Monday, September 28, 2009

Is it wrong to be excited by Transmedia semantics?

I came across Xiaochang Li's wonderful blog CanaryTrap.Net once I stumbled into the online academic community of transmedia enthusiasts. There is a great discussion in the feed back of her recent post "Transmedia as intertext and multiplicity: why some types of stories lend themselves to transmedia" which gets into the semantics of transmedia. What is the significance of the distinction between medium and platform? How 'trans' must transmedia be for it to be authentic? Erek and Scott in comments both contribute some really good questions (some of which I've been pondering myself), which have helped me see how useful the term 'disembodied narrative' is. In one comment Erek poses the question of whether different stories told about the same universe all in one medium, such as comics, would constitute a transmedia story. It is suggested that in fact such a story would not be transmedia proper, with which I agree. Disembodied narrative however, would be an accurate description.

The defining idea of 'disembodied narrative' is that the story exists across multiple independent texts, with no need to make distinctions of media. I say independent here to draw a distinction between sequels and serialisations, ie each of the texts should work primarily on its own. The concept of disembodied narrative then allows us to move beyond the discussion of variety in mediums and platforms, and focus on the questions of how to work with such a fractured narrative, and how independent the individual elements should be. Ooh, its all so exciting!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Marketing is part of the Story

Advertising is part of the narrative in a transmedia story. What I have read on transmedia so far doesn't give much consideration to the integration of adverstising into the whole transmedia narrative. Certianly there is acknowledgement that when being innovative with narrative extensions on the web, it's the usually the marketing depts that are brought in to do it. This however is failing to grasp the potential of the transmedia narrative to utilise advertising. Take Heroes - it's ground-breaking in its transmedia approach, releasing back-story web comics simulataneously with the show being aired for example, yet it still has traditional advertising in a variety of media to drum up viewership. All those adverts are just wasted airtime / media space that could be used to tell more of the Heroes story, rather then just give glimpses of what they will get in the actual show, and doing that would still entice viewers.

In the last decade or so I'd be hard pressed to think of one movie or TV show that I hadn't already seen at least one advert or review of before I watched it. Not one. Usually I've seen a number of adverts and/or reviews. So everything I watch, I already have some small pieces of the narrative before I even start. That is why it is important to consider the role of advertising not just in terms of building or drawing viewers, but also in the actually unfolding of the narrative itself. This is one of the ways Cloverfield succeeded, although in a limited way, by utilising non-film footage on the internet, to both draw an audience and start telling the narrative. Unfortunatley I'm not aware of any of that footage actually making it on to TV or into cinemas like regular film adverts, but that should be the studios next step.

What needs to happen is a holistic approach to the narrative, one that includes all the marketing/advertising as well as the primary texts (films, shows, books, etc). Too often audio visual texts are sold short by their advertising, which often undermines the narrative experience of the text rather then enhance it. I only hope we will finally see the last of this as transmedia become the norm. Maybe then I won't have so many movies ruined by adverts that explain the whole thing before you even watch it.

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