Henry Jenkins – Revenge of the Origami Unicorn: Seven Key Principles of Transmedia Entertainment

WARNING: Liveblogged, not checked.

Henry Jenkins introduces the conference.

  • first up the hashtag is #foe4. Last year the conference trended high, let’s try to do it again!
  • Twitter is a transmedia tool, conversations across space and time
  • Hold up the origami unicorn as the patron saint of transmedia. It is a single element that transforms the understanding of a narrative (In Bladerunner).
  • Transmedia is a word that means lots of different things to diff people. There are other words as well – cross-platform, deep media. Don’t care what you call it – it’s a shift to the role of entertainment in culture. The words describe diff aspects and get at it in diff ways.
  • So, Transmedia Storytelling (TS) – a process where integral elements of fiction gets dispersed systematically across multiple media channels..a unified and co-ordinated entertainment experience…each medium make sits own unique contribution.
  • TS – adds to the story. Transmedia branding is in the story, but does not add. So a StarWars novel is TS; Star Wars branded ceral is TB, the Star Wars figures are different – an invitation to involve ourselves in TS, to expand the stories in our own ways, What was on the screen was only part of the story and the figures invite us to expand this.
  • Adaptations – eg the movie of Hamlet, adds layers, but not more to the story. An Extension is Rosencratz and Guildenstern are dead.
  • So factors leading to transmedia

    • Economic – media consolidation.
    • Technological, convergence, digitisation
    • Social – participatory culture – consume and spread
    • Aesthetic – transmedia entertainment.
  • Flashforward last week references alreadyghosts.com – and many were disappointed it did not exist.  We have moved from something that was not expected, to expectations. (there were apparently plans to do it and it did not happen due to internal issues). We expect transmedia now.
  • So the concepts
  • Drillability

    • Narrative complexity – drillable rather than spreadable, encourage forensic fandom, to dig deeper and probe beneath the surface. It’s not a hierarchy, but opposing vectors. Drillable is fewer people but more of their time and energies in a vertical descent into a text’s complexities. (See Jason Mittell)
    • Depth is most often across channels, although shows like The Wire is in one channel.
  • Continuity vs Multiplicity

    • Comics – started off as a story in a comic, but as distribution improved, you got continuity, were stories across multiple versions etc.  Now we have Multiplicity – there are local versions, eg Indian Spiderman
    • There are issues – but if you have multiple artists doing their own version – eg Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
    • this is an unexplored space – taking characters and letting you see them in new light – not used as much in most genres.
  • Immersion/Extractability

    • getting really inside the world, or taking things out and taking it into our world
    • They are the heart of the media mix strategy – especially in Japan
    • Cosplay is one element
    • Felix the cat, played out across many different media, TV, comics, books etc.   the Eskimo pie is another element – released into the theatres to go with Nanook of the North. an extracted element of the story.   Something similar, around the early movie theatres. They replicate the scenes that were seen in the early movies.
  • World Building

    • the story is just the beginning of something. What matters is the world, a world that contains more stories than can be told in one movie or TV series.   Look at X-men relationships, Pokemen, etc
    • The charts of character relationships show a different relationship than straightforward narratives. The Sistene Chapel is also an example of this – took the Bible and told the relationships
    • L Frank Baum is an example of a World Builder  – there are about 20 Oz books; most there’s no Dorathy.  It’s an early example of Product placement – the wizard sings about Budweiser. Each story added new people, places etc. Baum gave lectures about Oz; for him Oz was a world
    • We can take tours of the worlds – visit New Galactica, Tatooine, Lost.  The transmedia work around Watchmen lets you do that.
    • Look at the benches around District 9 – invites us to occupy a space in that world True Blood does this as well – with all the products.
  • Seriality

    • Dickens produced serialised fiction. He was not liked for it – it dispersed information across a series of installments and left us in an excited place, waiting for the next version.  All the things we say about Lost is what people say about Dickens (he’s making it up as he goes along, it is not going to be finished etc)
    • Now we look at a serialised forms across multiple channels.  There are different experiences on stuff that is used prior to a show rather than in a show. 
    • In films, you can look at Story vs plot.  Story is the information, plot is the order it is delivered. So TS is the information across channels, the story is everything, the plot is the chunking before they are dispersed – or the order released
    • BSG complex stories and serialisations, moving back and forth in time filling in pieces of the information
  • Subjectivity

    • the idea that fiction can invite us to look at the world as different characters.  Gives us chance to see viewpoints that can’t be fleshed out in the show
    • Dracula, Robinson Crusoe – transmedia in a single box; stories told through diff viewpoints.
    • With Heroes, the comics, they took the ensemble cast and told story from the characters.   the 2012 site for the IHC tells us the science, the backstory. (or at least the pseudoscience, which NASA is disclaiming) Fictioj is blurring the line
    • District 9  – Everyone deserves Equality, see the argument from the aliens POV
  • Performance

    • we take concepts and bring into own world.  Look at Glee, the number that are performng the musical numbers and put them on YT. Not officially, but unofficially there is a lot of work going on
    • The Hunt for the Gollem is done by fans, rivals Jackson for effects etc
    • Star Wars uncut – multiple ways of creating scenes.
    • As we perform the stories..it opens us up to Transmedia activism; taking the mythology and using it on its own terms. The HP Alliance is an example – how do you change the world.  Not just cosplay..but of trying to change the word because we have a shared mythology to share our experiences.
    • That is the next steps for thinking about TS

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.