Since MIT media professor Henry Jenkins coined the term transmedia in 2003, the word itself has been both widely accepted and refuted within the media industry. The very nature of the ubiquitous buzzword – used to describe a multi-platform contribution to one ongoing narrative – was a topic for panel discussion at yesterday’s InPlay conference held in Toronto.
As children grow up with throngs of media options at their fingertips, it only seems natural for producers to want to extend IP across multiple mediums. Many are arguing, however, that the jargon has become so overused that it has lost its true meaning.
“Transmedia has been known as convergent media, 360 storytelling and polymorphic fiction,” said Dorothy Engelman, executive director of Canadian pubcaster TVO’s Get Involved initiative, at yesterday’s panel. “Because it’s so undefined, we need to explore the term more, not chuck the jargon. It is multimedia by nature, but spreading the same story on different mediums is not technically transmedia.”
According to Jarrett Sherman, president and executive producer of Toronto-based Shaftesbury Film’s digital media division, Smokebomb Entertainment, transmedia is based around one narrative wherein each component informs the larger world. Interconnected components, such as a TV series, book, mobile app and online game, may serve as off-shoots that give life to one main story. Think Star Wars.
But the difference between now and the era in which Star Wars was originally hatched is that media is currently active and no longer passive, explained Engelman, and it warrants the development of interactive components for cross-platform consumption of a property. Dominic Minns, creative director of Brighton, UK’s Plug-In Media, which creates interactive projects for companies such as Turner Broadcasting, Chorion and BBC, argued that over-thinking transmedia extensions can serve to be more harmful than beneficial to an original property. Too much emphasis on – and improper execution of – transmedia can cause a project to get too complex, confusing and lost in development.
As for new buzzwords floating around the media industry, the panelists agreed that neo media, which describes the transfer of tech from one device to another, will be getting plenty of airtime. And, of course, there’s always gamification.