, position sensors, face-recognition systems, mms, twitter, projection-mapping, smart textiles, GPS, WIFI, augmented-reality, QR codes, Vimeo and Youtube, Facebook and other social media, fit within the transmedia opportunity-space?


Marsha Kinder: Playing with Power in Movies, Television and Video Games: From Muppet Babies to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles University of California Press 1993

Henry Jenkins: Convergence Culture Where Old and New Media Collide NY University Press 2006

Tom Dowd et al: Transmedia – One story-Many Media Taylior and Francis 2013

Lev Manovitch: Software Takes Command (2013)